Thursday, November 29, 2012

I need to Wri more next Mo

I am limping towards the end of NaNoWriMo. The trouble with not being a plotter, is that you need things to happen for other things to happen and sometimes when those things happen you end up in plot quicksand. You know you're probably there for a reason, but you're damned if you can work out why.

You follow?

So I'm at 43,000 words for the month of November. My story, which until now has unfolded from my brain as thought it were there the whole time and I just needed to find it, has hit the quicksand. I have thrown everything at it that I can think of: a little mystery, a fight scene, some humour, an unexpected character. Everything.

And still I sink deeper into the mire.

I think part of the problem is that I'm in entirely new territory, working on a children's book. It's the most fun I've had in... forever... but it's, well, new. The scope is huge, the characters are larger-than-life, the adventure is rollicking (one hopes), and I am following Mr8's advice to 'throw in a battle' at every opportunity.

Me and swords, we're like 'this'. *crosses fingers*

Two days to go. Looks like I'll be Wri more next Mo.

Actually, I'm wondering if I can include this blog post in my NaNoWriMO total. After all, writing about the story's gotta count, right?

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Are you nearly there... or writing the words The End over and over to get your tally up?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Everyone needs a rostered day off - or not

My boys have hit the wall. With four weeks to go until the end of the school term, and a million tests, concerts, grading days, swimming lessons, parties, activities and other essentials to get through, they're both so tired they can't cope. They can fight though. Oh yes, always enough energy for that.

In an effort to make the mornings more pleasant for all of us, I have decided to give them both a rostered day off. An old-fashioned mental health day. A day at home to hang out with me, loll about on the sofa unmolested by their brother (yes, separate days or we'd all go mad), watch a dvd, read a book, get horribly bored and, hopefully, feel all refreshed for school the next day.

I will work around them. It will be just like the not-so-good old days.

This is the plan, anyway.

I tried to give Mr5 an RDO last week, when I was having to wake him at 7.45am for school, and he was particularly ornery about the house. He thought it was a good idea, until he remembered that he was on compost duty that day.

"I have to go," he said, leaping out of bed. "I've got a job today."

"Er, okay," I said, thinking 'are you nuts?'. "But are you sure?"

"Oh yes," he said. "I'll get a sticker and that will be one more for my chart and then I'll only have eight more to go to finish the plane. Time's running out, Mum!"

I tried to remember a time in my life when the notion of getting a sticker would win out over a day at home in my pyjamas. Couldn't.

I tried not to feel a little put out that he would choose compost over hanging out with me. Couldn't.

So we'll try again tomorrow.

If the compost wins again, all bets are off.

Do you ever give your kids a day off school just because?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Top 10 tips for writing your best blog

I've got myself a shiny new badge and I'm over at the Just B Blog School today, writing about writing. In particular, my top ten tips for writing your best blog.

Come on over and say hello. I will be the one wearing perfect white socks, a prefect badge and a smug expression.

Blogging is Not Writing... and 9 other tips for writing your best blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Letters to Santa, Lego and Life Lessons

Today the boys sat down to write their letters to Santa. I'm trying to get in early this year, in an attempt to ensure that the Great Disaster of 2011, when the letters to Santa were posted so late that Santa had to send us a reply on January 14 explaining that we needed to get in earlier if we expected to hear from him before Christmas, never happens again.

Hmmmph. Santa's minions need to type faster, is all I can say.

Anyhoo, Mr8 produced a neatly spaced, neatly thought out, neatly constructed list, complete with a Dear Santa at the top and a Thank You Very Much at the bottom. Mr5... well, we'll get to that.

Whilst writing his letter, Mr8 let slip that there was a lot of Lego on the list.

"I really like Lego, Mum," he said, busily colouring his Christmas tree. "I'm not sure that anyone likes Lego as much as I do."


"In fact, there aren't too many kids at school who want to talk about Lego with me."

Pause. Colour, colour.

"Or any of the things I'm interested in."

Pause. "Like what?" I ask.

"Like history," he said, looking up, from his Christmas star. "History is my life. And nobody knows what I'm on about."

Dramatics aside (life?), I should explain at this point that Mr8 is one of those males who goes from obsession to obsession with lightning speed. When these obsessions take the form of Ben 10 morphing into Star Wars backflipping into Batman, all is well. When they follow the lines, as they have this year, of Ancient Greeks sliding heavily into Vikings and morphing into Nasty Knights, and, of course, Lego, things get a bit more dicey.

