December 31, 2008

A third year in books

I'm heading down to spend New Year's at the beach. Which means, in true Melbourne weather form, that unlike last year when New Year's was a roasting hot 42, this year it's more like 22. Still, I like the beach in any weather and can't sunbake anyway due to my pale anglo/celtic skin, so all will be good.

For the third year in a row (crikey, where has three years gone?) I'm rounding up with my post on what I've read this year. My list of read for the first time is sitting at around 140, I think, which is, as I expected less than last year. But I know I've been doing a lot of re-reading this year, particularly in the last few months, so I'd imagine I'm still around 300 books for the year. I'm fairly sure I've missed some in the list along the way but oh well.

Favourite books this year, in no particular order:

The Lost Recipe for Happiness - Barbara O'Neal Just read this last night (staying up way too late for someone who has a three or so hour drive ahead of her) and it was great. And made me very hungry!

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman - and the videos of him reading it that are around are pretty good too, he's a great reader with a lovely voice.

Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr, lovely, lush, dark YA that wasn't what I'd expected.

The Spymaster's Lady - Jo Bourne became an instant favourite with this. Fabulous historical. And pretty good writing advice, too.

Private Arrangements - Sherry Thomas. Another wonderful, different historical debut.

Taken by the Bad Boy - Kelly Hunter. Wonderful funny sexy emotional romance as usual.

Silent in the Grave/Silent in the Sanctuary - Deanna Raybourn. It was a very good year for historical debuts. Gorgeous victoria historical suspense with a romance thread that will keep this little black duck coming back for more.

Mirabile - Janet Kagan. Who sadly passed away this year and did not write enough books before she did so. This and Hellspark (one of my faves last year I think) are both great books.

Dragonhaven - Robin McKinley. While we really want the sequel to Sunshine, everything else she writes is pretty damn good.

Old Man's War - John Scalzi. Yes, I'm late to the party but this was great SF space opera and I quickly glommed the other books in the series.

A Companion to Wolves - Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. Because if you combine two great writers, the result has to be pretty good and pretty thought provoking given the two writers you are combining.

The Mirador - Sarah Monette. This series rocks and I'm eagerly awaiting the final instalment.

The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss. Another great debut, this time in the epic fantasy mode. More please.

Iron Kissed - Patricia Briggs. The Mercy books keep getting better.

To Hell and Back - Lilith Saintcrow. She pushes her characters to the edge but this was a great finale to one of my favourite series of recent years.

Emergence/Tracking - David R Palmer. Because they're hilarious.

The Perils of Pleasure - Julie Anne Long. For Colin. And his ballad.

Most re-read book this year: Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I will confess to being kind of addicted to this book. I've read it at least five times this year and it is definitely a favourite comfort read. I've already bought another copy because my existing one is getting very well-worn.

Other favourite re-read authors this year (I can't tell you how many times or which books in particular as in most cases I go on binges and re-read whole series or chunks of series or re-read more than once):

Jennifer Crusie
Terry Pratchett
Lois McMaster Bujold
Nora Roberts
JD Robb
Jacqueline Carey
Anne Bishop
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Guy Gavriel Kay
Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Kelly Hunter
Jane Austen
Patricia Briggs
Robin McKinley
Tara Janzen
Barbara Samuel
Lilith Saintcrow
Eloisa James
Julie Anne Long
Anne Stuart

And for the full list of books read for the first time this year go here.

December 30, 2008

Resolving

Given that tomorrow is reserved for my traditional annual reading wrap up post, I have to do my traditional resolution post today.

So herewith, Mel's goals for 2009.

1. Write at least two books and enjoy the process.
2. Lose 15kg.
3. To assist with 2, make sure the exercise routine stays a routine rather than a sporadic mess. Actually, one of the girls at work talks about an exercise ritual. I like that. Ritual seems more fun and inviting than 'routine'. Rituals are nurturing rather than an imposition. So keep shaping and sticking to my exercise rituals.
4. Remember my recipe for happy Mels.
5. Stay off the caffeine as much as possible (which isn't always but at least I haven't had a diet coke since early this year...and man, I miss it still).
6. Remember when I fall off the wagon with any of the above that I can just get up and get back on.
5. Have fun!

You can't really set a goal of selling a book as publication is largely out of your control after you do all the write a good book/find an agent/submit stuff/keep writing bit but let's call it my big dream for 2009. Sell a book. Or six. : )

A recipe for happy Mel

So I think my list of things to indulge in boils down to more of a "remember to do the things that keep you and the girls happy and relaxed, dummy". So here, forthwith is my list of things to try in 2009 when I need ideas for how to do just that:

1. Story (good story at that) in pretty much any format
2. Music (more live would be good, there's something about crowd energy that is muse food too)
3. Naps
4. Meditation
5. Massages
6. Nice smells
7. Pretty colours
8. Trying a new recipe
9. Stretching/yoga/pilates
10. Water
11. Moving the body generally
12. Girly things (the make-up, the girl-friends, the mani/pedi, the facial, the shopping, all that good stuff)
13. Margaritas or nice bubbles
14. Quilting/cross stitch
15. Pottering in the garden (potential itching aside)
16. Kitty cuddles
17. Trips
18. Salt lamps
19. Eating out
20. When all else fails, Mamma Mia karaoke will do the trick!

December 28, 2008

Still thinking about indulgence

And I'm not sure I'd change a lot about last year's. But I'll still keep thinking. I think part of the problem is that this year I'm feeling about 500% more relaxed than I was the same time last year. There's been no killer work project, there's been no flooded house just before christmas and there's been quite a bit of vacation time this year.

Maybe I need a new approach to the list...I know what my resolutions are going to be and the indulgences aren't supposed to be resolutions but I think I need a new way to think about them.

More once I've slept on it.

December 27, 2008

Indolence and indulgences

So carrying on the tradition of the last two years, I thought I'd take a look at how I'd gone on my planned indulgences this year and then work out how to pamper myself next year.

So here's last year's list:


1. Live music and music generally
Well, I've bought a fair bit of music on iTunes this year. I saw Bon Jovi (even if it was a bit of a dud concert due to shocking sound), went to the Rocky Horror picture show, listened to Irish music in a Hobart bar, there was several viewings of Mamma Mia (which counts) and I'm sure there was another musical, plus four ballets, so this is a tick even if I'd like there to be still more. Still I already have Wicked and Pink lined up for next year.

2. Pilates classes.


Hmmm. This is probably a half tick. I've managed to go more regularly but still not every week and somewhere along the line the reformer classes that I was really enjoying fell by the wayside. Exercise has been a bug bear this year while we've been focusing on sorting things out physically but in the last six weeks it's been slowly creeping back.

3. Dancing of some sort

Nope apart from boogying in the loungeroom occasionally. Not sure why I'm resisting this one...

4. The girly things...facials and makeup and sparkly nail polish and hanging out with the gals

I've had a couple of manicures/pedicures, some makeovers, worn lots of sparkly nail polish, worn make-up most days to work and spent plenty of time with the gals being silly, so this is a pass.

5. Relaxation - meditation, massages and naps and feeding myself stories in various forms

I think the massage count doubled to about four. Mostly at the start of the year then tapered off again (possibly cos I was spending a lot on various naturopathic stuff) but I've been good on napping and meditating and there has been plenty of story (though strangely, I get the feeling when I add up my books read count for the year, it's going to be lower this year...lots of re-reading this year and too much driving to work).

6. Quilting - learn some more, do some more

Well I did some more but haven't done any more classes. Will keep working on this one.

7. Scents - especially roses


I bought myself Red Roses by Jo Malone and wear it most days. I love the scent of roses. Nice soaps and aromatherapy have happened too, so pass.

8. Learning something for fun

I didn't do any formal classes but I've been trying different cooking things, kind of learned Dvorak (another project to reboot soon), learned how to change kitchen cabinet handles, a bit more html/web design stuff, the teeniest dabble into knowing more about photography and managed to speak a few words in German plus the myriad other magpie bits and pieces that catch the writer brain attention here and there and get investigated. I'll give me a pass though I'd still like to do something more formal for fun again.


9. Food adventures - both out and at home

Well, there was a fair bit of travel (and some of it not work or writing related) so there's been a reasonable amount of eating out this year. Home-wise, I've been playing with the crockpot and the Kenwood in the last few months so I think I pass this as well.

Now I need to go and eat some dinner (having done half an hour on the ET a little while ago) before I think of what my indulgences for next year might be.

December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Off to the folks later today sometime, so Merry Christmas to all!



