Thursday, June 30, 2011

The night before...

Complacency is a killer. So sure was I that my manuscript was done that I left it to the last minute to tidy up the document, make it look pretty with a title page and a copyright symbol and have a final read-through. Which was when I discovered that one of the case studies I thought I'd written was still sitting, in raw, interview form, in the notes file. And that one of the sections really needed an extra bit of information that simply wasn't there...

So, as usual, the night before my project is due I'm working frantically to get it finished. Odds and sods, true, not the full project. But still...

If something feels too good to be true, it probably is. And I promise I'll stop talking about this tomorrow.

*Update: it's done! Yay! Now I can really stop talking about it. But what everyone is talking about is the FANTABULOUS giveaway at Maxabella Loves - you can win the perfect party outfit: Leona Edmiston dress, Shoes of Prey shoes, Elk Accessories earrings. What more could you want? Go now, immediately, and enter!

Party Giveaway at Maxabella loves...
[image: wall decal from swampworx/etsy]

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Resilience is not just for kids

When Mr7 is cross, he makes a noise that sounds like a camel exhaling. Humph. Accompanied by squinty eyes, inverted eyebrows and a general grumpiness of demeanour.

Today, I am humphing.

A rejection email will do that to a girl. Particularly first thing in the morning. Even coffee can't save you at that point. International time differences can be a bitch.

The ending is not happy for my latest romance novel. A little side project that I wrote with a friend and, initially, received with much enthusiasm and interest from the publisher. Time marched on with no official acceptance. And on. And on. And on. Until we'd almost forgotten the entire affair.

Until today. When we were told 'It's not us, it's you' and given our marching orders.

I was disappointed, I confess. Not devastated, but sad. We loved our hero and heroine. They did too. But apparently our hero and heroine loved too much, and in too many different ways, to fit the particular line for which we were aiming. Not so much 'hot' as ' burning up'.

So we're back to square one on the Romance front. Will we do another one? They're a lot of fun to write, so maybe. But we both have other fish to fry in the immediate future, so we'll put it on the backburner for now.

That's the thing with writing. You always need to be on to the next project, even while you're waiting to hear back about a manuscript. It helps to soften the blow if the answer is a 'no'. And if it's a 'yes', well, you're just that much further along to publishing your next book, aren't you?

Resilience. It's a real buzz word in parenting these days. We're all trying to produce kids who can bounce back after adversity.

Writers need it too. In spades.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Same face, different mirror

On the weekend, circumstances were such that I had to spend some time in front of an unfamiliar mirror. I'm not a fan of mirrors. They rate right up there with photographs for me. I can tolerate my own mirror, mostly because it seems to tolerate me. But get me in front of a new, differently lit mirror and, well, it tends to go pear-shaped.

In my own mirror, my face looks okay. Tired, not quite what it was, but okay. Other mirrors, however, seem to magnify flaws. Jowls appear. Wrinkles deepen. Teeth yellow and, good God!, is that a moustache I see before me? A simple teeth-brushing exercise becomes an odyssey of self-reflection - and not the good, meditative, Dalai Lama version.

I have to back away.

Given enough time, I can convince myself that it was all in the lighting. Too harsh. So different from the 50-watt energy-saving (useless) single bulb that currently casts flattering shadows in the Fibro bathroom. I probably look better than that. Really.

But in the back of my mind, I know the truth. It's my face, but not how I like to see it.

How's your relationship with your mirror these days?

[image: antique mirror from TheGildedTassel/etsy]

Monday, June 27, 2011

Progress report: The home stretch

With four days to go until my non-fiction manuscript is due to arrive at the publisher's offices, I am pleased to report that I'm down to the dotting Is and crossing Ts stage. A few niggly missing bits, but I am confident they'll come together. I am actually quite excited, to be honest. Usually I find those niggly bits at midnight, the night before the project is due - and pulling out a whole new case study at that point can be challenging, let me tell you...

In one of my former lives, I was a sub-editor*, one of a dying breed of pedants who honestly cared if there was a 'widow' at the end of a paragraph (one word on a line by itself), and a hyphenated word at the end of the first line of a story. It was my job to ensure that 'house style' was adhered to - spelling, language, punctuation, formatting of text - that facts were checked, and that stories fit the word count for which space had allowed. It's not the most glamorous job in the magazine and newspaper world, but it's like everything - you don't know how important it is, until it's gone. Unfortunately, it's an area of journalism being heavily affected by cost cuts right now. I think we'll all be poorer for it.