I choose my words with care. "You know, it's as important to learn to talk about the things that other people are interested in as it is to share your own."

Eye roll. "I know. But I really don't care about One Direction or that Gangnam thing, Mum."

"No," I say. "Nonetheless, learning to listen to other people is a skill that will take you far in life."


"Particularly with girls," I throw in. "Which may not matter to you right now, but will be something you'll thank me for later." (I wince inwardly, knowing that I should have stopped at 'far in life'. Edit Allison, edit.)

He froze, gave me that look that said 'too much information, Mum' and dropped his texta. "I'm going to play Lego now," he said, fleeing the room.

Meanwhile, Mr5 was taking advantage of the Life Lesson taking place to put a few extra, secret things on his Santa list. I had taken great care to this point to get him to read each item out to me as he wrote it. Just for practice, you understand.

So Santa, get ready, I'm sending this in early. You're going to need a few extra weeks to decipher it.

Please get back to me before January 14.

Do your kids write letters to Santa? Do you send them nice and early?

Monday, November 19, 2012

The follow-up blog post

It being a Monday and me being short on inspiration in the rain, I thought I'd take the opportunity to provide a few follow-ups. I realise I've raised a few issues over the past month or so, and haven't taken the time to share the outcomes, so here they are:

•You may remember the torturous search for pillows. Well, we finally bought some. And we got it wrong. They are too... lofty (see image). So they are relegated to the spare bed (note to visitors: bring your own pillows) and the search continues. Sigh.

•I am yet to come up with a name for the Dad character in my current novel. He remains Fred.

•My shy friend Allison Dobell reports that reviews are beginning to come through on Goodreads for her book Alice's Wonderland. You can read them here. And here at Amazon.

•Finally, the mouse saga continues. After the construction and shenanigans that ensued on the discovery of Mousies One and Two, The Builder got serious the following night, putting out two mousetraps and some bait. The door to the pantry was wedged shut. All manner of foodstuff was locked down. The hatches were battened.

Then we had to explain to the children what was going on. And why we had to shut all doors, internal and external, that night. And why they couldn't go near the 'poison' near the cat mouse door. Mr8 nodded and went about his business. Mr5 went very quiet. Always a bad sign.

Just before bed, he came to us in tears. "What's wrong?" we asked.

"Mousies have families too," he wailed. "If the mousies don't go home to their families the other mousies will worry."

We exchanged looks over his head. "We're just trying to, er, scare them away," I said.

"Then why are you putting out poison? Poison won't scare them, it will kill them," he said. Lord save me from the logical child.

"Well," said The Builder. "We have to keep them out of the house. They eat all our food and also spread germs. It's them or us."

"Can't we just board up the cat door, then?" said Mr5. "Then they can't get in."

How to explain to a sad little boy that we need them gone? For good. 

"We will just leave it open for one more night so that the other Mousie [still in the housie at this stage] can get out, then it will all be over," said The Builder.

He seemed mollified by this, but went to bed still sad for the 'mousie family', out there waiting for their mousie loved one to come home.

And left me fretting at the notion of a whole CLAN of mousies, out there in the dark, plotting an assault on the pantry. Shudder.

The Builder has cut a piece of ply ready to board up the Mousie Door. The sooner the better I say.

What about you? Any updates you'd like to share - good, bad, covered in fur?

Friday, November 16, 2012

There's a mouse in my house: A situation comedy in at least two parts

Last night we had a 'situation' at our house.


I was in my office, typing, after The Builder had gone to bed. Correction. After I thought The Builder had gone to bed. I heard rustling and rattling and general carrying-on from the kitchen.

My first thought: mouse. Big mouse.

To set the scene, we had discovered that morning a huge pile of mouse poo, some well-chewed almond meal packets and the odd wood shaving (?) in the pantry.

Mouse. Mice. Possibly 27 mice.

We cleaned it up and made our cunning plans for dealing with said mouse/mice that evening.

Fast forward to that evening and we are sitting in the living room when we hear a thud, and then some rustling and rattling and general carrying-on. I dispatched The Builder to find out what was going on. Long seconds passed. Minutes passed. I roused myself from the sofa to go and make sure the mousie hadn't carried him off.

He met me in the hallway, a little white-faced. "It ran right past me - actually through my feet - and out the cat door!" he said. I should mention that we don't have a cat and have been discussing blocking up said cat door since we moved in.

But the mouse was gone. We sat around congratulating ourselves on our superior mouse-scaring skills.

