Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Writeapalooza: The best for 2008

Janie at Write Stuff wrote yesterday about sharing your favourite 10 articles/stories for the year. Paul followed suit and I've been mulling since yesterday about what could constitute mine. Part of me feels like I haven't possibly produced 10 great pieces of work this year (says the critic) but this isn't necessarily about 'great' work (sit down critic) but what I've enjoyed writing and working on.

So here are my list of ten.

Demon Lover
This was written on the knife edge of a deadline and is truly one of those miracle stories that is 'gifted' from the creative ether. Literally downloaded in less than 90 minutes (with almost no alterations) it was my exploration of what happens when you compromise your ethics and reset your boundaries - just how far do you go before you stop. I'm hoping in the new year that I will be able to push the boundaries of this story a little further with a short film adaptation.

Mercurial Madness
This short story was intended as my dig at the medical profession and while it has elements of that, it also explores the downfall of one woman who has all her bad karma come home to roost when she most needs help. This will hopefully be the flagship story of a new writing project in 2009.

Naphta's Mountain
Spawned from a Fiction Friday prompt, this was the first piece of fiction I wrote after reading 100 Years of Solitude and my first dabble into magical realism - a genre I would like to explore more of in the new year. This is the story of Naph and an old man who sits in his kitchen and the ethical dilemma faced when confronted with the opportunity to leave the city with some misappropriated relocation visas. Set in post apocalyptic Brisbane it was the beginning of my exploration of what Brisbane may look and how it may function after 'the end of the world'.

Voodoo Cowboy: Part One
Using the Cat Empire's song Voodoo Cowboy as inspiration this was my first conscious foray into writing speculative fiction. It may not necessarily work fanastically as a story as it stands. It contains dream elements (lettuce juice), unlike Demon Lover which was based entirely on a dream. I love the idea of my cowboy - a dude with no pigment in his skin, who is travelling on a horse, across the blazing world, descimated by global warming who is coming into his own as a shaman. I haven't managed yet to write about the guy he came across who tried to trade him Tag Heuer watch for a bottle of water. Perhaps my dig at commericalism/consumerism and where it will eventually lead us!

A Giant Falls
My modern adaptation of Jack and the Bean Stalk. It was written at the beginning of the demise of Eddie Groves (of ABC Learning Centres fame) and could possibly be further explored because it was impossible to fit everything I wanted into such a short piece. This was another contribution to Fiction Friday.

Hobbled together from 10 snippets of conversations harvested from a cafe visit, this story was both challenging and fun to write - and it turned out far better than I could have hoped. It follows the first assignment post facial reconstruction surgery, of operativeAudrey as she repatriates retired operative Kingsley. The twist comes as a reminder to us all - that you should be careful in every move you make and every decision that you bring to the fore, because you never know who it is that is watching your back. It was definitely influenced by having seen the remake of Get Smart (one of my all time favourite TV shows as a kid) at the movies.

Was one of a number of short stories that dredged up bits from my past and processed them in fiction. It was also one of a raft of short stories that had me exploring the use of the first person point of view which was something that to date (this was the early part of the year) I hadn't been comfortable with as a writer. Combined it was part of my writing that pushed me into professional and person places of discomfort.

This was the original name given to this piece - I think since it's been through various name changes and I think it's currently called '24'. I loved writing this because I knew the ending that I wanted and it was a trip for me to create the tension, the build up and then deliver the final horrific blow. Voila! The best element of this story though, was getting the feedback - to discover that I had created what I had set out to make.

Of all the stories that I've worked on this year - this has had the most amount of time and effort ploughed into it. The link is to the original story. Since posting this it's under gone a major metamorphosis. Evie (now named Graceville) is the most experimental of my stories and pushes the boundaries I believe, written in all three points of view to delinate each of the three characters. I intended to submit it to the One Brisbane Many Stories competition, but decided that I didn't have it in me to rewrite the final section by the deadline. Evie/Graceville taught me more about writing and perserverance than any other piece of writing this year and it will never be forgotten - even if it never makes it into the published sphere.

Takes a scenario straight out of my highschool years and fast forwards about fifteen or so years. The premise was to write about a character who had been wronged and never got over it. I also drew on a conversation I was privy to in my early 20's between a boyfriend at the time and one of his old school mates who was talking about seeking revenge on those at boarding school who teased and tortured him. I was surprised that so many years on from high school he would consider it worthy of air time - let along energy to plot and scheme. It also brings into question - just how safe are our identities are now that so much of our personal information is storied Just how easy would it be for one person to be wiped from existence?

Honourable mentions ....
Additionally I have to mention two other projects that have been off and on all year - 'Adam & Eve' and 'Captain Juan'. Half a dozen short stories born from my attempt to get my head around Adam and Eve in preparation for NaNo. But I realised that it was too big for NaNo and it's on the backburner for 2009. There is more research to be done, more exploration of my characters, an incomplete world to build - you get the idea. But having shared the concept with a couple of people they all assure me that it's a novel/story that must be told - so I am being held accountable for my ideas.

Captain Juan was my writers candy for the year. If I am completely honest - I loved writing Captain Juan more than I have ever loved writing anything in my entire life. At this point in time, I dont and can't imagine a professional life as a writer without Captain Juan and I thank Paul for bringing him to life in the first place and to Annie for bringing us all together to write Captain Juan as a collective. The absolute highlight of my year!

You will notice all the pieces referenced here are ficton pieces. While the bulk of my published work is non fiction (this year) I have to admit that I don't particularly enjoy writing it (especially the last piece I wrote 'The Path Lest Trod" for DTB) and I find that it saps my creative strength.

So cheers to 2008 - a year I still feel quite ambivalent about and bring on 2009 . I'll be back tomorrow with my list of '5' - books, CDs, movies and people who shaped my 2008.

PS: having compiled that list I feel a little better about my writing year as a whole!

