A post on Gender Bias
I feel I must tread very carefully here. Still. I know that whatever I say, people will read self-interest into it. Some may even think I'm trying to court controversy. I'm not, I don't think.
But this is all supposition. How about some facts...
A post about abandonment using photos by my brother
A blog post titled "The Future Seeps"
Someone once told me that research and development firms give TV shows like CSI and NCIS information about machines and processes they are working on so they can be included in shows. The logic being that you don't know you want something until you've seen it, and real life forensic people wake up the next morning with a dire need for a programme that can convert the grooves on a piece of pottery to a sound wave… This drives up the demand and ensures a market if the R&D firm ever get that technology off the ground.
Fair's fair, but it does mean these shows have a strange relationship with reality. They are ostensibly set in the present, yet the technology is from the future (even the technology that does exist works at fantasy speed). And in a strange way, it's diminishing the wonder the future will hold before we get there.
Not for us the sudden techno-shock of previous cultures. A couple of hundred years ago, a white man could rock up on a beach and blow the minds of an Inca or Zulu with a firearm. Wow. They never saw that coming. And the world changed overnight.
These days the future does not arrive with a fanfare. The fanfare does sound, for sure, be it a dancing robot at a Tokyo electronics expo or some whiz-bang facial recognition database on C.S.I. But then it's silence. The advance is still coming, though it will not bust down your door. It seeps through the gap beneath...
A list called "Words I always mistype"
A post on Balanced Self-Determinism
I try to live by what I have come to call "balanced self-determinism". Key aspects of the credo are: patience, drive, and self-belief...
Balanced self-determinism is not just believing, "if you build it, they will come", but "if you build it in your spare time you can also save for a wedding, a house and a family."
At times, balanced self-determinism looks (and feels) like: being a chicken-shit too afraid to take a risk. In order to follow the credo you must be able to withstand these moments of heroic self-doubt. To write fiction does not require any wantonness (beyond the possible waste of your evenings and weekends). One needn't be manic, poor, drunk, high, or politically extreme to write and write well. There are famous examples of destitute, extremist addicts who have penned masterpieces, but it is easier to mete out the energy required to write comprehensible fiction when on an even keel...
A story called Tinakori Hill
He is found to the side of the track, face down in his work clothes. His wife does not come to the scene that day, but is shown photos. The white of his shirt shines out from beneath a litter of fallen leaves. The police inspector says he'd been there three days. She knows it was three days - she wants to yell at this man, this officer of the law with no idea what she went through, the not knowing, and what she's going through now, the still-finding-out.
A post called "On Aging"
What is it to feel old? To be old? It is to live in a constant state of simile. That awkwardness of movement, the utter lack of nimbleness; a reminder of times in car parks juggling keys, shopping bags and toddlers...
A (wretched) poem called "Tracking Number 456-08900-9267"
My Canon is coming
My Canon is coming
On the eighth it left Hong Kong
For a night on the mainland.
Yesterday it was in Singapore;
Today it is "in transit".
Perhaps Jakarta's next, or Denpasar,
island-hopping like Kingsford Smith:
Darwin, Cairns, Rockhampton.
Oh the photos my 550D could take -
A herd of water buffalo strolling through the spinifex;
The antiseptic pink of a coral atoll -
If it wasn't snugly packed in polystyrene
And alone, userless, in the cargohold,
A box with a barcode, another harmless x-ray,
Sydney, Auckland, Wellington.
When it arrives I'll introduce it
to the tauhou in my neighbour’s pine,
the gull that rocks my TV antennae,
the strands of Maui's rope, from the sun
down to the Orongorongos,
the cabbage trees in farmer's fields,
Sanson, Bulls and Marton...
A post without a title
Why write a novel? I spend my working day surrounded by cost/benefit analyses and yet when I get home I spend two, three hours (sometimes more) working on a novel. I have not, until now performed a cost benefit analysis on whether or not I should be working on this novel in the first place. So let's do that now.
I'm going to set the bar low. Let's say I spend 20 hours a week on my novel. There are plenty of things I could be doing instead, but to make it easy to put a dollar figure on this, let's say my alternative is working a second job for minimum wage ($12.75 an hour). Assuming a tax rate of 33 cents in the dollar, I'd take home $170.85 a week from my second job...
A story idea
A writer has a day job in an office. One day, he goes into the men’s room and sees a panel in the wall is actually a door through to the hot water tanks and heating/ventilation system. He overhears two technician’s conversation, and is delighted by the earthiness of it (“I tell you what, Brian, I bloody fuckin hope this works”). The writer shuts the door on the technicians, and stays to listen to their conversation. When someone else comes in the men's room, he has to let the men out, pretending he too just came in and figured out what had happened...
A post about the shoot for my author photo which involved me replicating a Norman Mailer shot
A post before my book launch
Can I take it all back? The blogposts, the twitter updates, the phone interviews, the stories themselves? They're not that great, honestly. Is it too late to put a halt to things and stay anonymous? If I try, I can keep my head screwed on and make a damn good policy analyst. I've been through the fun stuff: the seeing the cover designs, taking my author's photo, receiving the first book. Do I really need to go through the bad reviews from people I don't know and the awkwardness at work wondering if the people have read the book (and knowing they didn't rate it)?