But I digress. My point in sharing this exciting part of my work history with you is just to say how glad I am that I spent a few years correcting sentence structure (and spelling), writing winning headlines, ensuring consistency of style throughout a magazine. It certainly makes wrangling tens of thousands of words into some semblance of a manuscript a hell of a lot easier. Even if it doesn't make replacing the repetitive paragraphs any easier.

But I'm nearly there now. The home stretch. Thanks for all that whip-cracking assistance you gave me.

[image: the perfect gift for a former sub-editor from samann1121/etsy]

*You can read more about my glamorous life as Chief Sub-Editor at Vogue Australia here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

I write like Stephen King

I write like Stephen King. Well, according to the website I Write Like, I write like Stephen King. I read about the site in today's Sunday Life magazine and, of course, could not wait a moment to give it a try. All you have to do is to paste in few paragraphs of your own text and, voila, it's analysed and compared.

Stephen King. Allison Tait. We have exactly the same number of letters in our name. Fate.

As far as I can see, that's about it. He writes world-famous, best-selling contemporary horror, suspense, fantasy, sci-fi fiction. I write non-famous, non-selling women's contemporary fiction, features articles, a little romance, a lot of blogging. But apparently we share something that only I Write Like can see.

I write like Stephen King. Who do you write like? Check it out and then come back and share.

[image: I'm going to start wearing a badge like this one from StorytellerArch/etsy]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weekend Rewind

Welcome to the last Weekend Rewind at the Fibro. Sad, but true. The Rewind is moving to a brand new home as of next weekend,where it will reside, safe in the hands of Multiple Mum (aka Sister C) and her lovely band of bloggers.

I hope that you'll all continue to link up your old posts for new comment love - you're bound to make even more new friends. And, while I will miss having the Rewind on the premises, I will still be a regular visitor, commenting, tweeting and Stumbling.

Anyhoo, let's get on with this before I start to sob. I'm an ugly crier. Red-faced and blotchy. Nobody needs to see that. The drill remains the same: link up an old post, and comment, comment, comment. Comments make the Weekend Rewind go round.

This week, the theme is ... endings. Any blog post you have about something finishing up.

My post is called Be Careful What You Wish For. Can't wait to see what you have for me!

Next week, I'll see you at And Then There Were Four (don't worry, I'll continue to post a little Weekend Rewind pointer post to show you the way).

Okay then. Ready, set... Rewind!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pssst... what's the password?

I went to the garage boys' clubhouse this evening to tell them it was time to come in for the dinner/bath evening tango. I knocked on the door, using the secret knock (I'd tell you, but Mr4 would then have to practise his Ninja Turtle moves on you and, well, let's just say it wouldn't be pretty). There was a pause. Then...

"Password." Whispers. "Please."

Password? Rummaging around in my mind, I dredged up, from the sea of passwords milling about in there, the one word that would allow me access to the headquarters of the Fun Five. It took a minute. There are a lot of passwords milling about in there these days, talking amongst themselves (without even having yet introduced the idea of the family password).

Finally, I came up with it and conducted my business with relative aplomb. It reminded me, however, that my password life is becoming more complicated. I used to have one that I used for pretty much everything. Then I read somewhere that that was a dumb idea. Not only did my one password have no numbers or symbols or hashtags or anything to complicate it, making the whole thing pretty easy to crack, but once it was cracked, my whole life was wide open.

So I began mixing it up. And I now have an array. Which is all well and good - except when I have to actually log in to something. The time spent going through the various combinations of password/email options, trying to remember which one goes with what website/account/social media outlet, is time that could be spent much better in any number of other places. I can vouch that my security is getting better - I can't even get into half of my accounts myself.

I read that I could get myself a Password Safe or Password Keeper. One handy, highly encrypted spot in which to store all my passwords. Imagine. I could just look them up and never forget one ever again. But then I got to the fine print. Said Password Safe requires one master password to unlock it. Imagine. I'd forget that and my whole life would remain highly encrypted forever.

[image: the boys' clubhouse looks nothing like this amazing print from sarahkhomemade/etsy]

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Red sky at night...

It is 5pm. I am in my study, trying to get a few frantic emails off before I start cooking dinner. The boys are in the backyard. Mr4 is running around with a lightsabre stuck down the back of his shirt, Ninja Turtle-style. Mr7 is bashing away at the totem tennis, whilst singing an assortment of songs at the top of his voice. At regular intervals, they call me. "Come and play with us, Mum!"

"In a minute." Standard response.