Image found at Crux and Flux

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Year in Review

It's that time again when we pause and look backwards to see how we've fared. As this blog is now given over to writing and associated musings I wont go back over things of a personal nature - though I'm finding it hard sometimes to decide where a certain blog post would go (which was the beauty of having one combined blog where everything could go).

Rather than choose to have a list of resolutions or goals in 2008, I decided to pick and theme and to live my life by that instead. The theme I chose was AUTHENTICITY. Almost twelve months on it seems to be both a foreign idea and a familiar concept. In terms of writing, authenticity meant being true to my calling as a writer. Firstly to call myself a writer and establish with friends, family and strangers alike that it is my vocation. It still feels weird when I am introduced by others as a writer or when people ask 'what do I do' and I reply 'I'm a writer - and a Mum.' Neither are more important than the other so I make a point of mentioning both. Without becoming a mother I would never have realised (or perhaps it would have just taken a hell of a lot longer) my dream of being a writer and without writing I probably wouldn't deal with the rigours of motherhood.

Secondly it meant turning up to the page. For most of the year I've written morning pages every day - though this habit sadly went by the way during November and I haven't yet managed to reclaim it, even though I miss it sorely. I wanted to committ something to the page each week for [Fiction] Friday but I felt keenly the drain of writing short stories, of coming up with new characters and scenarios. I tried numerous tricks, books, prompts but midway through the year my creativity seemed to dry up. My creativity is back and I am also spending time rewriting and working old stories ready for publication somewhere?

Which is a beautiful segue into - thirdly, authenticity meant getting published. Sitting around on my hard drive or reaching a limited audience through this blog isn't enough. I sold my first ever piece of work with relative ease in March with the publishing of my first short story 'Demon Lover' through the Getting Hitched website. I ended the year with a rejection of my short story 'Deck the Balls'! I embarked on a self publishing endeavour with Annie to create Reclaiming Sex After Birth: the survival guide. It is probably the most difficult, demanding and ultimately rewarding project that I have ever been part of. And the journey will continue into the new year.

Authenticity as a writer has almost meant this year recognising that I will never truly be happy just as a writer. There is an innate pull towards publishing for me. There was an offer this year to do editorial work for a fleghling magazine which after lots of consideration I turned down - not wanting to be consumed and working for someone else's dream.In giving up Down to Birth, space opened to conceive new publishing projects - two of which are simmering impatiently on the back burner waiting for their birth in 2009. Replacing my passion to support the homebirth community (which will in essence never totally die) has been a committment to support up and coming writers, which these two projects do. Undoubtedly you will hear more about them very soon.

It's also meant investing in myself as a writer. This year I bit the bullet and became a member of the Queensland Writers Centre and attended The World Building short course run by Sonny Whitelaw in preparation for the National Novel Writing Month. There were others courses I would have liked to have participated in - such as the short story critiquing course but holidays and others piece of life got in the way. I spent a wonderful three days in Byron Bay during the Writers Festival which is most definitely one of the high lights of my professional year.

Authenticity for me has finally meant letting go of preconceived ideas of what it means to be a writer - namedly that writing is a solo activity. I've had the honour of collaborating with Annie Evett on two projects and Paul Anderson on one - with Captain Juan being the highlight of my writing year. The crazy pirate story was my creative life blood during my drought mid year and I look forward to spending more time aboard the La Gongoozler in 2009 side by side with Annie, Paul and the motley cast of many.

Aside from the theme of authenticity I did have some concrete goals. Firstly I wanted to have two fiction and two non fiction pieces published - which was almost achieved within the first few months of the year. Writing my final editorial for Down to Birth in late January was not my final contribution this year - with two more articles published there and another article published in the GAIA newsletter. I didn't make up the second fiction publication as a magazine I submitted to didn't end up going to print. I have a couple of short stories in the wings that I will pursue publication for in the new year.

Secondly I wanted to learn to build a website. It's something that I've always wanted to learn and I got to learn by default through the Reclaim Project. I see writing and web design going hand in hand and it puts me in good stead for the projects that are waiting to see the light of day in the new year.

Lastly I wanted to participate in NaNo again this year and am thrilled with the outcome, almost 52,000 words and completed in 24 days. Most importantly though the fact that I want to continue to write the manuscript that I started. Blue Melissae will hopefully be my first completed manuscript in 2009.

All in all - it's been a bit of a biazarre and very definitely a '1' year where I've oscillated between feeling as though I've achieved nothing and done more than I could have ever anticipated. I'm not even sure if I feel as though I'm out of my cocoon that I went into at the beginning of the year, but do get the feeling that I am nibbling my way out ready to emerge into something bigger and better.

So what for 2009? More on that tomorrrow.

Image is the authenticity mandala from Beth Budesheim and can be found at Painted Journeys

Monday, December 29, 2008

Speeding to the finish line

Surprisingly, this post isn't about the downward slide into the new year. This is about what seemed like the monumental task last night - to finish off Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver before this year ends.

At the beginning of the year, along with a committment to write, I put up the goal to read one book a month. At the time it seemed an impossible goal because I hadn't read more than a handful of books each year since Dylan was born. I realised though the writing and reading go hand in hand, and if I was serious about writing, then I needed to get realistic about reading.

In March the ante was upped from one book to two. With the exception of November, I've kept to it. In reality it means one short book and one long book - approximately 600 pages a month -which is where I don't feel so bad for completing one book in November (Snow Crash) - it was 400+ pages long and I took a fair bite out of Quicksilver as well. Deciding to take up the mantle of the 900+ tome during NaNo was short of madness, but well, whoever said that writers were sensible people.

There have been a few months where, like this month, it' a race to the finish line. The month that I read 100 Years of Solitude I closed the book a few minutes short of midnight on the final day of the month. I decided yesterday when we returned home from the Sunshine Coast and the Christmas festivities that I couldn't take Quicksilver into the New Year (bad omen, poor committment to my own standards, the fear that I will never finish it etc etc etc). With a few quiet days between Christmas and the New Year, I've laid myself on the bed and made it a priority to finish it. I also let my long suffering partner know that I 'have' to finish it before the end of the year.