Have a wonderful holiday of your choice, eat some good food, hug some people you love and I hope 2009 brings laughter, good friends, joy and love for everyone.

December 19, 2008

Get 'em while they're young

I just got back from a two year old birthday dinner. In the spirit of get 'em while they're young and you'll have 'em for life, I tend to give my friend's kids books as presents.

Last year, for his first birthday, I gave the birthday boy a book. One year later, after apparently being read every day (and no, his parents don't hate me yet), it is looking well, appreciated.



This year I gave him Diary of a Wombat (which is hilarious). Let's hope next year it, and his other books, are looking just as well loved.

Merry Christmas to me

I've been playing with my new toy today. A very cute little blue Acer Aspire One netbook, mostly thanks to Keri who found a great online deal for the baby Linux version.



It's very cool and the keyboard is great. I tried the smallest Asus eee but the keyboard is too small for my long fingers, but this is just right. Plus I now have a use for my very geeky Battlestar Galactica mini mouse that I got free with one of the sets of DVDs lol.

I love my Alphie but you can't edit on an alphie and a big laptop is painful to lug around, so this is the perfect compromise for times when I'm not just first drafting or am travelling. I don't need a netbook with lots of bells and whistles and a massive HD, it's not my main computer and I have a work laptop if I need to travel with something with bells and whistles and storage. And one day I'll have a mac laptop. I just wanted something light that will get online if I'm overseas and can't use the iPhone for surfing and email and has good word processing and will store my writing files. This does all that in a neat package about the weight of the alphie and just slightly bigger than a trade paperback. It even has games though I'm trying to avoid those...I've already succumbed to a few iPhone games which can prove a nice little time suck if you're not careful.

Now I just need some sort of sleeve for it and I'm all set.

So what did everyone else order from Santa (or Mr Visa as the case may be)?

December 17, 2008

Busy but uninteresting

It's been a bit quiet around the blog but that's mostly because I'm in the middle of the christmas whirl with christmas parties and birthday parties and general sociableness out the ying yang. Throw in a funeral today for one of my great aunts : ( and it's been Mel of much running around lately. And Mel of much needing sleep and couch potato-ing when not running around. Which doesn't really add up to interesting writing blogging. I have finished my christmas shopping but haven't yet really dealt with cards or decorations. I foresee many e-cards this year!

Still noodling with various wips and nothing is really jumping up and down shouting "write me, write me" but I've got three weeks off over Christmas so I'd like to get the first couple of chapter of Witch 2 and Wolf 3 done and see what else happens.

To which I should stop writing this and see if I can squeeze in 30 minutes writing before I have to get ready for the next christmas function tonight! Followed by another one tomorrow afternoon, then Friday night then Sunday lunch. I'll be eating salad for all of January and February at this rate ; )

Hope everyone is having a lovely pre-Christmas season!

December 14, 2008

DI Why?

It's been a busy weekend. Baking for lulu christmas party and going to another christmas party on Friday then off to Keri's for actual lulu christmas party on Saturday. It's normally a nice drive but yesterday was pouring so we did lulu carpooling and Freya did a sterling job of wet weather driving and we made it there and back and ate lots of goodies and laughed a lot as usual in between exclamations of "DECEMBER ALREADY? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?".

Keri, being not just a NYT bestseller but also handy, had updated her kitchen with new handles. Pretty. And also made me think "hey, I could get rid of ugly plastic handles and do that".

So this morning I drove down the to trusty hardware store to buy new handles. Mission accomplished....or so I thought. But this is DIY and nothing is EVER straightforward in DIY. Got home and realised that the screws that come with the handles have to be cut and I don't have pliers quite up to the job. I figured that surely someone was sensible and produced the same screws in the variety of lengths that you can cut the ones supplied with all the handles to. So I trotted back to the hardware store where the nice hardware man disillusioned me. No-one (at least here in Australia it seems) makes pre-cut screws of this kind. To which you kind of have to say WTF? Anyway, this means I have to buy super pliers that will cut the screws. Done.

Then I return home and realise that despite the fact that all the handles in the stores being sold in standard widths, my old handles are 3mm off standard, so the new ones don't want to screw in using the old holes. I was reluctant to just drill new holes given that kitchen cupboards are flimsy so I returned to the hardware store to seek advice from the hardware man (my third trip if you're keeping track). He told me to just enlarge the bottom holes slightly with the drill. Okay. Do-able. At the same time, because I'd bent one of the screws trying to cut it with my original pliers, I bought a pack of the same type of screws which hardware store helpfully had near all the handles (it would seem that I am not the only one who bends the screws).

I return home and commence replacing handles and discovering that I need more bicep power than I possess and that because of the tight squeeze screws to get the handles to fit, I can't use an electric screwdriver and have to do it all by hand. I didn't do them all because cutting the screws has made my hands a bit sore, so I figure I'll space it out. But because I bent that first screw and another one has been eaten by the screw gremlins, I cut two of the extra screws. Only to find they're slightly too big for the handles....again I say what the frak? Why sell them if they're not going to fit? So I'm going to have to go buy another handle to get the two last screws I need. Le sigh. Looks like another trip to the hardware store coming up. At least there are only six handles to go. So yay me for being kind of handy in a very lame way and boo to screw manufacturers for being dills.

At least the handles do look good:

A christmas message from the office of the orange cat

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

December 11, 2008

No, I'm not cranky

But this is funny....

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

And also a great photo...I wonder if it's just a blackbird caught in the right light to pick up the blue sheen on its feathers or if it's actually something blue.

December 07, 2008

And so it starts

The christmas whirl that is. I've pretty much finished the shopping but have cards and decorating to do. The socialising is well and truly underway, kicking off with time with the folks to celebrate their birthdays (with yummy coq au vin and wine). Made the christmas cake (apparently we are committing store bought pudding this year, quelle tragique). Only two and a bit weeks of work left before two weeks off (yay!) Spent the weekend with much pondering of various wips and listening to soundtracks and thinking but not much actual committing words to pages. But that's kind of normal, the girls are cooking something up and hopefully there'll be some time over the next month or to see exactly what it is.

Friday was hot enough that I had the airconditioning on and finally changed over to the summer weight doona (probably about a month later than last year). Which of course meant that Saturday and today turned cold again. Ahhh, Melbourne.

December 04, 2008

A walk in the urban sprawl

I have the day off today and it's a lovely sunny day so I decided a walk was in order. I live in the suburbs but there aren't any really good parks for walking anywhere nearby so most of my tromping is done around the side streets. Which is always entertaining.

Some things noted on my walk today:

A bright red and black HB pencil jammed into the nature strip for no apparent reason.

A discarded mattress half curled like a cat basking in a puddle of sunshine.

A jack russell terrier with one black ear playing with his little boy.

The spicy summer smell of hot eucalyptus.

An abandoned shopping trolley sitting near a pedestrian crossing. I think it was just poised waiting for there to be no humans or cars so it could hit the button and make its dash across. Or maybe I've just read too much Pratchett.

The hundreds of colours in the bark of the gum trees lining the streets, everything from deep rust red to rosy pink and palest creamy green.

An army of ants scurrying up and down on of said gum trees. Maybe we're due another storm.

And now I'm listening to the outraged chirps of the birds out the front. I think the orange cat must be prowling around. I think they're safe. He might bag the odd mouse but I haven't seen him climb a tree for a LONG time.

December 01, 2008

The sky is smiling

No, really, it is! There's a very cool alignment of the crescent moon/jupiter and venus over Australia tonight. And I managed to take one non blurry shot thanks to the new camera and my baby tripod. The stars looked bigger and brighter than this in real life (click to make the photo bigger and you'll get a better effect):



And here are some other squiggly attempts just because they make cute faces! May the sky smile on us all and hopefully it's a good omen!



November 30, 2008

Everything is better with cake

Over the last few months, thanks largely to the wonder of the crockpot, I've been getting back into the swing of cooking that had kind of fallen away when I took six weeks off.

And now, whether it's the time of year, or the recovering cook in me or a case of channelling my inner seventies housewife due to prolonged crockpot contact, I've been in an increasing mood to bake.

I've talked before about the fact that my Dad's dad was a baker and I've always liked baking. I grew up with Dad making bread and hot cross buns and, later on, muffins and Mum churning out chocolate cake and the christmas pudding and cake (which now we do together each year). Neither of them were fancy bakers but baked goods didn't come from packets in our house (I was horrified when someone at work told me she'd never made a cake from scratch!) I always liked helping (and licking the beaters). And I went to a high school that made you do home economics for two years and our home eco teacher was a firm believer in mastering the basiscs, so we learned scones and sponges and all sorts of goodies while we worked our way through the classic Cookery the Australian Way (though ours definitely didn't talk about sapodilla!).