Suddenly, Mr7 bursts through the backyard. "Mum, you have to come and see this AWESOME sunset!"

The cursor blinks on my urgent email. Blink, blink, blink.

I turn away from its accusing glare. And run to the backyard.

"Red sky at night, fisherman's delight," Mr7 choruses. Then, an anxious look. "Does it still work if it's pink, Mum?"

It does. I grab the camera and take a terrible picture of one of those lovely, fleeting moments we have with our children.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Losing the gentle art of browsing (part two)

Recently, the ABC ran a series called Turn Back Time: The High Street, to which The Builder and I, in our fuddy duddy way, took a shine. The basic premise was that a group of modern-day shopkeepers moved into the High Street (main street for we Australian types) of a rather dour town in Somerset called Shepton Mallet (seriously, worth watching just for that, don't you think?). Once a thriving centre of hustle, bustle and industry, the SM High Street in 2010 was a cold, empty, boarded up and very unenthusiastic kind of place.

Each week, the shopkeepers were installed in a different era of the SM High Street, beginning with the 1870s and ending in the 1970s. The aim was to show the highs and lows of shopping over six different eras. To show exactly how and when personalised service was replaced by convenience. Exactly why the diversity of little shops and friendly shopkeepers were driven out of our main streets (because we suffer the same malady on the other side of the world) by homogenous brands.

We all complain about the two-horse race that is Woolworths and Coles but, as The High Street pointed out, it all comes down to our choices. We help to create the very situations that frustrate us.

One of the video stores in Fibrotown closed suddenly this week. The boys were devastated. It was our supplier of choice for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles DVDs. It also had a good foreign film section. I confess, though, that for everything else we tended to go to one of the others. Why? It was cheaper.

I know that in the scheme of things the humble 'video' store is living on borrowed time. One of our other stores is a Red Room, with it's automated doo-dads and it's tiny store space. No displays. No browsing. The Builder and I don't go there. Why? We never know what we want to see. We know we've missed 150 great films in our early child-rearing years, but do you think we can think of a single one of them on the way to the shop? No way. Red Room, and online DVD purveyors for that matter, seem to require that you know what you're looking for.

Where am I going with this? Choice. We made our choices and now we're left with fewer choices. Just as The High Street demonstrated has happened over and over again in the last 150 years of retailing. It's something that the dairy farmers of the South Coast would like us to remember as we pay for our cheap 'homebrand' milks at the supermarket. When the choice is gone, we have to take what we can get.

And, as many a regional town, with empty shops and dying populations can attest, what we get isn't always what we want.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Life's a beach, even in winter

After weeks of rain, Fam Fibro escaped to the beach yesterday. I love winter at the beach. When the sky is blue and the air is crisp, there's no better place to be. No pressure to strip off and get wet. Just the opportunity to be.

We ate fish and chips with our feet dangling off the boardwalk. "I"m just going to go and run around a bit," said Mr7, licking the last of the salt from his fingers. And he did. Literally, run around in circles, over and over.

We walked along the beach, right out to where the waves have pounded the rocks flat, cascading over them as though running down stairs. From a distance, it looks like a still, shining rockpool. It's only when you get close that you can see the water is just centimetres deep, dressing the rocks like a sheet of salty icing.

Mr4 runs ahead, hovering closer and closer to the water, itching to get wet despite the brisk breeze. Mr7 stops at intervals to write 'help!' in the sand. Should I be worried?

Along the way, we talk about the whales we saw last time we came to this beach. Far out to sea, languidly migrating, breaching occasionally to let us know they were there. Mr4 and The Builder talk about a book they have been reading about whales.

"Do you remember what it's called when they come up out of the water?" asks The Builder.

The air is heavy with expectation. Mr4 feels it. He wants to get it right. His nose wrinkles and his brow crinkles as the wheels turn round in his mind.

"Um..." he says.

"Do you remember?" The Builder prompts.

"Er... Fish Hopping?" Mr4 responds, half triumphant, half questioning.

I am still dissolving into random giggles at that answer, even 24 hours later.

[image: The Builder]

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Progress report: words for every page

Last night, I finished the first draft of my non-fiction project. The rewrites are already underway, but for five minutes there, last night, at approximately 11.45pm, I had a moment. The knowledge that there were words for every page. Perhaps not perfect words. Not yet. But words.

I cannot tell you how relieved I was. Me, here. In the middle of the night. In a dark, quiet house. Under the one burning light in the whole place. While my boys snored in their beds and dreamed their dreams in the other rooms.