What I've realised in this cram style session of reading, is I've missed the beauty and pace of most of the book because I've read it piecemeal over the past seven weeks. The plot's been diced up, I've forgotten who was who (with a cast of near hundreds that's easy to do), the build up to the action has been lost and the intrigue blunted.

Quicksilver has challenged me in ways I haven't been challenged in years. It's the thinking person's literature - a massive and impressive web of 17th century history, royal/noble genealogy, natural philosophsy (science), political intrigue and some of the best characters I've met in a very long time. One of the things I love most about Stephenson's epic book (which won the Arthur C Clarke prize in 2004 for Science Fiction) is that fact he uses many of the old spellings of words - such as connexion and phant'sy to name two. His turn of phrase is also brilliant. Hats off to Mr Stephenson also for reinventing the genre of 'science fiction' - because this is exactly what his work with the Baroque Cycle is fiction about science - with a generous side serving of piracy, royal debauchery, sex, twists, turns and recreation of some of the greatest names in history from that time.

With two more days to go I think I'll make it across the line, possibly mentally fatigued, probably left hanging on a plot ledge wanting to immediately go out and buy book two but already committed to a break with a Nick Earles' novel.

I'll be back before the 31st with a few lists - as it's been a year of lists and potentially a list of a few writing resolutions which will take full flight on the Chinese New Year (which I really should go and check the date of). Until then ... keep on reading :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Deck the Balls: Part 2

When I arrived for the wedding solo everyone assumed Brian, my London-based boyfriend, would accompany me. I said he was caught up with work. So they assumed he’d finally join me for Christmas this year … and I let them. Now all I can see is the empty place setting at the table beside me tomorrow and the sea of accusing looks. My mother, accompanied by Annaleise and the Aunties, will drag out the well rehearsed litany of recriminations - such hits as ‘you’re too fat/skinny, too clingy/aloof, too prudish/exhibitionist’ - no wonder I can’t hold onto a boyfriend.

This year there’ll be a bonus track, ‘Why can’t you just get married like your sister Annaleise.’ Depending on how many rum balls I’ve quaffed, I’ll either back away with the lie ‘I’m happy being single’ or attack with something like ‘because I’m responsible and use birth control.’ It doesn’t really matter though, witty, scathing or pathetic - I may as well be mute. They made their minds up about my love life years ago. God’s way of damning me here on Earth.

But there’s Gran. She’s always on my side, promising me that the right man will coming knocking on my door one day. Then Mum, Annaleise and the Aunties will all have to eat humble pie. I thought that guy was Brian.

I offered to clean out my savings to buy Brian a ticket to fly to Australia. Just one Christmas – was it really that much to ask? You can justify in any number of ways, sex with your ex, even after adding a new girlfriend to the equation, but Christmas … Brian drew the line at that.

Then two days ago a tiny parcel, badly wrapped in Christmas paper arrived in the post from Brian. I surmised that his conscience finally got him. I wanted to believe Brian capable of feeling guilty for the litany of love crimes he’d perpetrated in our three year relationship. That he wanted to make it up to me.

So I dream it is an engagement ring and he will fly in to propose to me on Christmas Eve. The accompanying note had said: Open at home midnight Christmas Eve – Brian
It’s definite - I’m deluding myself.

But why the hell I’d want to get engaged to Brian at this point or any other point in the future is beyond me in the rational moments. I blame it on Christmas. The pressure of family expectations and the repeated screenings of Love Actually have made me want to believe in Christmas miracles – even if in reality they would suck.

It’s half an hour shy of midnight. I take a huge swig of rum and coke then refrigerate the rum balls. The MacAveny clan will be piling into their Holden Commodore station wagons and sedans to make the pilgrimage to St Patricks.

The credits for Carols by Candlelight roll when I flick on the TV. I settle into a hand-me-down easy chair that smells of cat pee and mildew, congratulating myself on finally saying NO to my family and midnight mass! It’s fifteen minutes into Love Actually, fourteen minutes short of midnight when the knock comes. I hit the pause button, struck by the impossibility of the situation.

If I call out and it is a minion sent by my mother to collect me for Mass I won’t be able to pretend that I’m not home. But if I stay silent Brian won’t know that I’m home. And the front door doesn’t have one of those useful peep holes.

Finally, after a second round of thumping I go to the door. It’s not family - MacAveny’s don’t thump.
“Hello?” It’s a male voice and my heart skips a beat.
Brian - I forgive you for being a love rat!
But the voice isn’t Brian’s. I open the door a fraction and peer out.
“Rebecca MacAveny?”
“Merry Christmas.”
“Merry, ummm, Christmas to you too.”

There’s an extended period of time, which might actually be shorter than I perceive it to be, where we just stare at each other. I ponder the possibility that Brian’s sent me a Santa Stripper for Christmas. He has the red hat on his head, a silly grin on his face. Brian wouldn’t! Then I correct myself – he would!

Then I see the huge backpack at Santa’s feet.

“You got Brian’s note didn’t you?” His Irish accent registers for the first time.

Irish Santa looks down at his watch and a stream of Gallic expletives I’ve never heard fly. I catch something about daylight savings, then he finally mutters, “immaculate timing Grogan!”

“You’re not Brian, and I’m guessing you’re not Santa … or a stripper?”
He pulls the hat off his head. “Sorry.”

I’m totally confused and wonder if I’ve inhaled too many rum vapours while cooking. “I think I’m … missing something here?”
“Of course … sorry. You haven’t opened up the parcel yet. I’m Hamish Grogan.” He reaches out a massive hand and crushes mine. “Brian sent me as your Christmas present.”
“Brian sent you, to me, for Christmas?”

