Monday, July 30, 2012

It's not about the medals

The Olympic spirit is alive, well, kicking and doing a triple somersault in the pike position in this house. The boys have taken to the whole thing with gusto. They are watching highlights (and early morning coverage), making flags (see pic) and working out which sport they'll focus on because, you know, they're bound to want to represent Australia at some point...

With all this enthusiasm comes exercise. Yesterday saw us up at the showground doing laps on our bikes as Mr8 attempted to break his 'world record' time for laps at the showground. There are requests to go to the pool. My boys love their swimming lessons (unlike some members of the family...) and hate the fact that I keep them out of the water over winter. What can I say? Too many ear infections early on have cruelled my Olympic spirit.

Other sports that have crept into the backyard and lounge room include: wrestling, fencing, gymnastics, hurdling, shotput (with a rock - Mum the killjoy soon put an end to that), diving (when Mr8 misjudged a somersault on the trampoline and went over the edge), tennis, soccer... the list goes on.

They'll never medal in any of these events. But that's not really the point, is it?

Have your kids been swept up in Olympics fever?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Are you a writer or a reader?

I had one of those moments today. Someone suggested I put together a newsletter for the Fibro. You know, weekly updates, little titbits, news and weather. Well, maybe not weather, though it does feature around here...

Anyhoo, my moment was this: if I had a newsletter, would it be about writing? Or reading? Or ... well, a whole mishmash of things, pretty much like this blog. Writing tips, info about books and publishing, updates about my projects and the projects of other writers I love, blog stuff... you know, stuff.

And if I had such a newsletter, would anyone be interested?

So I'm asking. Would you be interested in my weather updates newsletter - and what would you like to see in it? Do you like the Fibro writer posts best - or are you here as a reader?
[image from here]

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Will you stay with me forever?

Mr5 is afraid of the dark. He's never been afraid before, so I can only assume that it is because the dark is now unfamiliar. New house, new spaces. The rambling rooms of The Old Girl, so quirky and beautiful during the day, become echoing maws of blackness after dark.

Despite the night lights left on and the careful explanation of just where Mum and Dad will be once he goes to bed, and when, and what time we will go to bed ourselves, he is worried. He curls up in his bed, making himself as small as possible, tiny voice quavering as he calls out "Mum. MUM! Where are you?" Why I'm right here in the kitchen washing up son, right where I said I'd be three minutes ago.

Last night we had a little chat about it. I asked him what he was worried about.

"People might break in," he said. "Like the bird did." Yesterday we came home after school to discover a large bird had taken up residence in the sunroom. I had no idea how it had got in or how long it had been there. In a panic, I rang my friend K who, I reasoned, had chickens so would know what to do.

"Er, open a window?" she suggested. All windows are screened.

"Er, um,... wait til The Builder gets home," she recommended.

I rang The Builder. Who did not seem to understand the emergency at hand. "I'll be home in half an hour," he said. "Open the front door."

To do so, I had to sneak past the bird. With the boys eyes upon me, and knowing that to show fear would simply freak them out, I dashed down the sunroom and flung the door open. Then Mr5 and I sat on the front verandah, doing some bird spying, talking in very quiet voices (that is, not very quiet at all in Mr5's case) until the bird strolled out the door.

All of this had clearly had an impact on him.

"The bird didn't break in," I said. "Mummy left the door open by mistake. And he's gone now, and all the doors are locked."

He nodded. He took a deep breath. "I'm worried you'll leave me," he admitted. Silence. Leave him? Me who stayed home and worked around him, who is with him nearly every minute of his waking life, beyond his time at school?

"I would never leave you," I said. "I love you. Do you think I would creep away in the middle of the night?"

He nodded, big blue eyes welling up.

"Never," I said. And meant it.

"Does that mean you'll stay with me forever?" he asked.

Visions of him lolling on the couch at 35, scratching his hairy stomach and shooting rubbish-bin two-pointers with beer cans flash through my mind.

"Forever," I say. Knowing that one day he will forget this conversation and leave to step into his own life, while I won't forget it and will stay, waiting for him to visit.

He sighed happily, gave me a kiss and rolled over and went to sleep.

I stayed awake a long time last night.

[image from here]

Monday, July 23, 2012

10 things I learnt ... last week

There's no getting around it, I am finding blogging difficult at the moment. The muse has left the building. What if she never comes back? Horrible thought: Maybe I left her in the Fibro???

