Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Post Of The Day

Okay, so it's less than 24 hours since I handed over my second novel (one day ahead of schedule) to my agent and my publisher, Penguin. And I figured this was the perfect time to resume the Post Of The Day segment. Today's top award goes to my fellow Aussie, Simon Cotter with Best of Friends. Also in the mix are House of Lime with Trini Tuesday All Saints Day, iMac with Christmas Cards, Bridget with an unusual Wordless Wednesday, Deborah Gamble with Trash Talkin', Katherine with Heads Or Tails, Something Halloween and Jeni with The View From Here, Part Deux.

O Is For Outback

This Bush Wins My Vote Every Time

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

The Australian bush fascinates that part of me which is a writer, just as much as it fascinates that part of me which is a photographer. But I don't reckon I have yet had the opportunity to take the quintessential Outback shot yet. You know what I mean - the one shot that outweighs all the others; the one shot that anyone, anywhere in the world can look it and instantly know it represents the great, wide heart of this country-continent.

Some of my favourite shots were taken in 1999 on the Eyre Peninsula in the South Australian bush and you can see them at J Is For Jindaroo Creek. But this country is so vast, the sights are so varied, the experiences are so different, that I'm still searching for That One Great Shot.

So in the meantime, I decided I'd give you two vastly differing views of the bush. The first image (above) gives you an idea of just how badly the drought of the past few years has hit the farmers in the Outback. And the second (below) presents an early-morning view of tranquil riverscape and lush green below a cloudy sky.

Both photographs mean a great deal to me, because each is distinct from the other. The Outback is capricious and just when you think you have got it figured out, it presents you with a facet you've never seen before. That, to me, is its eternal allure.

Bring Home The Bacon

Is It Spider Pigski?

Or is it the new trotsky! A monument to a pig has been unveiled in a Russian region famous for its sausages. Nikolay Astanin, general director of the local meat industry in Kalach, said: "We wanted to thank this wonderful animal for all it has given to the area." The giant meat processing plants in Kalach were opened this week 80 years ago. The monument in Kalach is said to be Russia's first dedicated to a pig.

FOOTNOTE: Sausage role.

Show Us Your Wears

Turn Your Wrists Into A Waterfall Of Colour

Wares at an Indian streetside stall. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

Let's Take The Next Step Together

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

In just over 24 hours my second novel, Muskoka Maharani, will have been handed over to Penguin. Then I'll be visiting your blogs with my customary frequency and I'm really looking forward to catching up with all of you again.

In the next few days I'll be resuming my Post Of The Day segments, highlighting the work that catches my eye. I often get comments from people whose work is featured in these daily segments, thanking me for the extra traffic, so it's great to know that people are following the links.

I am also planning a big change to the way Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards are judged. In the past, I have always judged blogs on fairly wide criteria: quality of a post, the layout or look of the blog, the way a post is illustrated, the quality or effectiveness of the title, the appeal of a post, the way links are provided by the author, while I also took into account any X-factors - humour, a great angle, special relevance, a one-off inspiration as well as responses to comments.

I used to list the top 50 blogs, followed by the wildcard category, and finally the honourable mentions as well. I have a few alterations in mind but I'd like to know if you have any suggestions.

Read All About It

They Should Be Brought To Book

A thief has stolen a book titled "Steal this Book" from a modern art exhibition in Switzerland. The organisers of the Basel Shift Festival have decided not to report the theft to the police yet, and are hoping that the thief will return it. The book with the words "Steal this Book" emblazoned across its cover had been placed in an incubator by artists from the Viennese artist's group Ubermorgen. The book was written by Abbie Hoffman in 1970 and published in 1971. Many bookstores refused to stock the book, because so many patrons followed the advice of the title and stole it.

FOOTNOTE: Maybe the thief was named Nick.

Aren't We All Drawn To Scale?

These Must Have Been Mass Produced

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It's just an innate human reaction, isn't it? You see a weighing scale, you get the irresistible urge to stand on it. Years ago, my sister-in-law was the "victim" of a weighing scale prank that left her momentarily horrified, before she burst into laughter. She was heavily pregnant when she and her husband took my eldest brother to the airport. Just before he checked in for his flight, she stepped on a nearby weighing scale and her jaw dropped at her huge, unexpected weight gain. It was only when she stepped off that she noticed my eldest brother (no, not her husband) had put his foot on the scale as well.

And yes, I know weight is a sensitive issue with the entire population, but one of the funniest limericks I read as a teenager made deft use of the English language. The person who wrote it, whose name I cannot recall, use the abbreviation "oz" (the Imperial "ounce") with great imagination. If you read the "oz" in this doggerel rhyme as "ounce" you quickly see how clever the writer was:

A girl who weighed many an oz
Used language I dare not pronoz
When a fellow unkind
Pulled her chair out behind
Just to see (so he said) if she'd boz

Disclaimer: My use of this limerick does not reflect my own standards as a chivalrous human being, brought up never to laugh at other people, especially those who fall on their bums.