Hamish nods like one of those stupid knickknack with their head impaled on a spring.
“Brian paid for you to travel to Australia to have Christmas with me.”
“He said it was actually more to do with your family. And he asked it as a favour – I was coming here anyway.”
“Of course you were.” And I weep tears of relief.

“Rum ball love?” Gran and I are prone on an ancient banana lounges watching a boyish bloke being chased by an over-enthusiastic group of small children, fuelled by more sugar than their small bodies can cope with.

“They’re good,” she says offering me the plate. I know and she should ease up on them, but I don’t know how to tell her. She’ll be intoxicated if she eats any more and then I’ll be accused by Mum, Annaleise and the Aunties for conspiring to get Gran drunk.

“It’s sort of like second prize in a chook raffle - when you’re a vegetarian,” and she laughs at her own joke and pops another ball in her mouth. “And if Hamish said that Brian said he owed you, I’d consider it a debt well paid.” She passes the plate to me.

“I like him.” Of course she does – Hamish is Irish. “But tell me - what shall we call him tomorrow?”

Tomorrow? I’m struggling with today!

Hamish is standing at the esky with his trademark grin and blows me a kiss. I see Annaleise miming a vomit.
“That looked genuine.”
“The vomit or the kiss?” and I take a rum ball, pause, admire my handiwork then Hamish’s butt thrust in the air as he bends down for another beer. “I think we’ll call him Hamish tomorrow.”
“Fine idea,” agrees Gran.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Deck the Balls: Part 1

I’m not sure what’s more annoying?

Annaleise’s diatribe sounding as though she’s channelling our mother - like her, she’s not coming up for breath, or the rum balls. They’re tragic. The ones I’ve managed to fashion look more like mutant globules from outer space than Christmas delights. Annaleise drones on. I try to ignore her and extricate the sticky mess that now resembles a rampant form of leprosy.

Merry Effing Christmas!

This was why I had planned to stay in London this Christmas. I didn’t care if I celebrated alone. But Annaleise spoiled it, forcing me to use my emergency return ticket six weeks before Christmas, for her surprise wedding.

“Annaleise – your bum seems to have found its way onto the bench again.”

It’s the possibly the only thing I have in common with my mother, the objection to Annaleise randomly parking her behind on the kitchen bench. She slides off awkwardly with a pout that sits poorly on her adult lips.
“Man you’re anal!”

I attempt to scoop another teaspoon of the rum rich mixture and roll it into a ball, but the situation has deteriorated further. My hands are now tar and feathered with dough and desiccated coconut. If these things don’t look edible there will be no clandestine supply of rum for me tomorrow.

At Christmas there’s always someone counting my drinks and shooting disapprovingly looks in my direction. No one will think to tally rum balls. If there is no Brian tomorrow I’ll need hard liquor and lots of it. I won’t survive otherwise. It’s OK if the crutch is heavily spiked festive treats.

“You’re meant to wet your hands first.” The advice comes after watching me struggle with the mess for fifteen minutes.
“Are you here for any specific reason Annaleise?” I’ve forgotten if there was a pretext for her unexpected visit.
“I came to remind you about Midnight Mass.” I’m certain she came to snoop and see if Brian is actually here.

I glance over at the clock on the microwave. There’s ten minutes to think up a solid excuse for missing Midnight Mass, then evict Annaleise. An hour to feel guilty about not going; followed by approximately thirty minutes to become so absorbed in Love Actually that I don’t care that my family thinks I’ve disrespected them and deserve to burn in hell.

“I’m not going.”
“You’re expected to go.”
“I’m not a Catholic anymore.”
“What do you mean you’re not a Catholic anymore? You don’t just stop being a Catholic.”
“I’m lapsed then.”
“Lapsed – more like into weird shit!”
“You’re referring to being a pagan I take it?”
“Or you’re not going to mass because of Brian?”
“Thanks for the invite but I’ve already done my Yule worship.”

Two nights earlier I celebrated the summer solstice - alone. My badly constructed straw man burning in the tiny fire I’d illegally lit in the bush near my flat. I remember trying not to transmute the straw man into an effigy of Brian or to feel a certain delight at his fiery demise.

“I’m not talking about your weirdo gatherings. I’m talking about Christmas.”
I sigh with relief at the diversion and wonder how it’s possible we’re from the same gene pool.

I finally get my hands clean to a point where rinsing them won’t clog the sink beyond repair and re-engage with damp hands. My pagan leanings have always repelled me from Father Greg’s mind numbing sermons, but this year it’s more than that. I don’t want to answer questions best left for tomorrow. Plus there’s the mystery of Brian’s gift.

“Chris going this year?” It’s more a statement than a question. The entertainment value of my new brother-in-law, ex professional AFL player, sitting there trapped in the pious embrace of the MacAveny clan, singing off-key Christmas hymns is almost an enticement to go.
“He’s out with friends tonight.”
“So it’s true he’s not really a Catholic then?”
Annaleise snorts.
“Father Greg passed him.” I’d heard only because Dad had a quiet word with Father Greg. “Don’t go getting on your soap box. Just because he’s good with his hands and not his head!”
“Yes well that’s obvious.”

I stare across the pile of potent rum balls to Annaleise’s growing abdomen. I’ve seen enough pregnant bellies on close friends to know that what Annaleise is carrying is not a honeymoon baby, like everyone is pretending it is. She blushes for a moment and then snatches her faux Gucci handbag off the bench, brushing off the accidental dusting of cocoa powder. I pretend that I’m totally absorbed in my gastronomic sculpturing.

“I’ll see you tomorrow. You and Brian.”

I’m convinced she’s put unnecessary emphasise on ‘and Brian’. She knows my terrible secret. She can’t wait to revel in the fall out tomorrow.

I don’t look up from my little alcoholic treasures.

“Just let yourself,” and the slamming door reduces my ‘out’ to a mutter.