Where once I could find something to write about every day of the week, now I stutter and stammer and struggle to come up with three posts in seven days. I think there is a lot to be said for habit and momentum. When you're on a roll, you're like a tumble weed, gathering dust and dirt and debris and kernels of ideas everywhere you go. When you're not... well, let's just say that everything stagnates.

So, in place of a lyrical, whimsical post about nothing, here are 10 things I learnt last week.

1. When comics and real life collide, it's not easy to explain to an eight-year-old why the news story accompanying the picture of The Joker is not for him to read.

2. Mr5 will never smoke because, and I quote, "he doesn't even know where you buy them from". Note to self: work on the notion of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should". And "Just Say No".

3. The nature of freelance writing is changing. And it's more important than ever to maintain diverse income streams.

4. Those minutes where you're waiting to see if the crackling on your pork roast is going to crackle can be long. Very long.

5. It is possible to score an own goal and still win the Player of the Week trophy for defense. When you are five. Which just goes to show that anything is possible.

6. Being controversial for the sake of it becomes incredibly boring. As in Ho Hum. The number of links I see on Twitter and Facebook that are obviously carefully crafted to make people cross just make me turn away. I don't care how you parent. I don't care if you change your name. I am beginning to wonder if all the outrage on the internet is simply making us less and less interested in taking a stand about anything. Why open your mouth when someone is waiting there, cursor blinking, to jump down your throat JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN?

7. Which is why I prefer to have my discussions and debates face-to-face. I am less interested in writing a lengthy discourse on My Truth and more interested in talking about someone else's. Could the internet, long believed to be the downfall of quality social interaction, be the very thing that drives us back to quality social interaction?

8. The Ancient Greeks did not compete for Olympic gold medals but for Olympic olive wreaths. Mr8 was tickled by this notion.

9. I think I left half the socks in the Fibro with my blogging mojo. It's the only explanation as to why I have one single sock from every pair the boys own.

10. I should have made these posts 3 Things I Learn't Last Week.

What did you learn this week?

[image from Pinterest, but links to a spam site, so if it's yours, please let me know]

Friday, July 20, 2012

Small pleasures

I have been spending a lot of time on my knees lately. For all the right, wholesome reasons I might add. The Old Girl has an old garden sweeping around her like a party dress. Even in winter, her emerald green skirts are dotted with tiny spots of colour, bright flashes of jewel to catch the eye.

With all this glory, however, comes the weeds. So. Many. Weeds. But I am a longtime convert to the process of a winter full of work for a spring/summer full of surprise and joy, so I'm putting in the hard yards.

In the process, I'm coming up with 1000 metaphors that align gardening and writing. All of which I am sure to bore you with in the coming months as I edit my first novel and redraft my second.

In the meantime, though, I am concentrating on the small things. Little pleasures that make me pause to lean on my weeding fork and go 'oh'. Jonquil bulbs unfurling to waft scent across the garden. Tiny daisies that mass together to form a ball of sunshine. Velvety purple irises that appear out of nowhere overnight.

And the lavender that must be tip-pruned now for a spectacular show in September.

At least with lavender, the prunings can be brought into the house to fill the rooms with scent and colour.

That's win/win gardening.

Are you a gardener? What small pleasures do you find in winter gardening?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

First draft

On Monday night I completed the first draft of my next novel. It was quite a different proposition to finishing the first draft of my first novel. Then, I jumped around the room, whooping and hollering, thrilled that I had finished my first full-length manuscript. And it was finished. Of that I was convinced.

This time, I typed that last full stop and gave a little sigh. It was done. Now I have something with which to work. I put up a little Facebook status update:

"Good news: first draft of second novel is finished. Bad news: at 70,000 words it requires a LOT of work. Sigh. Tomorrow I start again at Chapter One."

Because now I know.

Your first draft is not your book. It is the promise of your book.

Even if it wasn't short (by at least 20,000 words), this book would still require a LOT of work. Being a writer who doesn't really plot much (as in, not at all), my characters develop as the story does. From a kernel of a person on the first page to having a dimension or two by the end. I know about them when I begin, but I don't know them. By the end of the book, I do.

Which means I must go back and add those dimensions to pages one, two, three... and so on.

It might sound like a messy way to write a book, but it works for me. I know people who do all that planning in advance. They know exactly who they're dealing with and what those people will do before they even type 'Once upon a time' (or a slightly less cliched opening line...).