Conversely Speaking

Putting His Heart (And Sole) Into Politics

Chuck Taylor, running for mayor in Circleville, about 30 miles south of Columbus, thinks he knows why more than 20 of his yard signs have been swiped. The candidate thinks the culprits are fans of a basketball shoe, not allies of his opponents. Chuck Taylor also is the name of the classic Converse high-top sneakers with the "All Star" logo on the sides. Taylor says he had no idea the shoes were so popular. He says parents have asked if they can buy one of his "Elect Chuck Taylor Mayor" signs for their kid's bedroom.

FOOTNOTE: Sneaky tactics.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Blue's Clues

Focus On Whatever Object You Choose

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

If you're wondering what this is, there's a simple explanation. It's simply one of the arches above a metal fence line. Each arch is about twenty centimetres or roughly eight inches high and they are set about five centimetres or approximately a couple of inches apart. So the first frame (above) is shot straight into the mid-morning light, through the arch. There's no filter used and the images has not been modified, and the over-riding blue hue completely masks the fact that the arch is painted dark green.

The second frame (below) is taken in exactly the same position, but with the focus reversed. So instead of the arch in focus, I've focused instead on the line of trees about sixty metres away and achieved an interesting effect, especially with the light reflected off the arch.

Familiar Haunt

Newlyweds Get Into The Spirit Of It

As well-wishing zombies and witches looked on, an Ohio couple got married last week at the haunted house where they work. Tina Milhoane, 22, and Robert Seifer, 24, exchanged vows at the Seven Floors of Hell haunted house's outdoor cemetery. The groom made his entrance in a hearse, emerging from a coffin borne by six pallbearers, while the minister was dressed as the Grim Reaper and read the service from a scroll clutched in a bony gloved hand.

FOOTNOTE: Hell of a way to get hitched.

Hidden Treasure

Buy Or Browse, At Your Leisure

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

It's not every day you get to photograph a striking combination of these colours - lilac, green and yellow. I shot this in Nhill, the Victorian country town that is halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne. I was wandering down the main street and used the 125 mm lens to get a nice tight frame but no, I didn't go in and investigate the actual shop. However, the next time I'm passing through Nhill I'll make amends. Yes, that's a promise.

Amazing Graze

Things Are Moving On The Stock Market

Police in South Africa impounded a Fiat Uno car that was being used to transport two cows and two goats. Captain Jabulani Mdletshe said residents of the Phelindaba area reported seeing a man loading a cow into the Fiat. When officers arrived, the driver had loaded his vehicle with all four animals and was attempting to speed away. However, he abandoned the car and fled into the bushes. The animals were later handed over to the Hluhluwe Stock Theft Unit, but the driver is still at large.

FOOTNOTE: Herd but not seen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend Wandering

Please answer today's question on your own blog, any time until next weekend. Just link to this blog (or to this post) so I can follow the progress of the discussion.

And the question is: What is your favourite television addiction?

Dry Humour Is Encouraged

No Tap Dancing Here, Please

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Because this huge continent-country has been in drought for so long, each city has enforced a level of water restrictions appropriate to the region. A few months ago, our water catchments went below 30 per cent for the first time in memory but then we were blessed with rain and I think the reservoirs are now above 40 per cent capacity. Still, as summer approaches, we need more rain and water usage for gardens has been severely curtailed. As you can see, I've even disconnected my garden hose, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the dark clouds on the horizon will bring rain for the roses!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Saddled With The Problem

They'll Debate This Until They're Hoarse

The Central Vermont Community Land Trust usually has no objection to a service animal moving into its apartments. But Patty Cooper's service animal is a black and white miniature horse. The non-profit housing group is trying to accommodate the disabled woman's new companion amid concerns about the horse's need for grazing space and whether it will be adequately housebroken. Preston Jump, the executive director of the Land Trust, said they want to do what's right for Cooper's neighbours and for the horse.

FOOTNOTE: Don't bridle at the suggestion.

Pink, Floyd

Winter Sunrise Is A Real Freeze Frame

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot was taken just before dawn about four months ago, during the Australian winter. I was walking across Princes Bridge here in Melbourne and the wind was icy but bracing. Halfway across the bridge I stopped and got my camera out because the colours in the sky were just amazing. I stood there for about three or four minutes and shot maybe a dozen frames. This was halfway through the sequence and I opted to go vertical because the reflected pink light was just shimmering all across the surface of the Yarra. With "pink" being the subject for this week's Photo Hunt, I knew this had to be my contribution.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meanwhile, Back At The Branch

Yes, You Can Even Find Beauty On A Grey Day

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

On a murky day like today, I was wondering what to photograph at lunchtime and then my attention was drawn to this tree (above). It just looked like it was awash with green.