I should panic but that won’t make Brian materialise. Wham's Last Christmas blares through my iPod, on repeat and I struggle not to cry into the last of the rum ball mixture, wishing it was me soaked in rum.

... to be continued tomorrow

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Christmas Tale - update

And so it comes to pass that I get my first rejection letter - it seems, only because I chased it up (the cruel irony of that!) I didn't nail the romantic nail on the head(if I am to believe Paul's feedback) ... but I am hoping that it is a story that resonnants with anyone who has ever had anxieties over Christmas, not just of romantic and familial relationships, but all the other things that Christmas drags up for us. It's also a long awaited return to some humour, so I hope it brings some Christmas cheer to all that read it.

I will post the story over two days, automated for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for you all to enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Christmas Tale

It's been many months since I've felt the enthusiasm to attempt to write anything for Getting Hitched (where my short story Demon Lover is published).

As a paid gig, you think I'd spend each month trying to spawn some sort of literary master piece to woo the editor there with, but after the failed attempt in April to get my email through from Tasmania, I fell off the band wagon of trying and caring. Part of me too I guess feels that writing about relationships (although all my major works are about relationships) is somewhat a lesser art form. I'm a snob - I admit it, so time to get over myself.

The December topic over at Getting Hitched, not surprisingly, is Christmas.

Over the past few days I've been making (or help make) Christmas delights such as rum balls. So this afternoon I had a story begin to take shape in my head, that involved the MC creating rum balls and the sticky mess that congeals on your hands. Merging with this was three conversations that have been had in the space of 12 hours to do with religion and what the Christmas period means in terms of that (those I had the conversations with will probably notice their influences when the story gets published - because I'm being positive here - it will be published!) Plus the usual ups and downs of family life at Christmas time and the pressures that come from it - and the crap that comes out of it!

The voice came from old home town of Ballarat ... the whole idea of wanting to escape the confines of a big town with a small town mentality, of wanting something bigger, schmicker, better - of striking out to find what's yours and knowing it will never be accepted. Ahhhh ... I can hear the tune of my own demons being sung!

But the story needed to have a twist ... and the twist came in the present that was sent to my MC. I wont spoil it, though I will ask:

What is the strangest Christmas gift you have ever received?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Time for a change

Today on the way back from a speaking engagement at Ipswich I saw on a billboard:

"as one door closes, another opens"

Today Pluto tip toes into Capricorn, where it will spend the next 12 or so years, and the door closes on my dance with Pluto over the past 12 years, including an intense period of having a Pluto transit of my sun. It truly is the beginning of a new era, after a false start earlier on this year.

For months, well if I was being totally honest, since I began blogging and writing seriously, I have resisted the idea of carving my blog up into subject specific blogs I. To me it was buying too much into the idea that you have to market yourself aspect of yourself in a certain way to get an audience. The Ezine site and supporting newsletters goes as far to suggest that you alter your name to put to different articles on different subject matters. Goddess forbid that one person actually know quite a lot about a number of subjects – to be a well rounded, educated and informed individual. Marketing – bah!

I’ve clung to the idea that, what you see is what you get with me and here. It reflects the fact that I am many different people and pursue a number of different roles in life – I am a mother, a writer and a lover of books, I am an observer of life, a tippler in the weird, the wonderful and the fascinating, I’m a feminist who’s spiritual beliefs are firmly rooted in Goddess lore and the wisdom of The Artist’s Way - oh and a sucker for a blog meme. I write articles on menstruation, birth, sex, health/illness, mothering and probably half a dozen other subjects that don’t readily jump to mind right now..

But today - I guess I’ve finally given in to having to segment up this original blog - to fracture myself into separate blogs? Or am I giving each facet of my personality a chance to catch the line and shine? To allow like minded people to find me, to resonate with me work? Perhaps that's what drew me to the painting - first one to jump out at me when I typed in "change painting" into Google Images. Maybe it's telling me its ok to expose individual parts of me?

Sigh! Only the Universe knows.

As a consequence I'll begin stripping the personal content from this website and shifting some of it over onto the next website. Perhaps the rest just needs to be archived out of view? Anything that has shifted, I will provide links to.

Well I shall give it a go. After all that’s all really one can do. And since, for me, this is the path less trod … it’s probably time to go exploring here a little.

Where to go from here:

You can now find my personal musings at Shine A Little Light, which will also include my photography.

This blog here will remain my writing blog, for fiction, non fiction and other articles related to writing.

I also have Blue Melissae which is my (winning) NaNo 08 project which will have more chapter posted up over time.

And the Reclaim Sex After Birth website and associated blog.

Painting: Unknown Artist - but found at this wonderful Urban Butterfly blog

Saturday, November 15, 2008


_______ Shet stopped by the next NewsFeed post she came to and stood for a moment trying to get a glimpse of what was on. She didn’t want to push through to the front for a closer view, happy to hang back and see what she could. She timed it and after five minutes, without seeing her face, she set off again looking for a rickshaw. She hailed the first one to go past.

The canopy was a sophisticated solar panel that charged a battery that drove a tiny engine. On a good day some drivers didn’t need to pedal at all.

“I need you to take me to the SpacePort interchange,” said Shet climbing into the pack.
The driver looked at her strangely. He didn’t relish the idea of having to actually pedal most of the way there and back. At 2pm in the afternoon there wasn’t enough charge to get him there and back on the battery.

“Why don’t you just jump on the Solarail out there ma’am.”
“Because it’s a beautiful day and I have some money to burn. And the customer is always correct.”
“If that’s what you want ma’am, who am I to blow off a huge fare in the middle of the day.”
He began to peddle, pulling out into the deserted street heading westwards to connect with the former Western Freeway, to follow the Solarail out to the interchange.

Shet was glad that she had chosen rickshaw to get to the Interchange rather than the Solarail. The Solarail would have got her there in less than 15 minutes. At the current pace it would be at least half an hour before the rickshaw pulled into the Interchange, the driving gagging and struggling to catch his breathe.

