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


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!