I let out a small 'yay'. And realised once again that yaying by yourself is not all that satisfying. So I tweeted a small 'yay'.  Two lovely tweeps immediately popped up with cyber back slaps and congratulations and promises to read the final product when it's published.

My little moment became a shared moment.

You've got to love the internet.

[image: a print for the new generation from KeepCalmShop/etsy]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend Rewind

Don't you love the way a long weekend makes the whole week shorter. It seems like only yesterday that we were Rewinding, and already it's time to go again. I've decided to make it really easy this week. No theme. Just a post you love. Any post you love. The only criteria is that it must be one that was written sometime before today.

We shall call it the Favourite Things Rewind. And all you must do to contribute is to follow the Fibro, link up an old post for some new comment love, and then - and here's the dealbreaker - comment on as many of the other links as you can manage. Comments make the Weekend Rewind go round.

So that's it. My post this week is all about the Magic of Childhood.

Can't wait to see yours. Ready, set... Rewind!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

YouTube must wait: my music career has stalled

The band has split up. Mr7 has decided to trade me and my guitar in for bright lights and black and whites. He is not a string man anymore. Keys all the way, Baby. He has discovered the piano and he loves it. No more guitar lessons together.

It's always the talent that makes the decisions, isn't it? Everyone else is left to muddle along, trying to work out whether a drummer can write music and whether three years as a rhythm guitarist qualifies you to be a lead singer. I've lost the impetus to learn.

My guitar lies idle in the corner. Resentful. Pouting. Fretting.* I must find some lessons of my very own. Even B, our beautiful 17-year-old teacher, has abandoned me. Something about an HSC. Really.

In the meantime, I am reduced to roadie. Driving Mr7 to his lessons at the big, old, once-grand house in town. Waiting out the front, watching the cars drive in and out of the bottle shop driveway opposite, or the trucks reverse precisely into the supermarket loading dock.

The music industry is all glamour. I'm just hoping I'm never called upon to lug the piano to a gig.

*sorry, couldn't resist

[image: I think I will get Mr7 one of these key rings from riskybeads/etsy]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Blogging for writers: how to blog smarter (not harder)

Six months ago, I wrote a post about why blogging is not writing. In it (and it's here if you want the full story), I talked about the fact that there is more to blogging than simply writing on the internet. Then, in March, I wrote a guest post at Lisa Heidke's blog called 'Does a writer need to blog?'. The upshot, from my perspective, was yes, though not everyone agreed with me.

Which brings us to June. And some confusion. Blogging is not writing. A writer needs to blog. But blogging is not writing. What I find, as time goes by, is that I'm doing more blogging and less writing. The blogging cuts into my writing time. I get done the jobs that need to get done, but not the other projects. The writing I want to get done. So I wondered, am I doing this all wrong? And, you know me, I decided I need to find someone to tell me.

Annabel Candy is a copywriter, web designer and travel fiend. She set up her travel blog Get in The Hot Spot two years ago and it now has more than 20,000 visitors each month, and she also runs Successful Blogging. As well as her print work, her writing has appeared on Zen Habits, Copyblogger, and Problogger. Her ebook Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps is designed to help business owners and writers tap into the power of blogging.

I cornered Annabel for this month's Bonus Writer Q&A. We'll call it 'Better Blogging for Writers'.

Is writing for blogs different to other forms of writing?
AC: "Very. Books have a beginning, middle and end, but online you never know what people will read first, or even which page of your blog they'll arrive at first. That's a challenge, and bloggers should bear it in mind when they design their blogs.

"Secondly, readers tend to scan information online. If you pick up a book, you can instantly tell how long it is, but that's not the case with a blog post. You have to scroll down the screen to gauge how long a blog post or web page is. While you're scrolling down, you'll also be scanning for information to see if the blog post sounds interesting, and if you want to read the whole thing from beginning to end.

"So blog post formatting is crucial. No matter how good your writing is, if the formatting or layout is bad, people won't read it. Simple tricks like including sub-headlines or bullet-pointed lists are easy to learn and will keep readers happy."

*Note: the link to Annabel's formatting article is well worth following. Just saying.

Do I really need to pay attention to SEO, design and all those other things if I'm a personal blogger or hopeful author wanting to build a platform?
AC: "SEO is the icing on the cake. If your blog does rank well with the search engines, it might help you get new readers.

"But blog design is key. No matter how many people visit your blog, if the design is bad, or they can't find the information they want, they won't stick around. And they definitely won't subscribe or recommend your blog to anyone else.