A couple of months ago, the branches were absolutely bare and dark brown, so I thought I'd get a little closer to give you an idea of exactly how the leaves are fringed in a gentle arc.

Like I always tell budding photographers, look around and you'll always find a great angle somewhere else - normally it's a different point of the compass from where you start. Then I spotted this red wall (above) which made a great background.

And I finished up with this shot (above) just to capture a beautiful Melbourne spring sight, even as the rest of the world is gearing up for winter. I hope this photo essay brought a smile to your day.

Dress Sense

Don’t Try The Bridal Waltz In This

A Chinese man has had a 200.8 metre-long, 100 kilogram wedding dress made for his fiancee. The groom originally planned to make the dress 2008 metres long, a tribute to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. A Guangzhou factory took three months to make the dress and the couple's garden wedding photos took five hours, because of the time taken to arrange the dress. To see the dress, go to Ananova.

FOOTNOTE: At least they won’t have to wait for a train!

Ashes To Ashes, Dusk To Dusk

The Cold, Hard Light Of Day

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This photograph is part of a sequence I shot from my front yard about three months ago. I noticed some scattered cloud at dusk and kept an eye on the colours for the next few minutes. It started out as a combination of vivid pinks and blues, but the strong breeze changed the display very quickly as the cloud shifted. For about three minutes there was a burst of orange across the sky and I was lucky to be able to use some silhouettes to emphasise the fiery colours.

It was a really unusual scene for a winter sunset, especially this sort of effect where it looks like a bushfire. In case you're wondering, this is an original frame and it has not been enhanced in any way. As a schoolboy, I learnt how to develop my own black-and-white shots in a darkroom, so I understand all the processes involved in achieving certain effects, but I never Photoshop my images.

Trump Card

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Inter Here

The family of a Montenegrin man whose dying wish was to be buried with his mobile phone are to dig him up again after discovering they had forgotten the SIM card. Arso Banjeglav, 67, spent hours every day chatting to pals on his beloved mobile, and told his son Brano that when he died he wanted it put in his coffin. But after the funeral in Cetinje, they discovered his grandson, who was playing with the device, had taken out the SIM card. Brano Banjeglav, 38, said: "Now we have got to dig him up again to put it in the phone."

FOOTNOTE: Graveyard card? That's the ace of spades.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Predictable Weather Is So Boring

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

We've had some very welcome rain today, and with it a spell of cooler weather as well. A couple of days ago it was so warm that we actually had the cooling on at home, but the temperature has dropped back down today. A few of the lawns were starting to looking a bit brown, so the rain will do us all some good. Our catchment areas were below 30 per cent some months ago, so Melburnians are always happy to see rain clouds. This shot is of an umbrella as it was left to dry, hanging from a doorknob. Unusual angle. Nice range of colours. Perfect opportunity for a photograph, don't you think?

Breaking Up Is Art To Do

Travelling Museum Celebrates Spirit Of Splitsville

A travelling museum in Europe, devoted to failed relationships, is gathering exhibits as it goes. The Museum of Broken Relationships asks people to donate mementoes of everything from short flings to painful divorces. Yesterday in Berlin, an axe used to break an ex's furniture was added to the 300 exhibits. "Everyone can relate to it," Berlin organiser Zvonimir Dobrovic said.

FOOTNOTE: Ex factor.

Verse And Worse

It's A Bit Terse, But It Ain't A Curse

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

If you've already seen my post from yesterday, titled Cut To The Quick, then maybe you'll have a chuckle at this limerick. You see, I should have paid heed to this photograph taken on the picturesque main street of the little Outback town called Nhill in the Wimmera region. It's a strangely prophetic image, with a speed warning and a bakery sign. If I'd watched my speed a few minutes later, I would have saved myself (gratuitous reference to the bakery) a lot of um, dough. Okay, so here's the limerick ...

One morning, on the highway near Nhill,
I was hit with a sizeable bill,
The sight of a copper,
Was a real heart-stopper,
For me, but not for my m-i-l.

Picture Perfect

Wedding Heartache Has A Happy Ending

Back in 1980, a teen couple in Mansfield, Ohio, didn't have the $150 to pay for their wedding photos, so they thought the pictures were gone forever. But Jim Wagner, now 80 years old,who took the wedding pictures, recently came across them, then set out to find the bride, Karen Cline. He walked into the Taylor's Country Diner last week, where Karen works. "I didn't recognize him, I did not know who he was and he said maybe this will help you remember and he handed me the photo album from twenty-seven years ago," she said. "He gave me the photo album and I opened it up and there it was, there were the pictures from my wedding album."

FOOTNOTE: No negatives, just positives.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

N Is For Nhill

Cut To The Quick (Rather Too Quick, In Fact)

The rotunda on Nhill's main street. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Nhill is a picturesque little town in the Wimmera. Head up the Western Highway on the way from Melbourne to Adelaide and Nhill is pretty much the halfway mark.