So I'm a good basic baker (except I never really have mastered the touch for scones....my scones are edible but they never rise like my mum's or Keri's do...not exactly a party piece). When it comes to mains I'm pretty good at throwing things together and substituting ingredients to make something suit me and understanding techniques and doing some fancier dishes. But with baking, I've never really played around with it too much, sticking to what I know. Partly because of lack of time or really need to bake every week (because then I'd be eating the results all the time). But I want to step the baking up a notch and play around and get better.

I've been making do with mostly my little weenie food processor and an ancient pair of electric beaters that were Mum's before they were mine but yesterday (after using the scary beaters last weekend and realising the cord had reached the point known as "taking your life in your hands every time you plug these in"), I decided that, screw it, I need a proper mixer. A good mixer. Not your $100 Target job. Something I can get accessories for down the track if I want them. Which prompted the invariable KitchenAid vs Kenwood Chef decision (I don't like Mixmasters, I had an old one of my grandmother's at one stage and I HATE the spinning bowl thing - my spatulas always went flying).

KitchenAids sure are purty but they are also expensive and I've never used one. On the other hand, I grew up using a Chef. Kenwood now also make a stand style mixer like the KitchenAid but it is even more expensive than the KA. I decided that given I'm still being experimental and really, I'm only like to use the mixer every few weeks at this stage, that I couldn't quite justify spending $700 on a mixer just now. So I toddled off to David Jones and in a fit of serendipity they had a pile of the entry level Chefs (the top of the range Chef is now $1300!!!!!!!!! - that's some serious baking and grinding and every other thing you can think of going on daily to justify in my book) with a $50 cash back plus 20% of the purchase price back on a gift card plus a free mincing attachment. Sold. I am now the proud owner of a unsexy but good old square looking Kenwood Chef. Without too much virgo brain angsting. Go me.

It even magically fits in the one spare spot in my kitchen cupboard (which was an initial concern given my kitchen is small and I don't really have bench space to leave a mixer out all the time (though my mother helpfully suggested making a really big tea cosy to cover it. I pointed out I can't crochet so she'd have to do it). So long may it beat and maybe by the time I decide I'm ready for an upgrade they'll be making sexier versions : ).

And to celebrate my purchase I think I have to make cake this afternoon. After all, I have a half-zested lemon left over from my crockpot concoction of the day and it would be wasteful to not use it, plus my favourite fall back easy cake recipe has a lemon variation....of course, this reminds me that I really need to buy a new sifter and a ring tin but I shall make do.

And now I see

The other week I finally stopped resisting and admitted that perhaps I needed prescription sunnies (my close up vision is fine, I am in no way Mr Magoo but the street signs in the distance were getting fuzzy). Fortuitously I also received a voucher for quite a chunk off glasses or prescription sunnies at the optometrist so I toddled off and ordered a pair. These, if you're interested.

I picked them up on Thursday and I have to say I am LOVING them. Not just because of the fuzziness begone factor but also because I paid a little more to get polarized lenses. I don't think I've ever had a pair of polarized sunnies before (I tend towards the cheap sunnies because I lose them, hence the prescription resistance). I wear sunnies a lot because I'm really sensitive to glare and these are really good at cutting out the glare. Why has no-one told me this before? It's fabulous.

Now all I have to do is not lose them because even with the voucher they were still way more than I've ever paid for sunglasses.

November 28, 2008

A cunning plan, my lord

Is what I need. As I may have mentioned, there are quite a few book ideas floating around in the head at the moment, so what do we play with next?

This was the initial writing plan for the year:

Priority 1 project: Witch 1
Priority 2 projects: Progressing Wolf 3, another pass at Wolf 2
Noodle projects: Everything else

Noodle projects are the ones you mess around with when the girls need a break. Or when you get an idea that won't go away or just for fun....you know.

Which was then updated late August to this after I finished Witch 1.

Priority 1 projects - First draft of the current wip, finish Wolf 2 pass
Priority 2 projects - Vague plots for Wolf 3, Witch 2 and maybe a few chaps of them
Noodle projects: Everything else

Current progress:

First draft of current wip. Well, the current wip that was at the time stalled out a bit and now I probably have five or six candidates for current wip. I would like December to be a first draft month, so I guess I need to pick something.

Finish Wolf 2 pass. Done. Took longer than I wanted thanks to the recalcitrant first act but is done for now.

Vague plots and chapters of Wolf 3 and Witch 2. I know the basic plot for Wolf 3 and have the first scene. I have a vague idea of what I think I'd like to use in the plot for Witch 2 and have a very rough draft opening.

Everything else: There has been noodling on and off. Now I have to pick something to focus on...so the current plan is:

Priority 1 projects: Pick a wip and finish a first draft this summer. If that wip is not Witch 2 (I'm not ready for another Wolf just yet, then get a little more of Witch 2 done as well.

Priority 2 projects: Wolf 3. Witch 2 if it's not the summer book.

Noodle projects: Everything else but try and have a designated noodling session every week.

So there you go. A plan, such as it can be when you have stuff out on submission and everything could technically go out the window if someone got a wild hair and bought something. Now I have to go poke at some wips and see which one might like to play nice.

Done like a done thing

Woohoo! Revision is all done! Finished. 425 pages of done-ness. I think I officially deserve the afternoon off unless the girls want to play with something later on. I'm going to mail this sucker to Miriam and worry about what to work on next later on.


Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 39.
Intriguing things - Done.
Annoyances - Nothing cos it's done!
Music - Final act soundtrack
Linear/Non-linear - Linear.
Location - The desk. Word and think.
Taking care of Mel - Chiropractor.
Muse food - We'll see what they feel like later.

November 27, 2008

Success

Yay! Managed over ten pages, thanks to the magic of chocolate. Now I deserve a rest. Though really, I should do some exercise.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 17 or so.
Intriguing things - I do like this bit even though it's all horrid and sad.
Annoyances - Too tired to push through to the end, I'll do a better job tomorrow with eight hours sleep under the belt.
Music - Final act soundtrack
Linear/Non-linear - Linear.
Location - The desk. Word and think.
Taking care of Mel - Shopping? I think I will try for some exercise. Even ten minutes on the elliptical would be good.
Muse food - Some House after the exercise.

She shops, she scores!

For a few weeks now I've had the uncomfortable feeling that the world had sped up a lot and that it was going to be Christmas before I knew it. Not that I actually did anything about it but today I decided I should at least start. I have a lot of friends and rellys with late year birthdays so I hadn't even actually finished birthday shopping yet.

This morning I had something like 17 assorted people to buy birthday and/or christmas presents for. As of right now, only five of those presents are outstanding. One of which I know what I'm getting and will take me ten minutes next week, three of which I have a vague idea and will order online and get delivered (yay) and one of which I have no idea but plenty of time to ponder and/or ask outright what they want! Me for the shopping win! Plus I picked up my new prescription sunnies and suddenly all the street signs in the distance are less blurry. Go figure lol.

I still need a few cards and christmas paper (well, need to check the stash at least to see if that's true) but I'm suddenly feeling way more organised.

And now dinner then I'll see if I can coax my somewhat fried brain into ten pages of revision to leave me with 40 odd for the weekend, a very do-able number, I hope.

November 26, 2008

Standing at the top of the downhill run

Well, I have fifty odd pages left to go on this revision. I'd like to finish it Friday. We shall see. The last fifty pages were written pretty fast but I think they're pretty strong so it should hopefully just be more layering and you know putting in that scenery and what people are doing and stuff. I'm hoping it won't grow too much though, this is now offically the longest book I've written, sitting at 106k or something by page count. And now, it's time for Criminal Minds so here's the daily score.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 25 or so. New pages around 3. Re-revised to put in the thread from last night about 5.
Intriguing things - Mystery mystery
Annoyances - I could happily barrel right through now but unfortunately there's that whole day job thing tomorrow.
Music - Final act soundtrack
Linear/Non-linear - Linear with one small backtrack.
Location - The desk. Word and think.
Taking care of Mel - Nap
Muse food - Not much. Re-reading Sunshine yet again, which always makes them happy. Robin McKinley is a goddess.