Right up until the point where I was sitting, alone, in my study, in a dark, quiet house, typing. I poked my head out the door. No sign of any mousie. Then again, no sign of The Builder either. Our bedroom door was wide open and he was not tucked up in bed, snoring.

I crept down the hall, pushed the door on the kitchen - and there he was. The Builder I mean. Constructing.

"We've got a situation!" he said, slightly wild-eyed, in his Dad pyjamas. "There were two mice and one is still trapped in the pantry."

When Mousie One had done it's Alcatraz escape run, we'd simply assumed it had been working alone and wedged the pantry doors closed with a six-pack. We were wrong.

I looked around me. "What exactly have you done here?" I asked.

The back door was wide open and he had constructed a barricade, comprising the cushion from the outdoor sofa, a chair, a toy box and the door mat. This corral was to persuade the mouse to run straight out the back door once he let it out of the pantry.

I could not help myself. I began to laugh. Helplessly. Loudly. Doubled over with hysterics. Hooting and guffawing.

He waited til I finished. Then politely explained that I was being no help. I straightened up and prepared to be supportive.

He crept into the kitchen, climbed on the bench with a broom, and proceeded to fling back the doors. Then he bolted to the door, jumped the barricade and we both stood there, awaiting the mouse's next move.

Mousie Two's next move was to stay exactly where it was.

Five minutes later we were all still in position, me still laughing helplessly (albeit silently). He turned to me and politely explained that I was still being no help and I might as well go back to my desk.

I did.

Fifteen minutes later, I was considering sending him a text message to make sure the mouse hadn't eaten him, when he appeared.

"Success?" I asked.

He shook his head. The mouse had bolted for the door, but instead of following the carefully constructed path laid out for it, had slipped through the most miniscule of gaps between the toy box and the mat and was now lost in the dining room.

Cue: helpless giggles. Mine, of course.

He had set up a system to keep the pantry door closed, and had closed the dining room door to keep the mouse from joining us in our beds. A tiny trap was laid. We would deal with it in the morning.

This morning we arose to discover that the outside of the dining room door had been gnawed. Clearly Mousie One had returned to help its friend. Meanwhile, Mousie Two had cleverly avoided the tiny trap and had eaten its way through half a packet of Fizzy Lifesavers (seriously, I was surprised it was not laid out on the counter with chronic burping).

The 'situation' continues.

I guess this is why they call it 'situation comedy'. 

Stay tuned.

Do small, furry animals bring about this level of chaos at your place?

[image: I wish I had a better shot of the barricade, but this was the best I could do, given my hysterical status.]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Have you done your Christmas shopping?

The year is truly galloping along now. We've reached that point where trying to organise a date to meet with friends becomes a comedy of checking and cross-referencing and text messages back and forth ... until finally you all agree that mid-January looks great.

My 'before Christmas' craziness has begun, with editors and corporate clients all needing their work in the door on Christmas Eve. Why, I'm not sure. It's not like Santa's elves will be popping in over the break to actually do anything with the copy filed. But I'm just as happy to have everything tied up by then, so I smile and nod and work late into the night.

In the meantime, the Christmas shopping is not done. Actually, not even thought about. And I can feel the underlying stress that comes with that. There is nothing I hate more than last-minute Christmas shopping. Elbowing your way through crowds with those crazy elevator-music carols hammering in your brain.

Usually, I have most of the shopping well and truly wrapped up by now. (I know it's only November. The carols start in October, you know!) But this year we were moving house during the big sales and I got caught short.

Unfortunately, the closer it gets to Christmas, the less I feel like stirring myself to shop.

So for now I'll concentrate on texting my friends and meeting my deadlines. Surely Santa will take care of the shopping?

Have you done your Christmas shopping? Or, in fact, anything Christmassy at all?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Naming characters: When Jericho met Ham

I am naming lots of new characters at the moment. This is not as easy as you might think. Like naming lots of new children, only some of them are 40 and grizzled, some of them are nobility, some of them are not, some of them are... you get the idea.

When we named Mr8 we had a boys' name all set - and argued for nine months about the girls' name. When it came to Mr5, we had the girls' name ready to go - and came up with a boys' name on the way to the hospital.

My technique with characters has always been to go with my first instinct. If I have no instinct, I simply name that character Fred until I think of something later. This allows me to continue on with the flow of the story without getting stuck. Names can be a real sticking point.

Unfortunately, with this particular project, I have so many characters that if I named all the un-named ones Fred, I'd have bits of text that went like this:

"Why did you do that?" asked Fred.
"I don't know," said Fred.
"It's not very smart," said Fred.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," said Fred.