The breeze caressed and tousled her hair. The gentle rocking motion of the rickshaw was soothing. Her mind calmed. She needed that. Her whole world had been turned upside down in the same time that it would have taken to have been wined and dined at the Polo Club … and then told that she could still not be given the job. She was used to methodically plotting her course through life. On the moon you didn’t leave things to chance. Leaving things to chance meant death. You checked your distances, you doubled checked your oxygen supply. You planned each job down to the second. You considered and brainstormed salutations to all problems. You thought about and countered potential hazards. Time wasn’t forgiving. If you screwed up, if it took longer than anticipated, if you broke down, got injured there was only so much time and so much oxygen. Then you died. And that made her feel safe, secure.

She’d never had a major incident under her command and she’d certainly never lost a man. She couldn’t say that she’d ever lost a woman … she’d never taken a woman up with her. She’d never given a woman a chance. There had been plenty to choose from, a steady stream of confident, talented and ambitious women coming through and she’d said no to everyone of them. Just what were they willing to sacrifice. Were they willing to make the sacrifices that she had made. She’d decided no, without even asking them. When it came down to it, she was cut from exactly the same fabric as Tennyson.

No job for a woman.

Yet she was confident that she could go into the Polo Club and convince him that she was capable – that she was the only one for the job. That as a woman she could do it. But was she even a woman any more? She never thought of herself in terms of being a woman. She thought of herself as Shet Harmon.

She sat there in the rickshaw, in her crumpled and sweat dampened Chanel suit and wondered who she actually was. Man or woman – or something in between that made even less sense to her. And why did everything have to be reduced down to biology. What ever happened to persona merit.

Now was not the time to get herself into a complicated philosophical debate that ultimately would provide no more answers than she had now, but would twist her mental processes up into knots, cloud her thinking. She needed to think clearly and she needed to think quickly.

She was about to gatecrash the Directorship of her sworn professional enemies. Wasn’t Langely just going to love that? If felt oh so wrong, but oh so right. It gave her a thrill unlike anything she had experience in a long time – since landing on the moon for the first time … since leading a deployment for the first time?

And not only that, she was going to demand that they choose her to go make first contact with aliens on another planet. She was going to insist on being part of a project that didn’t even exist.

Why? Why did she want this so badly, when 24 hours earlier she was chaffing to get back to the Moon, to get back to her team and the end of the project. Why was she ready to give up the accolades that were her due after two years of careful planning, of hard work, of going where no one had gone before to do a job that no one had ever done before.

And that was it. Establishing the Helium-3 mine and overseeing production was never going to make her happy. Her ambitions were currently sated but within a year she would be a manager, behind a desk, running and trouble shooting schedules, transports …

A slow lunar death. She was an adventurer. She pushed boundaries and went places that others were too timid to go.

The fact that it would piss off Tennyson – one of the most powerful, ambitious and well loved men of the Post Apocalyptic period, was just icing on the cake. She was glad that it was straight in her head. Chasing this project was about her, it wasn’t about Tennyson. Because at the end of the day, potentially marooned light years from home she had to drawn on her own individual strength and conviction, not spite for Tennyson.

How she had got herself on a course to undermine and trade blows with a man she had successfully ignored for the past decade was something she had all the time to ponder. To wonder exactly who it was he saw when he opened that door

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Love & Rockets

Fortitude Valley, Brisbane
July 2008

(This is my favourite photo of the year to date ... taken from my car window as I waited as a set of lights in the Valley. I was lucky enough to have black and white film in my camera at the time. Yes I an heathen who still shoots photographs on film)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

10 of the best

Today two things needed to be attacked - the housework and my NaNo work count. I came up with, what I hoped, would be a procrastination proof plan. My plan: 10 minutes of writing, followed by 10 minutes of cleaning. Then I would not use cleaning to procrastinate from writing and visa versa.

I do admit that I was a little curious - would I really be able to do it.

Answer? Yes. It worked a treat.

After the first hour I'd got done just short of 1000 words and I had vaccumed the floor, cleaned the toilet and organised some lunch to heat in the oven. By the end of four hours I had not just vacuumed but also dusted, got rid of a whole heap of clutter on the coffee table (read horizontal filing space!) and in the hidey hold between my desk and the bookcase, I cleared another pile off crap off the top of a tall bookcase and reorganised some ornaments on there. With the free coffee table space I put all our photos down there, and I'm working on creating a new shelf for the bookcase. I also mopped the loungroom, dining, kitchen, hallway, toilet and bathroom (did I mention we have polished wooden boards through our house!), cleared off the dining room table (more crap - I am sure that it breeds like rabbits!), changed the table cloth and got rid of the dried up cat vomit that I'd been stepping around on the way to my desk, pretending that it wasn't there.

And in amongst all of that my story Blue Melissae got VERY interesting. I had a concept that invovles two key characters. I wont disclose here else to spoil the story completely for those that are following it over at word press. At the end of my second writing spurt that concept was challenged with another by one of the characters involved. There was a moment where I thought "No way! You are not going to do that to the story!" That was not the way I conceptualised it and it had some pretty serious ramifications for the rest of the story.

But then I realised, after sitting thinking for a few minutes, that if I resisted my character's history, the direction that they wanted to take it, then I was going to come to blows with this particular characters and it's a character that I dont really want to be at loggerheads with.

So I let it go. I let this character choose the history that suits their story ... and in doing so, I've come up with the ultimate twist for the story. And you know what? It's win win. My character gets their way and so do I. It's also another of those dark moments where a character pushes your boundaries. This character is vile - really vile. And his motivations make my skin crawl - and your's too if you stick with the story until the end.

I am hoping that by tomorrow part one of the story will have been wrapped up and it will be time to jet on into out of space. And thus the next cycle of the story will begin.