"First impressions count, especially online and, unfortunately, if your blog looks boring, amateur or cheap, that's the impression people will get of you. I hate to say it, and I know it shouldn't be that way, but it's true. If you've ever visited a site and left five seconds later without having read a single word, you'll understand the power of first impressions online."

All the blogging advice seems to point to the importance of maintaining regular posts - at least three times a week, if not every day. How important is this?
AC: "Posting more often does help build up traffic faster. But quality is always more important than quantity. I only post once a week. That's the minimum you can get away with, and all I can manage. If I have extra time, I prefer to write a guest post for another blog and build traffic to my blog that way."

Does a blog need to be 'big' to be useful?
AC: "No. It depends on what your goals are. For example, if you want to get a book published, you only need one reader - an agent or publisher who loves it.

"If you're selling copywriting services, again you don't need a huge audience, just the kind of people who are likely to need your services.

"There seems to be a rule of thumb that publishers want bloggers to have 10,000 or 20,000 readers per month (the figure changes). But I'm not sure that's true. I think they'll base it on your writing and the first impression of your blog. Of course, a massive readership would make getting a book published easier.

"Self-publishing is probably more lucrative financially and, even with a small audience, blogging offers the potential to sell your own book yourself and get almost 100 per cent of the profits."

When you write for your own blog, what do you concentrate on? How is personal blogging different to blogging for business - and is a writer's blog on or the other... or both?
AC: "For a business blog, I'd encourage people to write about their niche, but also incorporate personal stories and some personal blog posts into that.

"I noticed from writing my blog Get In The Hot Spot, with travel stories and personal writing, that it was helping me to get web design and copywriting business. It amazed me that people were more interested in working with me because of my personal experiences than my business experience and qualifications. I suppose the two things combined are powerful, and that was a valuable lesson for me.

"I think a writer's blog should be both a business blog and a personal blog. Writing only personal stories is fine, but never stick to business all the time - people can get that sort of information anywhere. Your blog is a chance to show people what's unique and special about you - and that's what they really want to know."

[image: greeting card from paperpath/etsy]

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There's a cafe in town

There's a cafe in Fibrotown. Simple, stylish. Good coffee, great cakes (not that I ever have any, you understand). It's run by a young couple who work harder than it seems possible to work. That's the thing with cafes. It sounds so romantic and it ends up in long hours and lots of smiling at people (Masterchef contestants take note).

What I love about this cafe, apart from the aforementioned (untasted) cakes, is that every time I go there, I run into someone I know. My friend C, who holds one long-running meeting (with a changing cast of thousands) in there, sipping coffees while answering her iPhone. The beautiful G, who often pops in after the school run - she's as good at procrastinating as I am. Or, maybe, my friend Y, who runs the gorgeous little shop around the corner. She runs in and out with her KeepCup, dropping it on the counter, knowing her order will be delivered.

There's always someone to say hello to, before I head home on my child-free workdays to the empty Fibro, where the housework waits accusingly and my computer cursor blinks endlessly on a blank screen. A moment of connection before isolated reality kicks in.

On Mr4 days, I don't tend to go to that cafe. With him for company, there's connection everywhere and, besides, he doesn't consider their milkshakes, made with real chocolate and not syrup, to be the best in town. He's four. We walk a fine line between great coffee and good milkshakes. It's not easy, but compromise is key when you are a team.

I save My Cafe for the other days. When I really need it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blame it on the rain

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are little bit obsessed, okay very, interested in the weather around here. Unfortunately, the weather is not that interested in us at present. Cold. Grey. Rainy. And on a public holiday Monday as well. Has it no respect?

After three days at home, pretty much alone with two bouncing boys as The Builder attended to business in The Big Smoke, I can honestly say that Cabin Fever is a very real condition. In fact, Mr7 has developed a raging temperature just to add to my joy.

But it is Mr4 who is most affected by the weather. Mr Perpetual Motion goes completely insane when stuck inside for any length of time, let alone for several days. He is literally bouncing off the walls. And the sofa. And the bed. And, once when I wasn't watching, the dining table. If there is something to be leapt upon, jumped off or attacked with the pair of socks he is currently wearing tucked into his pyjamas to represent nunchucks, he will find it.

After three days, I am ready to find the nearest happy, quiet, peaceful place and crawl into it. And I'm certain that preschool teachers around the state are at home preparing themselves for the week of rainy days ahead. Imagine being confined to a classroom with 20 or so Mr4s. Shudder. I take my hat off to them.