November 25, 2008

Dear Mel's brain

When you are all tired and sleepy do not let Mel think she should futz with her blog template because you will make her delete half the code, not notice and then save. When she does notice she will nearly have cardiac arrest. If she has cardiac arrest, things will not be good for you.

Luckily you have your anal side which meant you at least had a relatively recent copy of the template code so she could fix things with some tweaking.

Here endeth the lesson.

PS Mel's brain apologises to anyone whose link has dropped off the sidebars. Let her know and she'll put you back!

What rhymes with Tuesday? I got nothin'

Back to nice late spring warmth and sunshine today. Of course, sudden weather changes make me sleepy. Whoops. Not my greatest ever effort tonight but at least I did something.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 15. Some of that might need reworking once I make up my mind whether or not I want to put a particular thing in or not. That decision apparently too much for sleepy brain.
Intriguing things - You know it's cool when you're layering stuff through and suddenly you can pull a thread through to a scene and it harks back to stuff you didn't even know you foreshadowed and sets up stuff for the next book. The girls, they haz the kewl.
Annoyances - Sleepiness. No-one to do my dishes.
Music - Have switched to the final act soundtrack which is a condensed selection of the full thing.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and think.
Taking care of Mel - Meditation
Muse food - Coming up the second half of Good News Week from last night. But first, dishes. Not sure dishes is exactly Muse food but waking up to shiny clean sink is better than the alternative.

November 24, 2008

Back and forth

On the way to work I realised I'd missed weaving something through ten pages or so of what I'd revised yesterday. So I had to backtrack a little but I think it's better now. Still growing but I'm now officially less than 100 pages to go (unless it does just keep growing, which is a possibility given the talkiness of it all - much as I'm happy with pages of mostly tagless dialogue, I figure it's probably nice for the readers to have a clue what's going on).

In other news, the sun has returned but the temperature isn't rising much. It's summer in SEVEN days for Pete's sake. Rain is good but it doesn't need to be freezing to rain! Someone tell those weather gods.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Re-revised 10 or so, revised 13
Intriguing things - Layering ideas working well.
Annoyances - The ever expanding book factor.
Music - Only the birds chirping sunset songs.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and think.
Taking care of Mel - Pilates
Muse food - Coming up Top Gear (British silliness with added middle aged man candy factor) and then Good News Week (Australian silliness with added middle aged musical man candy...ooh, I wonder if any of the Top Gear boys can sing (drools) *g*).

November 23, 2008

Apparently the blog title part of my brain does not wish to play tonight

Another weekend zooms past and yay, I have broken the 300 page barrier. I'd really like to get this done this week but the final hundred pages are probably horribly talking headish and in need of much tweaking. Still, I can give it a red-hot go.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 49.
Intriguing things - Hitting the next bit that needs re-writes and heavy tweaking.
Annoyances - Brain somewhat unco-operative today.
Music - Soundtrack for session one. The sweet strains of the dryer (seriously, I should not have to use the dryer in November) for the second.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and think.
Taking care of Mel - Elliptical, sleeping in
Muse food - Daniel last night. Supernatural.

November 22, 2008

Pondering Bond

So I just got back from seeing Quantum of Solace and my verdict is good but not as good as Casino Royale. Daniel still rocks as Bond and this movie was the necessary Bond-get-his-revenge movie and the dude who plays the villain does a very good line in sociopathic-nutjob dead eyes and I'll be very interested to see where they take this new Bond now he's past that point.

What dragged it down for me was the action. I loved the action in Casino Royale. Yes there were pacy fast bits but it felt gritty and real and really dragged you in. In QoS, I'm sad to say they've gone for the Bourne-like ultra-fast cuts during action. Not as shaky as Bourne thank God, so you don't need dramamine but here's my thing with this sort of action. In film, the camera is kind of your POV. It shows you what is important, where to pay attention, builds tension etc etc. So a good action sequence should be fast but it should also be involving and you should feel like you're right there in the middle of things. The trouble is when you cut super fast every other second, it's like headhopping on speed in a book. You don't where you're really supposed to be or really what's going on and your brain is so busy going ""wait, whuh? hey over-no here, whoops, no over, frak what the heck is- ow - back to - no- stop -now I'm dizzy" that it's not going "wheee I'm ducking a punch, now I'm leaping across a building, quick duck the gunshot" etc. You're standing outside the action trying to decipher it rather than feeling like you're in it.

So instead of being more exciting or real (and I'm sure the directors think it's more exciting), it's actually distancing and less exciting. I guess the super speedy thing is meant to play like the action would in real time but I also have problem with that because if you're ever in that sort of action situation or any situation where the adrenaline kicks in, time tends to slow down, not speed up, so you do have time to take in what's going on and react.

But still, it was a pretty good film and I'll be ponying up my cash for number three when it comes along. Because really, any movie with lots of this guy, has to be pretty good.

November 21, 2008

Friday

Well today went quite well despite the continuing tireds. I still got through forty pages, so hopefully on Sunday I can crack 300 pages (tomorrow being crit group and then the lovely Daniel being all super spy).

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 40.
Intriguing things - Still quite liking this
Annoyances - Very slow optometrists? Does that count?
Music - No music.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word.
Taking care of Mel - Elliptical, nap, meditation
Muse food - Hugh! And House and a smidge of Crusie. Plus baking. The girls like baking.

November 20, 2008

Someone turned on the tired

I swear I got to 4ish today and my brain just went "that's it, all done, game over". Came home, had a nap, ate dinner, showered. Still tired. One of those days where I wish I was still drinking diet coke. But still made myself sit down and wriggle the fingers (despite the temptation of Hugh on Oprah - thank God for VCR) and now I can zonk out on the couch with a clear conscience. I'd like to get past three hundred this weekend and it's lulus and possibly Bond, James Bond (mmm, Daniel Craig) on Saturday, so need to crack on tomorrow and Sunday.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 17.
Intriguing things - I like this bit
Annoyances - Soooo tired.
Music - Original recipe soundtrack.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and Think.
Taking care of Mel - A very mild walk at lunch in the rain to try and clear the head.
Muse food - I think that will be the forthcoming early night. Or maybe the last tidbits of Hugh.

November 19, 2008

Happy Wednesday night!

Given I don't go to the day job on Friday's, Thursday is effectively Friday, so that makes Wednesday nights cheerful-making. Though I would like to put in a request that the days slow down just a smidge or I'm going to blink and I'll be wearing a silly paper hat and pulling crackers and eating Christmas pudding with no idea how I got there.

Here's the daily report:

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Revised 20.
Intriguing things - Marco. We like Marco.
Annoyances - Nothing to report.
Music - Back to the original soundtrack at the desk.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and Think.
Taking care of Mel - WW meeting. Actual real live cardio done on the elliptical without a heart attack occurring. Amazing! Now I just have to repeat the feat on a regular basis.
Muse food - Soon to be Criminal Minds watching.

November 18, 2008

Daily pages

Yay, another day down, scene finished, now I have a reasonable chunk of what I think is fairly solid stuff until the next bit of 'needs serious tweaking' happens.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Er, I wrote about three new pages and revised maybe 20.
Intriguing things - Nothing new but hallelujah to have made it through the sloggy parts (no, those shall not be famous last words)
Annoyances - Nothing to report.
Music - Back to the original soundtrack at the desk. With a bit done at work at lunch too. No music there.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Still working that bit out.
Muse food - Maybe a dvd....Quickflix just coughed up some more Supernatural eps. Yay. Eye candy. Though sometime supernatural is too spooky for me (yes, go the wimpy paranormal writer...not sure it is about supernatural in particular, not many other TV shows spook me.)

Undecided

I'm trying to decide whether or not to keep watching a new TV show, Rush (Aussie show, so sorry for the US readers, about a police tactical response team). It's been on for maybe two months and I was enjoying it though leaning towards "the writers pull their punches". (Mel's theory of movie/tv writing...some shows always take you up to the edge of the cliff then you get the easy out somehow and everything works out. Some shows leap off and pull you after them (sometimes screaming because sometimes throwing a punch means a swing and a miss). I prefer the latter even though they're fairly few and far between. and I can still quite enjoy a not so punchy show. To be fair, some of my punch pulling impression might've been down to bad promo-ing that is cut to promise something more wildly dramatic or exciting or scary or whatever than the actual show. Though there was the "character is diagnosed with exposure to almost always fatal disease then next week is fine" incident.