Yes. It's too late...
Unused Q&A's for my website
You grew up in Palmerston North. What was that like?
Weatherwise, it prepared me for Wellington.
Do you ever resent your day job? Don't you want to be a full time writer?
Of course there are times when I get annoyed with the amount of time I spend in town not writing, but then every two weeks I get paid.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Surrounded by characters.
A story called "The Wishing Cave"
At primary school, my neighbour Greta and I would walk home together. Everyday we'd pass this garage which was carved into the hillside - the house itself was up a zigzag concrete path and obscured by punga fronds and karo branches - and everyday the garage door would be open, the garage itself empty. It was only big enough to fit a single car; no room for shelves or storage boxes or bicycles. Perhaps that's why, when the car was out, there was no need to shut the door: there was nothing to steal.
Without a car inside, it was no stretch of our six, seven, eight-year-old imaginations to believe this was in fact a cave. It sure echoed like a cave, our thin voices pinging off the hard, flat surfaces of the garage and returning to our ears a little deeper, a little more ominous.
I don't remember quite how it evolved, but Greta and I fell into the habit of speaking into the empty garage as we passed each afternoon.
What did we say? We told it our most fervent wishes. Greta wished for a hockey stick. I wished my mother would stop putting whole pickles in my lunchbox. Our wishes bounced back to us, deeper and more serious. Sometimes the wishing cave would deliver - Greta got that hockey stick - and sometimes the results were less complete - my mother still gave me pickles, but began wrapping them in gladwrap. I remember us standing side by side one time and both asking for the wishing cave to wipe the school bully, Jonathan Wu, from the face of the earth. I'm pleased now that the wishing cave did not pander to our every desire…
A post called "How to get a poem published, part one"
1. Write a poem.
(Excuse me while I open a blank word document…)
Check back tomorrow for part two.
A found poem called, "IT WAS LIKE THE SEA HAD GONE UP TO THE SKY"
Her fascination with natural disasters
Her yelling that the sea was going out and a tsunami was coming
She was beside herself
He was swept into the surging water
He was engulfed in the first wave
He clung on to vines
I was underwater for a while, it was full of debris
I saw four-wheel-drives tumbling through the water
Fales coming up then crashing into the shore
I just went loose and floppy
Abby and her mother clambered up a cliff
We could see him floating
Mr Wutzler, scratched but otherwise unhurt
If we had tails, they would have got wet
It was like the sea had gone up to the sky
Many of the tourists who had been woken by Abby's screams thanked her
They were left barefoot, but alive.
Caption: The Wutzlers, lucky to survive.
A post called "How to get a poem published, part two"
2. Revise the poem.
("I may be some time…")
Check back soon for part three.
A post from 2008 called "Troubling"
I was googling myself this afternoon (I think we’re past the point where one has to feign embarrassment about doing this, aren’t we?), and found a new poem by Craig Cliff called ‘Life’. [Sorry, link is now broken, but I swear it was real.]
This poem is not by me. (I believe in the use of apostrophes and spell-checkers.)
For the last few years I have been keeping tabs on my other namesakes. They seem a nice lot. One owns a Steak Restaurant. Another is a buyer for Macy’s. Not too outgoing or creative, though. So a poet amongst our ranks came as quite a surprise.
It is a bit of a pain that someone other than me may stumble across this other Craig Cliff’s poems and think I wrote the (fully sic) lines:
sothing kisses when we cry
born to live
only to die
rime without reason
The struggle to be the only Craig Cliff on the top ten Google results always reminds me of The One (2001) staring Jet Li. Except we’re not talking about the same person in multiple universes, just people with the same name in this one. But still, if you went around eliminating the competition, it would certainly seem like your own power and importance is increasing.
Hold on. This sounds like I am contemplating homicide. Homonomicide perhaps? I have too much in common with the other Craig Cliffs to hold anything but the most trivial beef...
A post/winge about Editors
The thing that made me uneasy was this: every one time my narrator used the word "like", it was replaced by "as if."
It would have been worse if these red as ifs were constant doubts about the plausibility of my story:
Craig writes: "he jumps from the roof top, through the helicopter blades, and lands on the galloping steed unscathed"
Editor writes: “As if”.
A post on Colours Rhymes
It’s a bit of an urban myth, but I have read that orange, purple and silver are the only English words without rhymes. There are, in fact lots of words which don’t have full rhymes (film, vacuum, pint…), but there seems to be something compelling about orange, purple and silver. Why are colours so notoriously hard to rhyme with?
The thing we should never forget is that we all have the ability to create new words, and thus the power to give wallflower words more dance partners.
I have taken it upon myself to create the following words to rhyme with Orange, Purple and Silver.
- Chorange – N – the light switch in your house that does not seem to operate anything.
- Herple – N – an angry-looking but ultimately benign rash around the nipple,
- Quilver – V – to shudder at the thought of being tickled.
And for completeness, here are some rhymes for Film, Vacuum and Pint
- Slilm – V – the act of walking on icy concrete by half-steps and half-slides.
- Achuum – N – a sneeze where air is sucked in rather than expelled.
- Yeighnt – N – the sound of an item falling from a bookcase onto the head of an unsuspecting person.