Back at 1994, we were driving to Adelaide for Easter when I suffered the embarrassment of being booked for speeding for the first time in my life. This was a watershed event in the McMahon clan, because all my family and friends know I always stick scrupulously to the speed limit.

But hey, I blame my mother-in-law for this debacle.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of my mother-in-law (and the grapevine tells me she's rather a big fan of mine) but let's pin this one on her.

I'd just driven through Nhill when my wife and mother-in-law swapped places in the car. My wife sat in the back and m-i-l, who was holidaying with us at the time, took the navigator's seat.
Mate, not that you need a navigator when you're driving from Melbourne to Adelaide. You just get on the Western Highway and don't get off. Ya just sorta keep goin'. And goin'. And goin'.

Then, just under 800 kilometres (that's 500 miles for my US readers) you see a sign that says ``Welcome to Adelaide''. Simple, yeah? So simple that even a country bumpkin like me can do it without a navigator.

Before you drive through any Outback town, the speed limit drops sequentially. You drop from 110 km/h to 80 km/h and then to 60km/h before you enter a town - and only a blind man would miss the signs.

Hmmmm, blind men and blokes who are busy talking to their mother-in-law. Okay, so I missed the 60 sign. And I sailed into the town of Kaniva doing 80. As soon as I realised my error I dropped my speed back - but it was too late.

My lapse of concentration cost me $165 and after I drove off again, gritting my teeth in decidedly indelicate fashion, there was another flash of gallows humour.

Our six-year-old announced brightly she couldn't wait to get back to school, to tell her friends that I had been busted for drink-driving.

I almost choked on my emotion. ``Drink-driving? I wasn't booked for drink-driving,'' I protested.``Yes, you were, Daddy. You were drinking your chocolate milkshake.''

The post office at Nhill. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Sorry, Your Tattoo Is A Real Fizzer

A British man who has proudly showed off his tattoo for 26 years was baffled to realise it actually spelt Coca-Cola. Vince Mattingley thought he had his name tattooed on his chest in Chinese writing after asking staff at his favourite restaurant to write his name in Chinese symbols. But a waiter drew the Coke words - and Vince had it etched on his chest. He only realised the mistake when he recently travelled to Thailand and a barman asked him why he had Coca-Cola written on his chest.

FOOTNOTE: He should get it off his chest.

Mickey Mouth

This Bloke Looks Like A Big Talker

Luna Park, Melbourne. Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

For Cowboys, They're Rather Stylish Chaps

The Best Dressed Blokes Ever Seen On Horseback

Two adventurers have successfully completed a charity trek from Hong Kong to London on horseback - wearing tuxedos. Briton Heath Buck and American Doug Campbell came up with the idea after they met in a Hong Kong bar. They saw 19 countries on their four-month, 6000-mile trip through China, Vietnam, Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan and Kazakhstan, then across Europe. Their tuxedos were specially made from resilient fabrics in Bangkok, Thailand. The money they raised along the way went on local causes.

FOOTNOTE: Friar tux.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ay Carumba

It's A Number Rhumba

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This is just a quick thank you to all those readers and friends who sustain my interest in blogging. About 24 hours ago, someone in Illinois became the 40,000th reader of this humble blog. It's been an interesting day or two, because I also chalked up 70,000 page views while my Technorati Authority crossed the 200 mark. My very humble thanks to all of you.

I'd also like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have wished me well as I finish my second novel, Muskoka Maharani, this month. Once that's done, I'll resume the Monday-to-Friday Post of the day segment and my Saturday trademark, Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards.

I'm sure you all noticed that for the past fortnight or so, I have not been able to reply to each individual comment as I normally do. I am totally focused on my novel at the moment. You see, I have a reputation to protect - I have never missed a deadline as a journalist, writer, editor or novelist and I can assure you this will not be the first time. Thank you for sharing this exhilarating journey with me.

SUX And The City

Making The Best Of A Slogan

City leaders have scrapped plans to do away with the Sioux Gateway Airport's unflattering three-letter identifier - SUX - and instead have made it the centrepiece of the airport's new marketing campaign. The code, used by pilots and airports worldwide and printed on tickets and luggage tags, will be used on T-shirts and caps sporting the airport's new slogan, "FLY SUX”. Sioux City officials petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration to change the code in 1988 and 2002. At one point, the FAA offered the city five alternatives - GWU, GYO, GYT, SGV and GAY - but airport trustees turned them down. Mayor Craig Berenstein, who in 2002 described SUX as an "embarrassment" to the city, said he views the new slogan as a "cute little way" to make light of the situation.


Chevy Chased

A Journey Down Memory Lane

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

On this occasion, someone else drove the vintage Chevy to the levee. All I did was photograph it. And no, I didn't see Don McLean. Nor did I see any good old boys drinking whiskey and rye. But this'll be the day that I try.