Still, it's been a solid show with some very nice eye candy and good acting and there were two characters involved in an affair which was enough to suck the romance writer in me in. Then last week, possibly in the interests of trying not to pull punches, they killed off one of the two lovers. She confessed the affair to her hubby then died. To me, this isn't going for the punch, it's going for the easy out. The ramifications of the affair and the confession on the team, the marriage and the partnership are more interesting to me than "oh woe, she is dead" being used as an excuse for the guy, who's a bit of a loose cannon, to go dark and even more cannon-y which would seem to be the likely fall-out. They took the safe road and broke up my romance, and I kind of feel like it's just that bit too far for the inner writer to not sit there feeling cranky while watching. I'm going to tape tonight and see how I feel but I'm thinking they've lost me. Boo.

I'm not watching much TV at the moment. Life and House (though I still wish they'd ditch the new team on House and have more Cameron and Chase) and Criminal Minds. Tried the Mentalist but it didn't grab me. Simon Baker was good but for me, the character is out of whack with his very dark backstory. Too wacky and it doesn't come off as denial whacky, just whacky whacky. YMMV. Don't get me started on the Australian Top Gear (bring back James and Richard and Jeremy...NOW!!!). I was enjoying Fringe but in true Australian sci-fi/paranormal TV fashion it has vanished for the moment. Grey's isn't on (typical, the one show they don't fast track from the US is my fave escapism show), no-one seems to be ponying up with the first half of Battlestar or the new season of Torchwood. I can see some DVD purchases in the very near future...

November 17, 2008

One damn word after another

Not too bad for a Monday night...

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New/Revised pages - Er, I wrote about six new pages, most of the scene I needed, cut about four and revised about six more...
Intriguing things - Alpha intervention
Annoyances - Nothing to report.
Music - Back to the original soundtrack with the noise cancelling headphones at the desk.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and Think.
Taking care of Mel - That comes next. There may be wine.
Muse food - A bit of Crusie and maybe some TV.

A reiteration to the orange cat and the grey cat

As previously discussed - dead mice = ick and gross and ewww and you'd been fed, you feline fiends.

Headless mice do not make mama happy and you are even more too old to be engaging in such behaviour as you were the first time.

Trust me, I will think more highly of your clever catness without the hunting trophies.

November 16, 2008

Revision update

So around the cooking, there was also writing...finally I feel like the story might be starting to behave again.

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

Revised pages - 44 (no real new pages, didn't quite make it to the next scene that need inserting)
Intriguing things - Actually making it through 44 pages? Annoyed cats.
Annoyances - Nothing to report.
Music - Back to the original soundtrack with the noise cancelling headphones at the desk.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear
Location - The desk. Word and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Cooking, a nap,
Muse food - Top Gear. Pratchett.

Sunday afternoon cooking

I think I've mentioned that the always ace VT gave me a slow cooker for my birthday, so I've been experimenting with it over the last few months and for the last few weeks have been cooking up a batch of something on sunday afternoons that mostly gets me through the week dinner-wise. It's easy, it doesn't heat up the kitchen like the oven does (good for the upcoming summer) and you don't have to do anything once it's cooking. What's not to like?

Today I'm trying this. I like chili and tend to make it once a month or so. Usually fairly standard chili con carne but this seemed like a nice variation. It's quite healthy if you use lean mince and don't use much oil to brown the meat (I did brown the minced beef and cooked the onions and garlic a little first). Serve with some brown rice and salad and voila.

I've also recently discovered roast chickpeas as a snack...Weight Watchers sells them in little individual serves but of course, the accountant brain instantly went into "I could make that cheaper" mode. I found this recipe online a few weeks ago and made it for the first time last week in a small amount as an experiment. The results were great and really a good health snack to grab a small handful when I get home starving or want to nibble while writing. The protein content makes them more filling than rice crackers or carrot sticks : ) and, like I said before, total cost is about $2.50 for the chickpeas and a few cents for the spices.

Today I went to make another batch and decided to play around with the spice mix as I wanted mine more garlicky like the ww ones and wanted to see if I could do it without having to fry the spices first (quicker and less clean up). It worked pretty well, so herewith is my roast chickpea recipe:

This amount makes a small container full. If I was doing it for a party, I'd double or triple the amounts.

Heat oven to about 180 celsius/350 fahrenheit. I used about 160 or so given my oven is fan forced and tends to run hot.

2 420g cans chickpeas

Spice mix - you could play around with this for your own tastes

1.5 tspns ground coriander seeds
1.5 tsps ground cumin
3/4 tspn garlic powder (not garlic salt)
Couple of pinches salt, (more if you like salty, I don't use a lot of salt, so this was fine for me)
3/4 tspn mexican chili powder (this is quite mild but you could up it for hotter or leave it out altogether or just put in a bit of pepper or mild paprika if you don't like chili and it would be fine).

Drain the chickpeas and put in a glass or metal bowl while still damp (the spices might stain plastic but otherwise plastic is fine).
Mix spices together in a small bowl.

Spray chickpeas a few times with some olive oil and toss through. Add spices in small batches and stir through each time - you want to try and get the spice mix on all the chickpeas.

Transfer to a baking tray or roasting tray lined with baking paper - you want a single layer of chickpeas. For me, the 2 cans fit perfectly in my glass lasagne pan, you'd need more trays if you increased the amounts.

Cook for about an hour, stirring around every 20 mins or so initially then probably every five or so after that to check for done-ness. Final time will depend on just how crunchy you want them, I like them mostly crunchy all the way through but still a little soft. Cool then store in an airtight container.

November 15, 2008

Reporting back

Okay, so I waded my way through writing a scene that needed to be inserted and am now at 104, so not quite ten pages but given it was all new stuff, not too bad, if a little slow. Tomorrow I can re-slant the next scene for what I've changed, then maybe write the other extra scene I need...once I get past the next chapter or so, I think the rest works pretty well and just needs layering and tweaking, so hopefully it will speed up.

Anyhoo

Progress - Wolf 2 revision

New pages - Nine
Intriguing things - Interfering vampires
Annoyances - Revision in general
Music - Back to the original soundtrack with the noise cancelling headphones at the des.
Linear/Non-linear - Linear (revisions tend to be linear around here).
Location - The desk. Word and Think.
Taking care of Mel - Porridge? Chores? Sleeping in.
Muse food - A reading in bed morning. Dinner with lulus tonight.

Metric desperation

Okay, I've had it. This is officially turning into a revision from hell. The girls have basically said "we told you what to do" and gone walkabout while I do it. So I'm going back to the metric system. I'm aiming for minimum 10 pages a day revised (and hoping it will be more once I get through the next thirty or so). I'm currently on page 96 (well actually 99 but I think I need to move this snippet elsewhere, so let's say 96 so I don't start by going backwards and depress myself even more). I'm going to post the progress daily and see if that doesn't prod the old virgo work ethic into production mode.

I have about three hours this afternoon between chores and getting ready to go out with the lulus (by which time I will need a drink!). I shall report back later.

Slow

This week has been busy at work (really four days flew by at warp speed) so I was in get home, eat dinner and collapse on the couch mode. Combine that with a few hot nights where I didn't sleep too well and a sudden cool change and yesterday I woke up needing a day off. So I got my hair cut, read the new Lois McMaster Bujold that was delivered and went to the movies to see American Teen (which I really liked...it a great little documentary that hasn't got much press here but if you get a chance, go see it). Then I came back and read some more.

Today I'm still feeling slow but hopefully there will be some writing. The girls have had a bit of a break so maybe they'll be ready to play.

November 09, 2008

It's a little easy being green

Apparently the smell of crockpot lasagne makes me feel bloggy.

I do my bit to be green but lately have been trying to work out ways to be even greener. I've had green power for a while, use low flow showers heads etc and all my lightbulbs are the energy efficient ones (and honestly, yes, they're more expensive but I swapped over to energy efficient bulbs at least four years ago and I think in that time I've changed two light bulbs...and hey, stock up when K-Mart or somewhere has one of their 35% off everything sales).

The dayjob has recently gone carbon neutral and has been running some green initiatives and I've been finding other good green ideas.

I drink a lot of water and used to buy bottled water and refill from the work coolers. But really bottled water isn't very environmentally friendly when you think about the transport costs and the bottles aren't designed to be re-used (apparently the plastic leaches some nasties if you're not careful) so I've bought a couple of SIGG water bottles. They're light, they're aluminium and guaranteed to be inert (one advantage of which is that they're don't make your water taste like plastic like lots of plastic drink bottles do). Sure, they're a little pricey but I figure I'll make my money back on bottled water not bought in a couple of months. They come in lots of cool designs, don't leak and are available in lots of countries.