I can't do that. The more I know about what will happen, the less I want to write it down. I made the mistake with this book of writing the last three chapters once I got to the middle of the book. To be fair, I had to. Something had popped up at the 40,000 word mark and I needed to find out if I could resolve that particular 'pop'. I knew it wasn't going to be easy and I didn't want to wait til the last minute to discover that it couldn't be done.

So I wrote the ending - and promptly lost interest in the story. There's no need to write the story when you already know what's going to happen, right? Er, yes, there is, unless you want a half-finished manuscript rolling around in your bottom drawer forever.

I gritted my teeth and ploughed ahead, happy to discover that other surprises appeared to make the going easier.

And now it's done.

Except it's not.

Back to Chapter One. To build on that promise.

No whooping and hollering. Not yet.

Do you write fiction? Do you plan ahead or make it up as you go along (note: Kylie Ladd and Allison Rushby, two of the best plotters and planners I know, need not reply to this question - I know they are horrified by my seat-of-the-pants approach!)?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Suffer the dragons... they're worth it.

If there's one thing that has suffered in the last few years of combining family, work, writing, blogging and, now, weeding, it's quality reading time. I'm fortunate in that I'm a quick reader, so I'm still getting through books, but I no longer get those long blocks of time in which to get lost in a story.

In the last six months, I've worked my way through the first five books of George RR Martin's A Song Of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series. And when I say work, I do mean work. It's war, adventure, mayhem and politics on an EPIC scale and the plotting has me in absolute awe. How the man kept track of all those characters and managed to create so many memorable ones in the mix is beyond me. I'll even suffer the dragons to find out what happens next.

To explain, I'm not a major fan of dragons and other mystical weirdness in my book. I don't mind them in a Lord of the Rings, peopled by Hobbits and Goblins. There they have context. In a book based so heavily on human nature, though, I struggle a little. But when the plotting and politics in a story are so good, I can overlook them. Very large elephants in the room, I know, but there you have it. And don't even get me started on the White Walkers...

Which brings me to my lesson of the day: don't start a series until you know it is complete. Having got to the end of book five, I have discovered that Mr Martin is still working on book six. And, given that he has taken up to four years in the past to create each one, I may be waiting some time. That's a long time to be on the edge of your seat...

In fact, I am faced with the prospect of having to read the whole lot again once book six comes out. Just so I can keep track of what's happened.

Good. Grief.

What was that I was saying about having no quality reading time anymore...?

Best I start now.

What are you reading at the moment? Do you love it?

[image from here]

Thursday, July 12, 2012

In sport as in life, take no hostages...

The boys have been caught up in the sporting frenzy engulfing the world. They are keenly awaiting the Olympics, endure the highlights of the Tour de France (faking interest in my enthusiastic descriptions of the psychological warfare of the peloton), and watched the Wimbledon stories on the news with great interest.

Mr5, in particular, is taken with tennis. To the point, where he insisted I download the 'Stick Tennis' app so that he could "practise". No amount of explanation that swiping your finger on an iPhone screen is not the same as actually playing the game will convince him that he is not Roger Federer.

Despite his somewhat flimsy grasp of the rules.

"Mum, do they have hostages in tennis?" he asked earlier this week, busily swiping away at the screen.

"Hostages???" I spluttered, wondering if he's been taking in a bit too much of the news.

"Yes, hostages," he said, serene in his swiping.


"Like in soccer," he continued.

I spluttered again, but this time with laughter. I knew he didn't like his time on the sidelines as a substitute at soccer on Saturday morning, but I had no idea it was having this effect on him!

[image: from here]

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A blog post about nothing

Yesterday, Maxabella posted a post about all the posts that make her cringe. One of them was the post about nothing. The post you write about the fact you've got nothing to write about. If you have nothing to write about, says Maxabella, don't write.

Generally, I agree with Maxabella on most things blogging. We share a similar opinion of much of what goes on in the blogosphere, even if she writes about it and I don't (oh, the irony). But I don't agree with her on this. (Yes, I will write about nothing, but not about some things... we can discuss in another post.)

Posts about nothing can be the best posts ever. Depending, of course, on how they're written.

I have to say this, you see, because I've discovered that a healthy proportion of Fibro posts are posts about nothing. So much so, that I was once described as the 'Seinfeld of blogging', which (after I finished laughing), I have to tell you, I took as a compliment.

So, to further compound my error in writing so often about nothing, I have created a list of some of my posts about nothing.