R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-run For Your Life

Look Sharp, He’s Got A Chainsaw

You want horror, we’ll give you horror. Fright fans can pay to be chased through the woods by a chainsaw-wielding psycho. US entrepreneurs dishing up the creepiest ways to celebrate Halloween next week have also come up with the Coffin of Fear, in which people are locked in a coffin filled with meal worms at the Six Flags chain of parks. Camp Blood, in Carrollton, Georgia, a walk through a pine forest means fighting off swamp locals and psychos. At the Howl-O-Scream event in Williamsburg, Virginia, ``The Neverafter'' is a village dedicated to the macabre where visitors are stalked through haunted mazes.

FOOTNOTE: Devil-may-scare attitude.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Stare Case

A Place Where Creativity Is Worshipped

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

This shot of a striking decoration to mark the Puja season of Hindu festivities was taken exactly a year ago, on a brief visit to India. The gold-fringed ornament was one of many on the staircase leading to the first-floor offices of Kolkata-based Trisys Communications. I framed this meticulously, because I wanted as much of the reflection as I could get in the shot.

Trisys, specialising in annual reports and corporate presentations, was started by a former colleague of mine, Mudar Patherya. The prince of lateral thinkers, he was only a student when he wrote a letter simply addressed to ``Sir Donald Bradman, Australia'' - and received a reply from The Don, along with a signed photograph.

That attitude shines through the company offices. The staircase in this photograph features some rare Kolkata memorabilia and the walls of the work area carry another surprise. They are decorated with huge cartoon murals by Debashish Deb, another former colleague of mine who is an effervescent artist and designer. As a creative corporate environment, I've never seen anything like it.

Cementing His Reuptation

Honey, I’m (Really) Stuck On The Autobahn

German police had to rescue a driver after he moved out of the way to allow a police car with flashing lights to pass, and got stuck in setting concrete. Hans-Peter Wagner, 62, was driving on the A1 motorway near Ratekau in northern Germany when he saw police flashing to get past him in his rear view mirror. He instantly made way and pulled over but went straight into a stretch of road that had just been freshly concreted. His car was later pulled out of the concrete by traffic cops. To see the photograph, go to Ananova.

FOOTNOTE: Say tar.

Weekend Wandering

Please answer today's question on your own blog, any time until next weekend. Just link to this blog (or to this post) so I can follow the progress of the discussion.

And the question is: Have you ever Googled yourself?

The Luck Of The Iris

Looks Like A Purple Patch

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

A few hours ago I saw a clump of irises and as I examined them I realised this iris was so symmetrical that it was almost a mirror image of itself. The light was very strong, but I had to contend with irregular shade patterns across the flower. Like I always say, that's the joy of photographing objects that are outdoors. The real challenge lies in making the best use of the prevailing conditions.

No Scan Do

They're Coming Out Of Their Shell

An animal lover was so fed up with looking for her tortoises she has fitted them with a tracker device. Jane Williams, who runs a tortoise sanctuary from her home in Colchester, uses a handheld scanner to hunt down her 60 animals. The tracker device is attached to their shells with a removable sticky pad. Ms Williams said, "Contrary to popular belief, tortoises can actually move quite fast. They are real escape artists. They can climb walls, hide in bushes and bury themselves.''

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Telling Right From Wrong (Part 16)

Let Your Imagination Soar

Photograph copyright: MATTHEW McMAHON

I've had some interesting feedback on the subject of how best to harness ideas, especially when inspiration strikes at unexpected times. Misty Dawn asked about idea-retention techniques:

My problem is that I have many stories, both short and long, running through my head. I have a great thought or a great "scene" go through my head while I am out shooting photos, in the shower, or lying down to go to sleep. By the time I get in front of the computer, I have either lost most of the idea, or everything is playing out so fast in my head that I can't get it all down fast enough, it all gets mixed up then, and I get frustrated and give up.

Relax, Misty Dawn. Here's a choice. Would you rather have no inspiration at all, or too much inspiration? Sounds like you've definitely got the latter happening. That's a wonderful thing for any writer, but in your case the challenge is the task of stringing them together. Trust me, that's a whole lot better than not having any ideas at all, so you're a couple of steps ahead of us all.

My fellow Aussie, the Bendigo-based blogger Pope Terry said:

I come up with a lot of ideas on my walks, when I don't have a pen and pad handy. It's a little annoying, trying to remember everything until you get home.

Been there, done that, Your Eminence. I had this great idea a couple of months ago, about a twist to the novel I'm writing. I should have written it down, but I didn't. The next time I sat down at the computer, I could not for the life of me recall what it was. It took a few minutes, and I was sweating bullets! If you get a great idea and you can't write it down, try and fix it in your consciousness with a memory aid.

Then I had to chuckle at the pithy comment made by I Am Not, who said:

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are," - W. Somerset Maugham.

I've also got three rules - never give up on a good idea, never give in to writer's block, and always follow up on a good idea.