Something else I've been looking into is shopping bag alternatives. I have some of the ubiquitous green bags you buy at the supermarkets but they're big and bulky and not easy to stick in a handbag and to be honest, I often forget they're in the car because they're not in sight. So I looked for alternatives and found estring bags - old fashioned cotton string bags in cute colours and onya bags which are made of parachute silk, come in cute teeny packs with carabiner clips so you can clip them to your keys or handbag or whatever and, even better, they have these which give you a replacement for the plastic bags you put fruit and vegies in so it can be weighed (I re-use other plastic bags but never really figured out a way to re-use those fruit bags).

The other thing I'm trying to figure out is composting with a little garden and not much space. I'm thinking about one of these Bokashi buckets but am still trying to figure out how it would work. I'll keep you posted...

Different strokes

People say there are two types of writers - those who plot and those who don't. But I think there's also two other types - those who hate first drafts and like to revise and those who love drafting but hate revising.

I don't know that I hate revising but for me drafting is definitely the more enjoyable part of the process. I like making my book stronger but find revising slow going at times, even when I know what I want to do with the book it seems to take a long time. But one word after another I guess. I've been re-working the first act of Wolf 2 to fix some pacing issues and get the antagonist in action earlier and it's been very time consuming and required lots of pondering. But I think I'm getting there and hopefully the rest will go faster.

Size does matter

I don't buy many authors in hardback. For one thing, hardbacks are pretty ridiculously expensive here ($45 upwards). An author had to be in the I-absolutely-cannot-wait-even-to-get-it-at-the-library category for me to shell that out. At the moment, that category largely consists of Jenny Crusie, Terry Pratchett and Lois McMaster Bujold. Even then I'll order them online if I can (though that's not such a great deal at the current exchange rate unlike a few months ago *sigh*) or go to one of the specialist bookstores who imports direct from the US and may be a bit cheaper (Pratchetts tend to show up discounted in the chains straight away, thank goodness).

But I don't like reading hardbacks, they're big and awkward and the edges poke into you and I don't like wrinkling the dust jackets so I always take them off and then worry about them getting wrinkled where I put them. And you can't read them comfortably in bed. I think for most of my hardbacks, given they're all by authors I re-read ad infinitum, I'm going to cave and buy the paperbacks too.

Lately I've been re-reading Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum's because that's what the girls have wanted. I'm up to number twelve and the last half of the series I have in trade paperback, because that's what they're first issued in here in Oz and the chains will usually discount the price down to pretty much the same as a mass market and I usually cave and buy one. But I don't really like reading trades either, for the same sorts of reasons. Too big, too pokey, too awkward. Anyone else feel this way? Or do you like larger print, larger pages etc?

Now that I have a couple of good e-readers on the iPhone I'm actually starting to think that maybe I'll buy my hardback authors in e-books where I can when they first come out and then wait for the mass market edition. I love mass markets, they're the perfect size and I love the feel of the book in my hands (which is why I don't think I'll ever convert to only reading on e-book...particularly when most e-book editions are really not much cheaper than the paper book which seems to be a little bit of shall we call it opportunistic pricing by publishers, given they lay it out once (or maybe a few times for different formats) and don't have to, you know, print the darn things). Maybe if someone comes up with an e-book that's about the size of a mass market, that you can turn pages on, that smells like paper and ink and doesn't cost hundreds of dollars to buy initially...

November 07, 2008

One more thing

Last election related post, I promise. But I've been reading about the reactions of various people I know and a lot of them seem to be having the "I can't quite believe it's real" kind.

I'll freely admit that I am a West Wing geek (which makes no sense given my aforementioned lack of political interest, much like my love of the UK's Top Gear and desire to maybe marry a hybrid man made up of Jeremy, Richard and James, makes no sense given my lack of interest in cars) and most of what I know about the American political system is courtesy of WW and Aaron Sorkin and I've often said my favourite US president would have to be Jed Bartlett. And the feeling I can't quite shake is that if somehow Aaron Sorkin was writing life for the last two years, this is the campaign and winner he would've written. And you know, I'm good with that.

Furthermore, there are some pretty uncanny similarities between Season 7 of WW and this election. For those of you who aren't WW fans, Season 7 was the last season and dealt with both Jed's last year in office at the end of his second term (hence requiring a new democratic candidate) and the campaign for the new president. The candidates were an experienced respected republican senator in his seventies (with a right wing conservative VP candidate) and a young underdog, relatively inexperienced, so not the front runner in his own party, latino-American, democrat with an older white male VP candidate). A close campaign, one with some twists (including a national disaster (not a financial crisis but you know) that may have turned the tide in the end of the campaign....it's a little bit spooky, even down to the incoming president having some pretty big issues to deal with. And much like I was happy at the end of WW that Matt Santos could deal, I've got the same feeling about Barack Obama.

And now we shall return to our regular writing, crazy cat and other randomness posting schedule!

Cat vs rain

It's been raining fairly steadily here today and I know we've been having a drought and all but the grey cat seems to be having particular difficulties with the concept of water falling from the sky today. This is a cat who hates water and yet has managed to get soaked four times that I've counted today (and soaked grey fluffiness is quite amusing to look at but does not appreciate being towelled off so she doesn't share said soaking with the furniture). So either she's a bit dim or else my lavender bush (her favourite daytime place to hang outside is under the lavender bush where orange cat does not bother her) has gotten so overgrown that it has to be pouring before any of it starts getting her and then she gets soaked doing the fastidious, poised for disaster with each step grey cat dash to the door....

November 05, 2008

Hope

I am not a terribly political person. I rarely find politics and politicians inspiring, particularly in Australia politics. Kevin Rudd finally saying sorry to the stolen generation was about the only time I've heard an Aussie politician give a speech that gave me goosebumps.

But I've been following the US election, drawn in by my friends and relatives who live there and and out of the interest of a pretty much liberal Australian for who's running our most powerful ally and I have to say, I have heard several speeches by Barack Obama that have had that effect on me. He seems to have that something more. He looks to the light. He makes people hope and unite. So I will say congratulations Mr President-Elect and all power to your presidency and achieving the things you reach for.

PS To the Australian radio announcers out there, afaik, his first name does not rhyme with "barrack".

November 04, 2008

Made of win

Blatantly snitching this from amazoniowan but she's right, this dude deserves an award.

I don't know a lot about singing a capella but four part harmony with yourself on video with added bonus awesome geekery! The force is strong in this one...

October 31, 2008

It's a small world

Also known as you never know who knows who on the internet...or six degrees of techno-geekery perhaps.

Today I was reading blogs on Google Reader (I am a convert to the blog aggregator concept) and saw that Elizabeth Bear had an interview on Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing, which is a podcast I check out semi-regularly and is quite cool. So I trundled over to iTunes to download the ep and started listening on my iPod while I did some housework the old-fashioned physical way. At the end the interviewer asked Elizabeth one question he'd picked from his Twitter followers.

So, he says, here's the question from BlueTyson. At which point I started laughing. Because here in the real world, BlueTyson is known as my big brother (who does a good line in speedy reviews of mainly Sci-Fi and Superhero type books and stories if you're into that). So there you go. You never know who might be listening or popping up somewhere. Which is probably a good reason to play nice online : ) It also led to me discovering big bro is on Twitter because I hadn't gotten around to telling him I was on yet. The geek is strong in our family. Though he wins, given he is generally employed in computing type roles and uses Linux lol.

In other six degrees moments, I'm off tomorrow to attend a MS fundraising luncheon down at the folks. Mum asked me a while back and I said sure, given I figure you have to support charities that share your initials and do read-a-thons with kids as fundraising (make them catch the book bug young, I say) and are trying to find a cure for a nasty disease. Then she added "there's some writer speaking...her name's Nicola Marsh". Oh yeah, that's my friend, Nic.

October 27, 2008

Change of personnel

So one of the snippets I wrote in the last few days was the beginning of the beginnings of Witch 2. So tonight I figured I'd play around with the collage, see what that might stir up.

For Witch 1, my placeholder for the hero was Chris Isaak. As usual not quite right but tall, dark, blue eyed charming. All good. Except I'm damned if I can find any pics of Chris that evoke the right mood for my hero for this book. He starts in a much darker place, he's been beaten down a bit. He's mad and on a bit of a mission and then things start going wrong again. So I think I'm going to have to change placeholders. Never had that happen before. But I need the collage to trigger the book, so I need the right images. The right mood.