I have a couple of ideas about Th-Urn's planet (which remains un-named - I shall let the the Th-Urnians name their own planet). I have a vague idea of how their city will look like, and that it is a dying planet .. but beyond that.

I remain glad that I did very little planning for this - because it makes NaNo the most amazing ride. I never know what my characters are going to do, which way the story will twist and turn. I am constantly shocked and awed by the behaviour of my characters. And while I've been challenged by Shet's lack of emotional landscape to day - I''m looking forward to her getting to the Th-Urn's planet, and for her memories to begin leaking back into her consciousness.

So at the end of Day 8 of NaNo ... I'm happy. I'm creeping towards being 2 days ahead of the NaNo projection ... and my family are happy because the house is clean. If you are struggling through NaNo ... I highly recommended 10 for 10. Take 10 minutes for writing and alternate it with 10 minutes of housework. It really does become win-win.

Note: the cat did not get the once over - like the pic. He was noticeably absent through most of the housework. Though with all the malting he's going at the moment, I should have taken to him with the vac. He might have been sucked up though - considering I finally got around to getting some new vac bags and it was like someone had put a turbo booster into my Miele!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Creative Carnival: Fugue

The year is some time in the not to distant future. My main character, Shet Harmon - a lunar geologist and engineer, has been summonsed back from an important scientific project on the Moon to meet with the Mayor of New Brisbane about the confidential project that she's been nominated for. Arriving back on Earth the meeting is cancelled, leaving Shet rather pissed off.

In this scene she is returning from a day out driving her car (cars are banned and only an elite group of people have the money to possess and run one as a hobby!) and has been goaded into a rescheduled meeting with the Mayor by his advisor after being told the Mayor refuses to have her onboard because she's a woman. Shet gets on the Solarail and is 'chatted up' by the only other guy in the carriage.

WARNING - this entry contains strong language so if you're offended by such language, best you don't continue on reading!

He half stood as if to move to sit next to her. Shet grabbed her bag and dumped it on the seat beside her, shooting him a challenging look.

“You got a boyfriend?” Shet ignored him, toying with the idea of plugging in her music. “Hey little lady, I’m talking to you. You got a boyfriend.”

Shet played with the idea of telling him she had a girlfriend, but guessed it would just incite him further. “Actually I am a long way from home. I’m normally based on the moon.” At short notice it was the best diversion she had. She’d never been one to have those snapping comments that put people right back in their place.
“Yeah right little lady. Sure you work on the moon.”

He adjusted his crotch with little regard for decency and then spread his legs wide – resting his elbows on his thighs, planting his chin on his hands and staring at her.
“Didn’t your Mum tell you it was rude to stare?” Shet felt it start to build inside her and tried to fight it, to deep breathe it away.

He kept his eyes fixed on her, trying to zero in on her cleavage even though she had a tattered hoodie on. She kept breathing and avoided looking at him.
“I’m not talking about my Mumma little lady. You wanna talk about your Mumma?”
Inside something snapped.
“You know fuckwitt. I’d drop you in an instant if I wanted to. And you are really pissing me off.”
“Yeah right little lady. You look about as dangerous as a fly.”

She looked away, as panic raced through her eyes. She’d have to get off at the next stop and walk back to her apartment. If she hurried she’d make it back before curfew and without arousing the suspicions of the Night Watchmen. The blood began to pound in her ears. Her vision narrowed and she became more acutely aware of the fetid body odour of the pervert across from her and the rich smell of oil. Looking around the carriage she saw that it was just the two of them. There were closed circuit cameras recording every inch of the carriage, on a direct feed back to a control room in the BIP. The TransitCounter had logged the two of them getting on, the time, the location and their citizen number. It placed her on the train.

She groped with one hand for the strap of her bag as an automated voice announced the next station.

They were back in the city limits.

“You don’t have a boyfriend do you little lady. You’re wound up tight – need a good fuck that’s what your problem is?” Shet kept breathing, the blood was thundering in her ears now, her muscles tense with anticipation.

“It’s that damn chip in your brain. All you damn women and that chip.” Her pupils narrowed and there was a sour, dry taste in her mouth. She willed him to shut up. To just shut the fuck up - for his own sake.

The automated voice announced their arrival and the doors opened. Shet never understood why they always automatically opened but this once was relieved to see them slide open of their own free will. Grabbing her bag tight to her chest and launching herself from the seat in one fluid movement, she ran past the sexual prowler who mistimed his lurch, fingers brushing her arm as she flew past him and out on onto the platform. She prayed that he was sensible, that he stayed on the train, but she heard with shocking clarity the footfall of his heavy boots on the concrete behind her. The platforms were all unmanned and unlit beyond 10 metres. She looked up at the camera and saw as she ran past that the light on the camera was red. It was inactive.

The sound of blood forcing itself through her ears drowned out anything else, and she ran, out into the darkness, taking the stairs from the platform three at a time down onto the parkway. Her assailant was faster than she’d given him credit for. But she hadn’t actually sized him up. Racing out onto the parkway she jettisoned her bag, needing both her hands. Any sense of logic had gone, overwhelmed by the black haze.

Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she tried to put some distance between them. She saw a pole ahead, heard the crack of the advertising banner as the wind caught the material. She took the risk of slowing enough to gauge his distance behind her, and changed her course ever so slightly, her muscles obeying with power and agility. As the pole approached she jumped out to grab it, feeling her arms snap as they took up the momentum and she swung her legs around, bracing with her abdominals and pulled the pole close into her chest to maximise the power of the impact.

Her legs whipped around, horizontal to the ground and her feet crashed into his chest, propelling him backwards. Shet let go of the pole and they moved together through the air, Shet landing crouched over him. Before he could move, register what had just happened, she clenched her fist and jabbed it into his throat, hearing the satisfying crunch of her knuckles crushing his wind pipe. His eyes wide open in disbelief locked into hers and she held them as his body twitched, then went limp. She felt numb … empty ... automatic.