You see my problem. The universal find/replace when I later decide that one Fred is called Dominic and the other is called Horatio will simply not work.

So I'm trying to do it as I go this time. Which is why I currently have a character called Jericho and another called Ham.

I'm thinking that I am going to have a lot of work to do in the second draft.

How did you name your kids? Did you always know? Did you argue? Or did you simply wait until you saw them?

Oh, and what's your Dad's name? I need a good Dad's name.

[image courtesy of Mr8]

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The secret lives of friends

My shy friend Allison Dobell asked me to let you know that her first book, Alice's Wonderland, is now available at Amazon. She describes it as a sexy, funny romance with lots of laughs. It is filed under 'E' for erotica.

You can find out more about Allison's secret life here.

And you can buy her book here.

Thank you.

Do you like a bit of 'heat' in your books, or do you prefer your authors to 'close the bedroom door' before the wobbly bits come out?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Words adrift in paper boats

Every once in a while you have one of those weekends that just covers off everything at once. They rattle along at breakneck speed and, before you know it, they're over, leaving just those tantalising memories behind.

On Friday afternoon I travelled to the Big Smoke with my Dad. Due to trackwork (I'm pretty sure those tracks have been rebuilt seven times since our move to Fibrotown), we spent many, many hours together, on bus and train. Hanging out. Eating biscuits. Talking about nothing. If you have to be squashed into a bus seat with someone, make it someone you really love.

After a visit to my accountant (best glossed over) and a quick beer with my brother TICH in his new abode (note to self, buy funky apartment in hip suburb so that I can pretend to be cool just once in my life), I met up with a writer friend. We spent many, many hours together. Hanging out. Eating burgers. Talking about nothing.

Then I went to stay with my dear friend A, who thinks nothing of evicting her children from their beds so that I can sleep in one said bed, surrounded by little boy detritus, at late notice and at the drop of a hat. If you're going to arrive late on the doorstep of a friend's house after several (thousand) beers, make it someone you really love (and who will still love you back).

On Saturday morning, I presented at the NSW Writers Centre on time and surprisingly fresh for my panel at the Emerging Writers Festival. It was a lively discussion and my fellow panelists Alice Grundy and Chris Summers did a stellar job - the upshot of our discussion (Why Pre-Publication Matters) is to be prepared to work just as hard (if not harder) after you receive a publishing contract as you did while writing your novel (or in Chris's case, play).

One thing I love about writers' festivals is the people that you meet there. Like the guy who told me candidly over a break that he'd taken another writer, his friend, out the back of his property and shot live ammunition at him just so that he (the friend) could feel what it was like to be under sniper fire. The same guy showed me the most beautiful writers' notebook that I'd ever seen. Tiny, copperplate  handwriting, all colour-coded and illustrated. It was a work of art. (Note to self, create lovely writers' notebook...) I am hoping that he will find me on Twitter so that we can chat some more. I really want to read his book when it comes out. If it is as beautiful as his notebook, it will be a work of art.

After the working part of the day was over, I met my boys in the city and we went to Sculptures By The Sea. The sculpture in the picture was my favourite. Words adrift, words washed up. Also, I am obsessed with paper boats. What's not to love?

Today was a day of rest. Mostly poking about at home, getting the chores done, shouting at the children. I wrote some words on my NaNoWriMo project and I end the day completely satisfied.

See what I mean. Everything covered.

How was your weekend?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Quiet please. Writers at work.

It's that time of year again. The first of November marks that day on the calendar when hundreds of thousands of writers around the globe vow that this year will be different. This will be the year when they will 'win'. This will be the year that they will bash out 50,000 words in a month. This will be their year of NaNoWriMo.

This is my third attempt at NaNo. I have never won. I am okay with that. Each time I've done it in the past, I've walked away with about 15,000 words and a good idea. Both of those ideas have become full manuscripts in the fullness of time. One will be published next year. One will (hopefully) be published in the future.

I look at it this way: even if I only finish with 15,000 words, they're 15,000 words that I didn't have on October 31. It is a great starting point, no matter which way you look at it.

This year, I am trying something new. Children's fiction. It's a whole new world for me and will no doubt be a steep learning curve. It's seriously good fun though. So far. Talk to me about in on November 17.

Mr8 is also writing a book (those are his words in the picture - he puts as much effort into those little swords that mark scene breaks as he does into the story). I love that we can sit down together and discuss our work. He knows nothing of NaNoWriMo, or winning or whathaveyou. He just really loves to write.

We could probably all take a leaf out of that book.
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