It's The Little Things asked about when and how to locate an agent:

Say we've "mostly finished" our work, but know there will changes and edits suggested by the agent/publisher. Should we start sending out as is? Secondly, where do we find an agent?

I hadn't finished my first novel, Vegemite Vindaloo, when Penguin indicated interest in the synopsis and early chapters. On that basis, I'd say give your work the once-over for typos, factual references and self-editing and then go through the process I described in an early post in this series about finding an agent. To recap, a lot of big publishers won't look at work unless it comes recommended by an agent. You might also find some useful information in my post Make Sure You Find The Right Agent. If you have any specific queries, just let me know. I'm always happy to help.

And this interesting suggestion came from Kimberly:

Another question for you - have you considered compiling your Telling Write From Wrong posts into a book?

In all honesty, Kimberly, that was not my intention when I began this series. But after I'd written about ten posts in this series, a little light started to flicker in the recesses of my brain. At this stage I am totally committed to writing novels, but this is something I'll definitely think about. Stay tuned ....

Not The Free Tenners

In For A Penny, In For A Pound

They're laughing all the way to the bank, er, blank. English ten pound notes have been selling on eBay for £260. The tenners are unique because they're blank on one side. The Bank of England accidentally circulated up to 40 of the one-sided notes, which it says still count as legal tender. Chris Phillips, 27, of South Shields, got one of the notes when he went to a cash-point. He said: "They're selling for crazy money."

FOOTNOTE: The Blank of England.

Aussiejourno's Weekly Blog Awards

This is a heartfelt apology to all my friends in the blogging community. For the first time ever, the Weekly Blog Awards will not be published this week - because I am writing the closing chapter of my second novel, Muskoka Maharani.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Running Rings Around Me

This Question Used To Have Me Stumped

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was walking past this stump this morning when I did a double-take (like one of those cartoon characters) and then went back to have a closer look. I was absolutely intrigued, not just by the colours, but also because the annual growth circles of the tree could be clearly discerned in the top left. I guess it's a good way to show exactly how thick a growth circle is in this part of the world. You see, they vary depending on the prevailing climate.

As a kid, I always wanted to know what a complete growth circle looked like. Some years ago, in the Yukon, Canada, I asked if a forest of slender trees were saplings. Saplings? No, they were more than fifty years old, but their trunks were slender because the growth circles were governed by extremely short growth seasons. Simple, when you think about it - but it had never occurred to me.

Totally Deflated

Never Mind The Tyre, Give Us Your Licence

An Austrian motorist too drunk to change a tyre phoned a police emergency number by mistake instead of the breakdown service and wound up losing his licence. "He mixed up emergency service numbers," a police official in the central town of Andau said. "On the phone it was clear he was highly intoxicated and we sent over a patrol car. He doesn't need his vehicle now because we took his license."

FOOTNOTE: Tow nails.

Red Alert

Make Way For The Fire Chief

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Have you ever wondered why emergency vehicles have the words "Fire", "Ambulance", "Police" or "Rescue" laterally inverted? It's so that when they are driving behind us, we see the word displayed correctly in our rear-vision mirrors. I guess that is a good way to illustrate today's theme, which is "Practical". And if any of my readers happen to know which emergency service worker thought of this brilliant idea, do let me know.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Post Of The Day

Yesterday it was Mushy who took the top honour and today it's his big Texan buddy, Fat Hairy Bastard, with the post Old Soldiers Never Die, a tribute that is heartfelt and powerful. The other posts that caught my attention were Peter De Wolf with Open Letter To My Future First Wife; Joy Is My Goal with Why I Love Rain and Corey with Baby Jessica, a post that will have special relevance to anyone who was touched by the original event 20 years ago.

Sitting On Defence

Take That Helicopter Away, You Scoundrel

A British family is suing the Ministry of Defence for 200,000 pounds after a helicopter containing servicemen ogling a sunbathing au pair blew down part of their mansion. Hovering too close to the sprawling East Sussex mansion, the down-draught so badly damaged a 7m conservatory - the winner of an architectural prize in 2000 - that it needs to be pulled down. The ministry says the fliers could not have caused the damage, but George family barristers say the crew did not have permission to descend below 30metres.

FOOTNOTE: Hover crafty.

Going Dutch

There's Even Symmetry In The Garden

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I was framing these tulips in my viewfinder when it struck me that most people photograph the graceful long-stemmed Dutch flowers from side-on. So of course I had to do something different - and I was amazed at the symmetry of the view from above. The weather is warming up now, we've just had the famous Tulip Festival up in the Dandenongs and we're only a week away from switching to daylight saving.

Schnit Happens

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Fry, Fry Again

Not enough time to fry your own schnitzel? A German firm has come up with a frozen version that can be cooked in a pop-up toaster in just three minutes. "We came up with them because increasingly people want something that's convenient," said Dietrich Gumppenberg, spokesman for meat-producer Toennies. The toasted version is made of pork coated in bread crumbs. It is sold frozen and can be cooked in any toaster in three minutes.

