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:

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!