I was flicking through my hero inspiration pics and kept stopping at Matthew Fox. Wrong colour eyes but I can work with that, I need the mood not the exact details. I still didn't have the right pic though. So I used my trusty google and found this:



Oh yeah, that's more like it.

Word by word

Long time no blog. Sorry but there was a bout of gastro (stomach flu for the US readers) that didn't really bear discussing last week and then many days of boring lying in bed eating white toast and drinking flat lemonade between much sleeping. T

So not much writing really happening, I'm still wading through the Wolf 2 revision, trying to get Act One to behave itself. I think I've got it ticking over better but now I've reached a point where I need to work out how to slant the next bit. And the girls keep throwing up snippets of a couple of other books (yes, I've managed to start two more books lately, so that makes the next five books that I have starting snippets or chapters for....not counting any of the contemporaries). Go me. Hopefully the girls will work out which one they want to work on next by the time Wolf 2 is done, all this ping ponging around is giving me creative whiplash.

Still, it's better than dead silence in the head and words are getting on to pages so we'll take that as progress, even if it is somewhat spread out progress.

And now, for your entertainment, a picture taken with the new camera.



I love fuschias, they look like little dancing ballerinas. As a kid we used to delight in picking the unopened buds and squishing them on each other. Now, I am wise enough to let them open and enjoy the pretty.

October 18, 2008

Smooth operator

My fridge is working again. Hooray! Cold food. Vegetable crisper. You don't realise how handy they are until they're gone. And I managed not to spill my breakfast all over the kitchen, unlike yesterday (there are mornings when I really miss caffeine lol).

To celebrate, and just in case I'm not the last person in the world to work this out, here's my smoothie secret....frozen banana slices. I slice up bananas and freeze them in 1/2 banana serves. Throw them in the smoothie with a cup of milk/soy milk, some protein powder if you want, and a few frozen or fresh berries or mango or something and whiz it all up (make sure you whiz it for awhile to correctly smoosh all the banana - and yes, smooshing is the correct smoothie making term). The frozen banana makes it go all thick and creamy...you'd swear you'd put ice-cream or frozen yoghurt in it but no, nothing but fruit and milk. Plus you don't need to add ice! A great summer breakfast, quick and healthy. If you add the protein powder it will keep you fuller longer.

Now I have to run and get ready to go to lulus for a day of critting, laughing and eating yummy things.

October 14, 2008

Murphy's law

I have been taking my baby steps back into exercise. Walked on the weekend on both days. Went back to pilates on Monday (which was an exercise in 'ow I used to be able to do this much more easily'). Have been eating healthily and stocked up the fridge with good things.

Which of course means it is the perfect time for my fridge to stage a dying swan act. It's was a bit warm a few weeks back so I turned the temp up a little. But then it decided to turn itself into the antarctic and freeze half it's contents. The temp dial wasn't much interested in turning back to regular fridge temps either. So I'd decided it was time for the fridge doctor. Then my safety switch started tripping. By a process of elimination and brilliant deduction we figured it was the fridge. But I was hoping I could nurse it along until Friday when the fridge doctor was coming. Tonight I got home and the safety switch had gone again (though not long before I'd gotten home given everything still seemed quite cold in the fridge). I re-set the switch. It tripped about four times in the next fifteen minutes. At which point I admitted defeat and unplugged the fridge. I prefer for my house not to burn down and for me not to be electrocuted. Call me crazy. So of course, I've just had to throw out everything perishable in my fridge. Gah.

So the fridge gets this because it's only eight years old which is too young to be throwing tantrums:

cat
more animals

Hopefully the fridge doctor will be able to fix whatever is wrong on Friday. A new fridge isn't exactly what I was hoping to buy this month! At least if it was iced up inside like he thought, it should've all melted by then....

October 11, 2008

Taking care of business

So daylight savings has started and the days are getting longer and warmer and the thoughts are turning towards exercise and health and the whole weight can of worms.

I've been following Jenny Crusie's posts here and here and reading Barbara talking about celebrating her 5 year anniversary of giving up cigarettes because she wanted to be around for a long time and turning things over in my head.

I'm not a tiny girl. I'm five foot nine. I have broad shoulders, I have hips and boobs. I'm never going to look like Kate Moss or Keira Knightley or any of those naturally skinny creatures (and I'm not sure I'd want to). But being tall and curvy has meant I've always struggled with weight issues. Back in high school I thought I was too fat (when I was pretty much smack bang in the top end of my healthy weight range). I've always been a bookworm and liked sacking out with a good book but back in those days I walked to and from school and did PE and played various sports and did ballet and various things. I walked or rode a bike to most things I went to (other than going to friends houses that were a long drive away, being a country girl). My folks used to nag me to do more exercise (back then the concept of walking a lot every day being 'exercise' hadn't quite filtered through to the public psyche like it has now). I could blame that (but you know what, I'm all grown up now and my parents were doing the best they knew how and I'm the one who chooses what I eat and how much I move) or I could blame genetics but the cold hard fact is I'm built to gain weight pretty easily. Which is great if we ever have a famine but not so great when we don't.

So back then I thought I was too fat. I look at those pictures now and think man, I was gorgeous. Then I went to uni. Fell in love. Went on the pill. And suddenly stacked on about 15 kilos. Stupid hormones. Then I moved off-campus so I was driving and taking public transport to get around rather than walking and, what's more, moved in with boys who eat a LOT and those fifteen kilos crept up to maybe twenty. Then just after I turned thirty I got glandular fever. Which completely screwed with my energy levels in a lasting way. Since then I've never felt like I've had much of an energy reserve. A lot of feeling tired. A lot of feeling exhausted. More weight crept on. At the same time I threw "I want to be a writer" into the mix and so effectively started working two jobs. Guess what, like a lot of people, when I'm tired and stressed I tend to eat. And don't feel like exercise.

Then a few years ago I got sick of being what was by then way overweight and joined Weight Watchers. I lost about twenty kilos in 9 months or so which is pretty sensible weight loss. Mostly by tweaking eating habits, writing what I ate down so there could be no snack amnesia : ) and doing some exercise. Then I kind of got stuck for a while. But at that weight, I felt pretty good and was doing pretty well maintaining. I'd occasionally put on a couple of kilos in the stressy times but would lose them again. Couldn't quite get it together to lose the last 8 or 10 to get to the top of the official health range but figured I'd do it eventually. I'd found some balance somehow, my energy had improved a bit and most of the balls stayed in the air most of the time. But the second half of last year was kind of stressful at work thanks to a project from hell and at the same time I was starting to feel really tired all the time again. Exercise was falling by the wayside. Net result was that by the end of the year I was about 7-8 kilos above my previous maintenance point. I'd go down a couple but they'd creep back on. Then my house flooded at Christmas which did not make for a relaxing break. By January I was feeling really bad. I got poked and prodded by various doctors in Jan/Feb who proclaimed everything normal. My muttered response was something like "feeling like I have had no sleep all the time is not normal".

In March I started seeing a naturopath who basically said your hormones appear to be out of whack, let's work on that. What followed was several months of what may have been referred to as the crazy naturopath diet on this blog where we gave up aspartame and lots of other things to give the body a break and took lots of pills and potions to do mysterious things. I lost a few kilos, my hormones evened out a bit and my energy levels have improved a LOT. Then came the big six weeks off (sorely needed by this point). I was no longer on the crazy naturopath you-can't-eat-anything diet.

The result was somewhat predictable. The reason I like Weight Watchers is that they don't say "you can never eat x again". They say eat x when you really want it, work it into your week, do some exercise, watch your portions, watch why you're eating. All that sensible stuff. Tell me "you can't" and I tend to react with "but I want to". So on the holiday I was in holiday mode and ate what I wanted and read a lot and slept a lot and travelled and did whatever the heck I felt like. Not surprisingly, that meant I kind of ended up back where I started at the beginning of the year weight wise. Nobody to blame for that but me but I'm starting to get sick of being on the up and down wagon.

The plus side is I'm far far better energy wise than I was at the start of the year. No excuses on that front. I want to find that balance point again and ideally I'd like to find it at the top of my healthy weight range or something close by. So I need to find my motivation. I'm not in my twenties anymore. Hell, in a cough-cough number of years I won't be in my thirties anymore. I can't just eat carrots for a few weeks and the weight drops off. I need a sustainable eating and exercise way of life.

Obviously just "I want to weigh X and wear size Y clothes" doesn't do it for me or I would've lost weight years ago. So what do I want? I want to be healthy. I want to be fit. I'd like to be around to be a fabulous eighty year old with my fabulous friends. I want to go on a walking tour in Italy and be able to walk 10 or so kms a day and be fine. I want muscle tone. I want energy. I want to be able to write great stories for many years to come. The smaller clothes thing is just a bonus.