[image: cute art print from leearthaus/etsy]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The key to getting your fiction published

June is a month of bonuses. Well, here at the Fibro it's about bonus Writer Q&As anyway. As we head toward the end of financial year, I'm having a stocktake sale and there will be two Writer Q&As this month. Two this week, in fact. Are you on the edge of your seat?

The first person on the Fibro lounge is author Christine Stinson. Christine and I met at the 2010 Romance Writers of Australia Conference. In a line for something. Her first book, Getting Even With Fran, had been out a few months and we were chatting about Facebook and this and that and the other. Specifically, how she'd been writing seriously for 20 years before her first book was accepted for publication (in a two-book deal with Pan McMillan... the second book, It Takes A Village, is out now).

Twenty years. Unsurprisingly, Christine believes that persistence needs to be a key part of every writer's makeup. 'Dogged persistence' is, I believe, the phrase she uses. I figured this was a woman with plenty to teach us all about what finally worked, and what didn't, and the importance of 'waiting' well. And you know how I like to ask questions...

Given that it took 20 years to see a book with your name on it, how did you keep going? What made you think you'd get there in the end?
CS: "I don't know that I was convinced I would get there in the end... The only thing I've ever known for sure about writing is that I love doing it. Joining RWA in 1992 helped keep me going through the rejections: misery does love company. I've learned a lot from being in a critique group. We work hard, help each other through the tough times and make a point of celebrating each other's successes with gusto."

What was different about Getting Even With Fran, do you think? What finally got you across the line?
CS: "Getting Even With Fran was the first novel I ever submitted that wasn't a romance. I finally worked out that my writing voice wasn't best suited to the romance genre. Within three weeks of sending Fran to a publisher, I was offered a two-book contract. What sold the book, according to the lovely people at Pan MacMillan, were the 'strong female voices', the humour and the way the novel tapped into the concerns and issues affecting women in their late forties - an age group not particularly well represented in contemporary women's fiction."

Is being a published author what you thought it would be?
CS: "I didn't have too many preconceptions, so it's fair to say that most of it has been a surprise. I did expect to feel some satisfaction, as well as the pinch-yourself thrill I'd heard about from other writers, the first time I saw Getting Even With Fran in a bookstore... Instead, what I felt was mostly relief that the long wait was finally over, coupled with a sense of disbelief that the name on the cover was really mine.

"I definitely didn't realise how many things I'd have to learn to juggle at the same time: working to a deadline with the second novel, doing structural and copy edits on it, while dealing with the promotional work for the first novel and starting to write the third. Thank goodness housework's expendable."

Was the second book more difficult to write than the first?
CS: "Much more difficult. This time last year I was in intensive care with a burst appendix, peritonitis and sepsis. It took quite a while to get over that: I lost the better part of three months working time on It Takes A Village. But the people at Pan Macmillan were wonderful, giving me the extra time and help I needed to get the book finished, polished and ready for publication just before Mother's Day this year."

Do you agree that perspiration is as important as inspiration when it comes to writing?
CS: "I do. Writing's often described as a muscle: if you don't use it, you run the risk of losing it. Words don't always come easily; there are days when you can sit at the computer for hours and do nothing more productive than move a couple of commas around. All the same, it's important to stay sitting there and keep yourself in the habit of writing. If you're lucky, the good days will outnumber the really sweaty ones."

You can buy Christine's books here at Booktopia. Or say hello to her on Facebook here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weekend Rewind

No time for a lengthy intro this week. We're going straight into the radio-friendly version of the Weekend Rewind... maybe I'll back-announce at the end. If you're new to our friendly linky, welcome. The drill is this:

*Please follow the Fibro if we are not already friends

*Link up an old post for some new comment love - anything from your archives will do

*Please visit as many of the other links as you can to share the comment love. Comments make the Weekend Rewind go round.

The theme this week is... children/childhood. You've either got some children or you've been one, so I'm hoping that this will be an easy one for everyone. Looking forward to seeing what you have for me! Remember that I tweet/stumble the posts that resonate with me, hopefully bringing some extra action to your blog.

My offering this week involves one of the Big conversations that parents have with children. It's called Where Angels Fear To Tread.

Okay. That's it. Ready, set... Rewind!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

There's a lot to do to be a Daddy

Mr4 and I had one of those conversations today. We were heading off to the picture framer to collect his first birthday presents and I explained that they were for his room. He was excited. Were there Ninja Turtles involved? Fireman Sam? Er, no, I had to tell him. These were special ones. Ones that he would be able to give to his children one day.