FOOTNOTE: Toast master.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Post Of The Day

Sometimes you read a book or an essay or a blogpost that transcends anything else that writer has done before. Join me in saluting that gifted chronicler Mushy, whose post Bursting Bubbles tells us about a variety of issues faced by a generation that was changed by the Vietnam War. Among my other favourite posts today were Lin's Roll Out The Barrel, Singleton's Peace, Love And Here's My Phone Number, Victorya's The Truth Is Out There and Indicaspecies' Guns 'N' Roses.

Telling Right From Wrong (Part 15)

Set Your Own Targets

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

I've had some great feedback since the last Telling Write From Wrong post, titled Finding An Agent Is Just Peachy. This is what Anne at Life Pundit said:

You won't believe it and I don't either. An agent - a real agent with a good reputation and a nice roster of clients - once contacted me after reading one of my short stories to find out if I had representation and, if not, did I have a novel he could see? And this is even more unbelievable: I never wrote him back!

Don't beat yourself up, Anne. The simple explanation (in your own words) is that you hadn't started (or finished) a novel. Ergo, there was nothing you had to offer the agent at the time. But I've seen enough of your writing to know that you certainly can write one. So I'll put two things on your to-do list. 1) Start writing a novel and 2) Try and locate the agent. Most importantly, look forward, not into the past.

Carol Cooper also weighed in on the subject of where inspiration strikes:

I can only create at the keyboard. Put a pad and pen in front of me and my mind goes blank! I don't get that movie running through my head without my laptop! Everyone is different, it's finding what works for you that counts.

Cuckoo also made me smile with her wry comment about her creative impulse:

Well, if I say that most of the thoughts come to my mind when I am in shower ... how does that sound? Honestly, now I have started keeping a pad and pen in my bathroom.

Relax, Cuckoo, creativity strikes when the mind is probably at its most relaxed. The trick is to retain those ideas and make the most of them.

North Bay Photo also joined in with some thoughts about the approach to writing:

When I do write, I tend to approach it similar to how you describe your own writing style. Sitting at the computer/typewriter and just letting one’s self get carried away into the story or article. Though this sometimes means extensive revision as the article may be too disjointed but it is fun at times!

If it seems disjointed, don't let it stop you. Just keep writing and don't worry too much about editing at this stage. If the story progresses, let the tale tell itself. And when you're ready, go back on the story and you'll see exactly what can be changed or left out.

There were so many responses that I'll deal with the others later. Great to hear from everyone. I'd love to get some more feedback.

The One That Got Aweigh

No Scales Of Justice

A salmon thought to be the biggest ever caught in Britain will not enter the record books - because it was too big for the scales. The giant fish was 56 inches long, 50 inches round and could have been more than 64lbs. Anglers hoped it would break the UK record set 85 years ago but had to set it free after realising their scales only weighed up to 30lbs. The anglers sent photos of the monster to marine experts in the hope they may be able to estimate the weight.

FOOTNOTE: Hook, line and thinker.

Tea, Rex?

Melbourne Has A Jurassic Spark

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Yes, I was astounded by the size of the dinosaur fossil they found in Argentina this week, but look what I tracked down recently. Independent studies have shown that this species, previously thought to be extinct, is still popular in Australia. Forget about T-Rex, this is thought to be the most colourful example of the fairgroundus rewardus.

Rock Around The Clock

Maybe She Had A Sleight Advantage

New York's Andrea Farina is the new Rock Paper Scissors world champion - and the first woman to hold the six-year-old title. Farina, 22, beat 500 others at Canada's Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto on Saturday to win the final 2-1 against Washington D.C.'s David Arnold. She sealed the win with a paper to beat Arnold's rock to take home the $8000 cash prize, which the Syracuse University communications student said would go to loans and rent.

FOOTNOTE: A true champion, on paper.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Post Of The Day

Is there anything that Carol Cooper cannot do? Apparently not. She tells us all about her many talents and backs up her claims with photographic evidence in Olden Days. Among the other posts that caught my eye are Poseidon’s Muse with The Tao, Colleen with Early Light, Stargazer with Mystery Of Masked Faerykin, Nap Warden with Just Observation and Country Girl City Living with Drumroll please.

Did Moses Need A Chemist?

No, But He's Famous For Taking Two Tablets

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

When our son was little, I used to read him a story every night from his children's version of the Bible. So when we explored a bush property one day, I was delighted to see bulrushes by the side of a lake. I called him over and said: ``Do you remember the story of Moses?''

He said he did.

``Remember it was about the baby in the bul .....'' I said, trying to prompt his memory.

He was trying valiantly to recall the answer.

I tried again. ``Moses and the bul ....''

His face lit up. ``Moses and the bulldozers?''