And if that's what I want then I have to move and I have to eat sensibly most of the time. So here's what I want to do.

1. Start doing WW properly again instead of vague point calculations in my head. Write it down. Plan my meals. Eat well most of the time.

2. Manage my energy levels - which means exercise yes but also more meditation and quick naps when I get home so that I then have energy to write and exercise.

3. Stop thinking I don't have enough time. I do. I have lots of time. I tend to think I have to hoard time for writing or something. I don't. I have enough time to write and do other things. And doing other things will help the writing.

4. Get fit. This is the hard one. I'm going back to pilates next week so that's the easy part. The hard part for me is always, always, always, the cardio. I have a big old "I don't like cardio" tape in my head. Which is just plain wrong because I do like it once I get going. I just need the "how to get going" part. None of my friends live close enough to be regular exercise buddies, so it's just me. And, quite frankly, I need to get it through my head that "just me" is the most important reason to exercise. I could get a dog but I'm not home enough really and the cats have reached elder statescat age (grey cat is 14, orange cat will be that early next year) where I think introducing a dog at this point would just be unfair. So it really is just me and my excuses. So I need to start small. Small walks. The same "just do ten minutes" technique I use on the writing.

5. Give up a couple of obvious bad habits. I gave up diet coke and caffeine for the naturopath. The no caffeine thing has slipped a bit during the travel and return to work. Trouble is, given I'm not a coffee drinker and I don't really like tea, I tend to drink Coke which is way too much sugar. It would be okay if I could do one a week but one a week slips to one a day then two a day and then it's not good. I don't want to go back to diet coke because really I think the aspartame had a lot to do with how bad I was feeling. So get off the caffeine again and train myself to drink something non-Coke/non-aspartame for energy when I really need it. The other one is chocolate. Prior to the naturopath I'd pretty much given up regular chocolate eating. I'd buy a bar now and then but it wasn't something I had in the house very often. But during the crazy naturopath diet, dark chocolate was one of the few treats I was allowed and I've gotten somewhat addicted. Which means I'm eating 100g or 200g of chocolate a week that I wasn't before. Even if it is the 70% cocoa kind, there's still a whack of fat and sugar in that.. So back to one small block (aka the 35g ones) a week I think.

6. Take another look at some FlyLady routines to keep the house feeling like it's under control and help with the 'no time, no time' feeling. I did Flylady for about a year at one point but it's one of the balls that got dropped but I'm slowly rebuilding my work week routines post holiday, so I think this is a good time to look at it again.

7. Be kind to myself. I'm not going to be perfect at this. I'm going to fall off the wagon now and then but I need to let that go and just get back on. I have lots of good cheerleaders to help me so I need to be a cheerleader for myself. Work with my strengths so it all works for me.

And man, this has turned out to be long and rambling. But it needed to get out of my head and written down. Having achieved that and a short walk this morning, I can just keep going.

October 07, 2008

Status report

Good stuff:

Crockpot roast chicken (yum).

Daylight savings meaning it is lighter in the evenings.

Reading Old Man's War by John Scalzi.

My new camera. Look - pretty pictures (even one of grey cat who is notoriously hard to photograph due to being a wriggly beast and also camera shy - having a 12X zoom means I can stay far enough away that she doesn't realise I am doing the evil photo thing).







Bad stuff:

Getting up one hour earlier because of daylight savings.

Melbourne spring schizophrenic weather that means it was 24 on Sunday but tonight I've got the heater blasting and a blanket round my lap while I type.

Revisions that feel like a battle for every letter.

Paused stuff:

The new wip while I sort this darn revision.

Dvorak experiment due to actually not much typing going on either at work (lots of training and meetings and stuff not involving keyboards) at home (much pondering and reworking that is slow enough without having to think each letter). But it will be resumed!

Stuff I must do right now:

More revising.

October 04, 2008

To paraphrase Captain Jack

Why is the words gone?



This scene just does not want to come out and play with the computer. Maybe rum would help!

In other news, I have managed to lose one of the little rubber ear thingys off my relatively new headphones! Now they poke my ear. I can't exercise in my big clunky noise cancellers. Dopey Nike headphones. Boo! Also my mother assures me she can find me another pair of evil scissors. Yay!

October 03, 2008

Not the good scissors

If you grew up with a Mum like mine, you're probably familiar with the above phrase (I'm assuming it's not just an Australian thing...) In our house there were "good" scissors (roughly, the cooking scissors, mum's sewing scissors, the pinking shears). Any attempt to do something mundane like cut paper with the "good" scissors prompted an outraged maternal cry of "NOT THE GOOD SCISSORS". In later years, this prompted us to enquire where the evil scissors were (and I bet Joss Whedon could do a lot with that concept) but then we would resignedly hunt around in the scary junk drawer for the generic plastic handled scissors which were deemed acceptable for whatever we were proposing to cut.

Now that I own my own expensive cooking shears and sewing scissors, I can relate to the concept a little better and have always had a pair of "not the good scissors" in my own junk drawer.

Until this morning. When I went to find them so I could cut some wrapping paper and, well, this happened:



Which I guess makes them ex-scissors in anyone's book. So I now need a new pair of evil scissors. Which would make them newer than any of my other scissors and hence, potentially "good" scissors in their own right. Good-not-the-good-scissors is one of those circular concepts that might just lead to the universe exploding in a poof of exasperation and existential uncertainty. Leaving me with still no not-the-good scissors.

To make things even more confusing, on closer inspection, my ex-not-the-good-scissors appear to be an old pair of Wiltshire staysharps which suggests quite strongly that they started off life as a pair of Mum's actual "good" scissors. I seem to remember the Wiltshires being her sewing scissors of choice at one point. Oh how the poor scissors have fallen. A cautionary tale. Or perhaps a tale of valiant utensil service over the last twenty years or so. You decide : )...I have scissors to buy.

October 01, 2008

Photo frustration

I make no claims to be any kind of a photographer or even knowing much about photography but I would kind of like to know a bit more than I do now. I have friends and read blogs belonging to people who take such gorgeous pictures and I'd like to be able to as well. I did a little bit of photography back in high school but that was back in the pre-digital days and I could never afford an SLR and never pursued it.

I occasionally manage to fluke a shot I think is okay but my little Canon Ixus 55 is getting on a bit and has some limitations. It takes some really nice snaps...for instance, I think this is not bad for a point and shoot after I did a teeny bit of cropping and adjusting in iPhoto (given a teeny bit is all I know HOW to do):



But then this evening when I got home, the sun was starting to set and the light was all golden and pretty. I have those blinds which are kind of opaque (you can see through them but they block out some light etc) and there were some amazing intricate shadows of leaves from the plants outside playing on them with all this glowing gold light behind. And this is all I could capture of it:



which in no way resembles how striking it actually was. Wah. Colour the girls (who do have a love of colour and image) all frustrated. And yes, I could probably know a bit more about how to use it but my main gripes with it are that it doesn't really do close up images (as evidenced by the fact that my measly 2megapixel, no zoom iPhone camera took a better pic of that old photo I posted last month than I could take with my camera), which is a problem because I like to take pics of flowers and plants and cats which never quite work. It just doesn't have the zoom or the depth of field or whatever the technical photography thing is that lets you focus more on the foreground than the background etc (told you I knew not much at all).

The other thing it is TERRIBLE at is anything more than 1 or 2 metres away in dim lighting (yes, even with the night settings, I worked that much out). Which is not good when you semi-regularly go to evening award ceremonies to watch brilliant friends win awards...everyone else manages to take decent shots and mine come out looking like I was drunk, lying under a table and trying to shoot through a linen table cloth. Lots of vague dark blurs apart from the odd moment at a rock concert or something when there's enough light from the lighting show to compensate (not something that happens often at romance writing award ceremonies, I must admit). So maybe I need a camera with a bit more grunt for when I feel like taking "photos" rather than snaps. And need to learn a bit more about the whole process (luckily I have a brilliant friend who falls into the 'serious amateur photographer with mucho dollars of equipment who can probably help me' category) but I'm willing to take advice from the peanut gallery as well. Anyone out there got a digital camera they think takes good shots that wouldn't require a second mortgage? Anyone done a good, short, fun digital photography for dummies type course in Melbourne? In true virgo fashion I shall do some research and maybe you'll see some slightly better photos here in the future!