"Will I be a Daddy?"

"Maybe. Hopefully."


"There's a lot to do to be a Daddy."

Hmmm. This could be interesting. "Like what? What do you think you'll need to do to be a Daddy?"

"Well, I'd have to cook dinner for the Mummy so that she didn't have to do it every night."

Huzzah! "What else?"

"I'd need to be able to read, so I could read stories to the kids."

Tick. "And?"

"I'd have to practise sending them to bed when they were naughty."

Suppressed laughter. Silence.

"AND, I'd have to look after them... Mum?"


"I don't think I'm ready to be a Daddy. There's a lot to do."

Take your time, Mr4, take your time.

[image: keychain from patsdesign/etsy]

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How (not) to lose weight

My gym campaign continues with, if not enthusiasm, then regularity. There's just one problem. I am approximately the same size - height, weight, circumference - as I was when I began. I cannot blame the exercise. I'm doing it. Gym stuff twice a week, walks two or three times a week, incidental out the wazoo. No, if losing weight is all about burning up more than you're putting in, the burning up section should be on track. So, sigh, it comes down to what's going in.

I remember once talking to a super-fit work colleague of mine about fitness and weight loss. At that stage, I was at the (real) gym four or five days a week. He knew I did this. Which is why he was surprised when I ordered cheesecake for dessert at a work lunch one day. "You're not one of those women who think you can eat what you like just because you exercise?" he asked me, horrified and genuinely perplexed.

Why, yes, I am. And it worked okay for me. Then. When I was in my twenties and deciding to lose weight meant dropping alcohol and chocolate for a week and watching the grams melt away. Not now, when I'm, er, older and I can drop chocolate for six weeks with no apparent effect. It goes on easier, it comes off harder. Mum told me it would be so. I didn't want to believe her.

But I can ignore it no longer. Which means, sigh, watching what I eat. Which is why I found myself out striding the streets of Fibrotown on the coldest afternoon of the year. Call it penance. In an insane fit of logic (which I can only put down to brain-freeze), I had decided that the only thing that would warm me up as I wrote in my empty house today was potato chips. Crispy, greasy, salty, yummy... where was I? Oh yes.

I ate them. Then felt the immense guilt that can only come after such pleasure. I emailed The Builder: "I ate potato chips in an attempt to keep warm. The layer of fat should help next week." He emailed me back: "I think a heater would be more effective than a potato chip."

By the time he came home, I had convinced myself that the only way to offset the problem was to walk to town, in the freezing cold (shivering for additional kilojoule-burning effect), to get ingredients for a dinner that I probably could have made out of my pantry supplies. He shook his head and waved me off.

Which is how I found myself dodging the autumn leaves swirling on the half-empty streets, wrapping my scarf around my head, walking close to shop doorways in an attempt to extract any vestige of heat that might blow out. All for the sake of a few potato chips.

Seriously, why do we do it to ourselves?

[image: Clearly the thing I really need to make a food diary work is new stationery, like these from greenchairpress/etsy]

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My new writer crush

I am in the early stages of a new writer crush. Her name is Kate Atkinson. I know nothing about her other than the fact that the Telegraph thinks 'Everybody should read her'. I tend to agree.

I was given her book Started Early, Took My Dog, some time ago. A friend of my Mum's gave it to her and Mum gave it to me, thinking that I would do as I normally do and knock it over in a few days. "You read faster than me," she said, handing it over.

But I didn't. Something about the title didn't speak to me. I put it on the To Be Read pile and went my merry way. Last week, Mum asked me if I'd finished with it. Seems she's ready to begin it. So I went home  and got on with the job.

I'm not quite done with it still, but my word it's a sensational book. Several mysteries, some wonderful character studies, a police procedural, funny bits, sad bits, some wise words on the state of society today. Literary, readable. Three or four stories in one, each revealing itself slowly. Defeating someone (we won't mention names) who might want to read the end first because (and don't ask me how I know this), the end and the beginning don't seem to match.

Highly recommended. I'll be looking for more.

Monday, June 6, 2011

This'll cure what ails you

Last week, when I needed it most, my Mum presented me with a container of chicken soup to take home. I had it for lunch the next day, a cold, wet, rainy day, when Mr4 was at home and my work remained undone. It was a revelation in a bowl, that soup. Fragrant lemon, hearty barley, savoury leek... Perfect for one of Those days.

I posted a little status update on Facebook claiming that it would 'cure what ails you', and was immediately asked for the recipe.