Minding Their Pees And Queues

This Baker Wasn’t Just Watching His Dough

You think your boss is tough? An Austrian baker who made his staff pay for time spent in the toilet has been forced to end the practice to avoid a court case. The owner of the Eisenstadt bakery recorded toilet visits on a computer and took the value of the bathroom time off their annual holiday bonus. A former employee took the case to the local labour court and the businessman ended the practice before the case was scheduled to go to court today after being told it was illegal.

FOOTNOTE: Was he flush with funds?

Golden Eye

Look Out, Oar Else

Melbourne kayakers at dawn. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

Rust In Peace

U Take The High Corrode, I’ll Take The Low Road

A Swindon man is selling his Wolseley car - after 40 years and 133,000 miles. Jozef Dudzik bought his Wolseley 16/60 new for 760 pounds in 1967. It has been used daily by his family ever since. Three of his four grandchildren learned to drive in it and his grandson would still take it for a spin, reports the Daily Telegraph. After four decades of faithful service, the Wolseley failed its roadworthy test on Saturday due to rust problems.

FOOTNOTE: Axel arose.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Telling Write From Wrong (Part 14)

Finding An Agent Is Just Peachy

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

These are two long overdue replies to two bloggers who are in the middle of writing books. Deborah Gamble hasn't found an agent yet, but she gave us a sneak peek of her work at Don't Run Away With Cows Unless Of Course .... She wrote:

Can you tell all the rejections from agents are already getting me down?

Debbie, all you need is one agent or publisher to say ``I like this.'' And then your whole world changes. Let's be perfectly frank, there is no better motivation than having someone who is keen to publish your work. I was just lucky, because I stumbled into a publishing contract with Penguin even before I had an agent.

But I take heart from your sentence, ``Pity party over''. I know you have thrown yourself into continuing with your manuscript. You have already got people (including me) signing up to buy your book and that can only be a good thing. Don't let the rejection slips get to you. Legend has it that one US writer used the hundreds of rejection slips as wallpaper - and used that as his inspiration.

I also heard from Anne Creed at Novel Struggles. She said:

The best way you can help is with encouragement and insight. Right now I'm trying to brainstorm scenes and other pre-writing preparation before I start. How do you get started - and how do you continue? All advice is much appreciated.

Anne, I find your pre-planning extremely interesting, because I work very differently. I don't sit down and plan a chapter to the nth degree. I know which charcters are going to be in the chapter, where they are and what they'll be doing, but I just write the story as it unfolds in my head. In my case, the best creative instinct comes when I sit in front of my keyboard and one idea just leads to another and one sentence just leads to another.

A lot of film directors work just as you do - by ``blocking'' every sequence before the cameras roll. It works for them and there's no reason why it won't work for you. But if you find you're getting bogged down because you can't brainstorm a whole scene, try writing instinctively. I'd be really interested to know which approach works better for you.

Bach To The Future

Classical Composers For Hens’ Night

A Gloucester farmer is helping his hens lay more eggs - by playing them classical music. Charles Bourns, the National Farmers Union's poultry board chairman, plays classical music 24 hours a day to his birds. As well as increasing productivity he believes it helps the birds' growth rate. "I have tried pop music, but the birds prefer Classic FM, much to my children's disgust," he told Farmer's Weekly magazine.

FOOTNOTE: No third degree, Bourns.

Number One On The Hat Parade

That Ain't No Stetson, George Jetson

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

If there's one thing I enjoy, it's going right up close to compose a tight frame. But occasionally there is the need to pull back and just shoot a whole scene, rather than one segment of it. I was drawn to the texture of these hats, but opted for this view of the whole display instead. Yes, I know that less is more, but sometimes more is more as well. I think I've grasped that concept - more or less!

The Blair Watch Project

This Ain’t Downing Street, Guv

So you want to live next to Tony and Cherie? Former British PM Tony Blair's new neighbours are miffed - over a plan to give him his own double yellow lines on the street. Blair has already faced complaints over security, a planned roof terrace and solar panels, but now a letter to his Connaught Square neighbours in west London asks for their views on a proposal to ban parking along a nine-metre (that's about 27 feet) stretch of road for anyone except Blair. It means two residents' parking bays outside Blair's house would be set aside for his exclusive use.

FOOTNOTE: Sounds like a line call to me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Post Of The Day

Today's gleaming gold trophy made from 22-karat gold goes to Allan Cook, for a post that says so much about the indomitable human spirit - A Room For Memories. And the other posts that caught my eye today were Thoughts From Miller Manor with Mini Retreat, The Egel Nest with Mysterious Land of Kitchen, Jo Beaufoix with How Big Are Your Feet? and Anglophile Football Fanatic with How I Leashed My Puppy.

Two's Company, Three's A Cloud

It's Not A Volcano, Just Our Autumn Sky

Photographs: DAVID McMAHON

I shot these pictures on Thursday, when Melbourne had a sudden return to squally weather. The wind was brisk, so the clouds were shifting very quickly and there was only a lapse of about a minute and a half between the first shot (above) and the second (below).