What a body of work.

Writing on Empty

A blog about not much

The Clayton's Blog Post

The Blinking Cursor

Less Is Sometimes More

A blog post decided by Twitter

I could go on. But I won't.

Before I began this post about nothing, I had nothing to say. Now I have a whole post.

My work here is done.

Do you write about nothing? Do posts about nothing make you cringe? Are there times you'd rather write about nothing than write about some things?

photo credit: moominsean via photo pin cc

Sunday, July 8, 2012

10 things I learnt this week #2

I have decided I like this list thing. It's an easy filler on the nights when I don't start writing a post until 10.22pm. It works well when I have angry thoughts buzzing in my brain, and they're not necessarily ones that I want to share with the world at large (note: there are times when installing an editor somewhere between your brain and your typing fingertips can be a massive advantage).

I promise not to pull it out too often, but hope you'll forgive me an occasional lapse.

Anyhoo, here are the 10 things I learnt this week.

1. I should use 'learnt' instead of 'learned' after '10 things', even if it doesn't look quite right.

2. I really, really dislike it when writers steal the work of other writers. Yes, creativity comes with many shades of grey, but word-for-word repeating of someone else's work is simply copyright infringement.

3. Speaking of shades of grey (and questionable 'inspiration' for that matter), I probably won't be reading 50 Shades of Grey. I asked the question about whether it's worth my while on my Facebook page and the answer turned out to be pretty much black and white. If you want to read really good erotica, try Anais Nin. Really. I can promise that you'll learn a few things...

4. A holiday at home can be very busy. We've hardly left the front door but there's been a positive stream of people coming in so we've had no shortage of entertainment.

5. Pruning roses can be hard work. And prickly. And bring to mind all manner of pruning/editing metaphors, most of which are best left behind in the garden.

6. No-one is more fun to hang with than your own family. Nuclear. Extended. It's all good.

7. Apparently, 67 per cent of couples are less satisfied in their marriages after the birth of their first child.

8.  Bloggers are never going to agree on the correct way to make money from blogging. Which probably means that there is no correct way. There is just the way that might work for you, if that's what you want. As for the writers vs authors vs journalists vs bloggers debate... well, I learnt that it makes my eyes glaze over.

9.  Old school friends, even the ones you don't see for 12 months between drinks, are the best value. There is nothing like talking to people who knew you before you even knew who you were to bring on the belly laughs.

10. I smile as I type. If I'm writing something that makes me happy, or writing to someone I really like, I find myself smiling. It must look completely bizarre to anyone who's watching. Fortunately, not too many people are watching.

What did you learn in the last seven days?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

To the moon... and back.

Mr8 has informed me that he is going to the moon. Not anytime soon, you understand. But one day.  He has it all planned. He will go to uni, he will become an astronaut, he will walk where Neil Armstrong first walked (conspiracy theories aside).

The boy who will not go to the school canteen by himself is going to the moon.

"Won't you miss me?" I ask, looking for a few last drops of the Mum worship that he had in spades right up until about six months ago.

"Sure," he says, flicking his Margaret Pomeranz fringe out of his eyes (note to self: haircuts need to be scheduled more often than every school holidays). "But we can Skype."

Of course.

"Or," he adds, coming over for a quick hug allowing me to get a little hair ruffle in, "I'll send you a postcard."

Having a blast. Wish you were here.

So what exactly would you write on a postcard from the moon?

[Image: from here]

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

So... here we are. Let the hard work begin

The Old Girl is starting to feel like home. I'm no longer going to the wrong drawer in the kitchen to find the tongs. I'm turning right instead of left to find the bathroom. I've unearthed the bandaids. Life is good.

The Builder and I have begun work on the outside. The Old Girl comes with a substantial bit of garden (see the last of the roses, left) and we realised pretty early (that is, day one) that if we didn't go in hard we'd need machetes to find our way to the front gate come summer. So I spent two hours last Friday pruning the front garden. And four hours last Saturday pruning the back garden.

So. Many. Roses.

As I attacked with my secateurs, dodging thorns and trying to work out if I was doing it right, at all, I found myself remembering this post about our one rose bush at the Fibro. About how stressed I was about making the cuts, worried I'd kill the whole bush with one wrong prune. And this post about how incredibly thrilled I was when it all started growing back.

Putting in the hard work now, laying the garden bare, will be worth all the effort when the growing season is upon us.

I can't wait for summer. This garden is going to go off.
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