So here it is. The recipe is from mum's newly purchased cookbook Winter Food, published by Penguin. I had a quick look through it while I was visiting and can assure you that it looks worth the price of admission. They should have just called it The Comfort Cookbook and been done with it. But I digress...

Barley Soup with chicken, leek and mushrooms

50g pearl barley
juice and zest of one lemon
5 cups chicken stock
1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons of butter
2 leeks, thinly sliced
4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Place barley, lemon juice and stock in a saucepan and slowly bring it to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until barley is tender. Add chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a frying pan and gently cook leeks and mushrooms until golden-brown. Add wine to deglaze the pan, then add the vegetables and liquid to soup. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley, and check seasoning. Ladle soup into bowls, distributing chicken evenly.

I liked it so much, I made it for dinner on Sunday night for the Builder and I as we recovered from our big Saturday night at the hall. It hit the spot perfectly. I had a large lemon and, at Mum's suggestion, used only half the zest. It was enough. Perfect for even those self-inflicted illnesses...

[image: this cute cloud mobile from leptitpapillon/etsy would also cheer up one of Those days.]

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The 'same' can be surprising

Now that we have been in Fibrotown for two and a half years, The Builder and I are beginning to notice a little bit of, er, repetition in our social calendar. The various community fundraisers that provide the 'events' in a town of this size, all tend to fall around the same time each year, and take on a similar format from year to year. Which, I confess, can lead to a little bit of 'ho hum' in our attitude towards them. But complacency can often be misplaced.

Last night, we fronted up to our third annual Hall-Near-Fibrotown Ball. We've had a good time in each of the previous years, but were suffering a case of the 'why bothers' this year. We knew the format would be the same, the band unchanged, the faces would be similar - even the fashion wouldn't hold too many surprises as many women I knew, including myself, were planning to wear the same frock as last year, with new accessories. But, it was for a good cause, and we live by the rule that it's churlish to pass up the chance for a night out in an area where they don't come up that much, so we frocked up and headed out into the cold and rain.

We began with a cocktail and a cheese plate at Fibrotown's cocktail bar. Just the two of us, on a sofa, in our finery, enjoying the chance to be grown-ups. "Going somewhere?" asked the barman, nodding towards The Builder's dinner suit with red rose buttonhole. "Just home to watch DVDs," he responded with a straight face. (Yes, we crack ourselves up.)

We arrived at the ball half an hour early - note to self: check the invitation next time - and were promptly dispatched to a friend's house in the next paddock for a pre-ball drink (at which point I was wishing I'd gone with my threat to wear gumboots this year). By the time we returned, the queue for entry stretched beyond the red carpet and into the mud, which gave us plenty of time to catch up with a few people in the line. One of the brilliant things about the ball - which we'd forgotten during the 'why bothers' - is the opportunity to catch up. So many friends in one place, with nobody required to wash up or placate the neighbours.

It was a wonderful night. The best yet. The ball went by in a flash, a series of happy moments (picture one of those sentimental montages they do halfway through schmaltzy movies). There was a lot of laughing, joking and talking. Some quieter moments spent perched on a hay bale, morphing acquaintances into friends. Perhaps a tiny bit of foot stomping and hip shimmying.  There may or may not even have been some interpretive dance.

Before we knew it, we were squashed into a cab with our town friends, reliving the highlights, all of us talking about how much fun we'd had. Expectations are everything, aren't they? It's when you have none that you get the best surprises.

[image: next year, I may be in the same dress again (why mess with a great formula), but I'll be working it back with a pair of wellie boots with knitted boot cuffs, such as these by VintageOfNow/etsy]

Friday, June 3, 2011

Weekend Rewind

And, just like that, I'm back! It has been a productive week - around 10,000 words written (just none of them on this blog). I confess to a certain sense of freedom, knowing that I did not have to front up here each day. But I missed you all too. Freelancing is a lonely business without you fine people to talk to.

Enough of all that, though. We're here to Rewind. If you're a debutante at the Rewind, the rules are simple: follow the Fibro (see note about loneliness, above), link up an old post for some new comment love, and then try to get round to as many other links as you can to share that comment love all over the place. Feel free to start from the bottom of the list so that those arriving a little bit later get their share. Easy.

This week's theme in for our mixed tape of blogging fabulousness is... R&R. Rest and relaxation. Taking a break. Breathing in deep. Enjoying some time. Jumping off cliffs. Watching television. Reading a book. Travelling far and wide. Anything that fits the R&R category for you is all right by me.

Okay. Got that? Ready, set... Rewind!

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