With calculated precision, Shet pulled down the sleeve of her shirt, the one she hadn’t used to soak up the sweat and checked for a pulse. Then she stood, tracked back to where she had thrown her bag, using her hands in the darkness to check the contents of her bag, and then on hands and knees making a quick visual check of the area to ensure nothing that could identify her had fallen out. She stood, surveyed the immediate area, and satisfied that she was still alone, she did some slow stretches to help her muscles cool and her breathing to return to normal. Everything was silent, the rush of blood gone. A night bird twittered nearby. She pulled the backpack over her shoulders and turned the station without a second glance backwards at the dark shape lying on the path behind.

Later, lounging on her king sized bed naked, her wet hair wrapped in a towel, Shet sipped chamomile tea as her computer booted up. With ease she hacked into the Solarail security stream, located the portion of vision she was looking for and deleted it, set up an alternate string of data to make it look like a camera malfunction, checked the vision from the station and any other cameras in the nearby area then cleaned up her own hacking trail.

_____ The NewsFeed screen flashed up the perpetual string of visual and sound bites that constituted news as Shet chewed on a piece of toast, a note pad covered in scribbled ideas pushed to one side. The meeting with the Mayor was in less than two hours.

She amped up the sound with a voice command when she saw a news item about a body found on a residential parkway on the city limits. There was a visual of a lump, covered in a white sheet with words streamed across the bottom - Violent death of a male linked to other parkway deaths? The Commissioner of The Night Watchmen’s voice was overlaid making a statement to deny that this attack was linked to the spate of violent deaths of women in the area followed by the Chief Executive Officer of Solarail commenting that the security system was not working at the time. A viewer commented via text transfer that maybe he was the perp of the other crimes and he’d obviously got what was coming to him. She certainly hoped so.

Shet couldn't remember New Brisbane being such a violent place the last time she was back from the Moon. She was glad that she knew some martial arts to keep herself safe, but she'd be glad to be back on the moon.

Reaching for the second piece of toast, Shet took huge bite out of one corner and stared at the screen. It was happening again. It was as though she was meant to remember something, know something ... a niggling sense in the back of her consciousness, the feeling of something on the tip of her tongue. When nothing came to her, she shrugged her shoulders, took another bite of her toast and glanced down at the points she’d made on the notepad in preparation for the meeting.

KEEP CALM … DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER! .... even if you think the guy is a fuckwitt and you didn't vote for him.

[Fiction] Friday: Dreams

Dreams actually constitute a really important part of my NaNo story, tentitively named "Blue Melissae", as this is how my MC has her memories restored to her after 12 years. This is the first exploration of that realm.

This installment (which is chapters and chapters ahead of what I am currently writing) finds my MC Shet Harmon on the Planet of the Th-Urn in conversation with her guide Ka-Ru, a young Th-Urnian 'male'. You can read more installments of Blue Melissae here.

“It’s not so much a dream,” she said, “because it’s just voices. I don't actually 'see' anything.And it doesn’t make any sense, if dreams are meant to make sense.”
"Dreams are often symbolic rather than logical."

Shet rolled onto her side and stared deeply into his dark eyes. His eyes willed her to reveal more, but years of silence caught her.
“Why do you not want to talk about them?” he asked, wanting to reach out and touch her, even though he was aware it was inappropriate. He wasn’t even sure what made him want to do that.
“There’s no one to talk to about it for one.” She rolled away, lying on her back and staring up at the stone ceiling, the tiny lights twinkling, in perpetual chemical stasis enabling them to burn indefinitely. The balance meant that one did not consume the other. “And well it would throw out my balance. It’s best for me to pretend that they just don’t occur.”

But it was getting harder to ignore them. When she said it was only voices that was only partly true. On earth they had only ever been voices and occasionally the dream with the Jacaranda tree, waking as though she was being choked, but here the dreams were morphing and taking a life on their own. The voices were merging with music, and there were flashes of images.

She remembered reading about poker machines. One armed bandits they were called before they became electronic, where the punter had to actually pull the arm to set the barrels spinning. Something about being here had sent off something in her, something pulling an arm in her subconscious and she knew sooner or later that all the symbols were going to line up for the jackpot. But something about the moment terrified her. Her subconscious was trying to line everything up for her, every night was another attempt. When it poured forth, like the cascade of coins from the pokie machine she guessed that she would be trying to flee rather that to thrust her hands beneath to catch and scoop it all up.

“This need of yours to – hold on. It is not healthy, no?”

Shet wasn’t sure how long she’d been quiet for, lost in her own thoughts. Ka-Ru was lying beside her, staring at her.
“I said that I don’t have anyone to talk to. It’s healthy for me to keep it to myself. There is a lot I don’t understand and at the moment it’s all really confusing. Being here - has upset the balance.”

“Tell me about the dream Shet.”

His words had a lyrical hypnotic ring, that lulled her long enough to feel comfortable in sharing something.
“The voice, it says that I’m not good enough. It says that Dad left because of me. That it’s my entire fault. And it’s like I’m in a cave, the words echoing but rather than getting softer they get louder, until I can hear nothing and it’s just a chaos of words screamed at me.”

Shet rolled back to see Ka-ru’s face impassive. The Th-Urnian’s lack of facial expression continued to make her feel uncomfortable.
“How is this strange?”
“I have no idea who my Dad was. I was in an accident when I was 17 and I have no memories prior to that.”
“This is something that upsets you.”
“Why should it upset me?”
“I get a sense of it.”
“I’m not upset.”
“You keep your emotions locked away as well.”

Shet got up off the floor. She wasn’t going to have this conversation and she certainly wasn’t going to have it with Ka-Ru. Her emotions, or lack of them were her own business.
“I have a report to write and a broadcast to be sent back to Earth. You’ll have to leave - now!”

Ka-Ru got a sense that he’d pushed too far. He pulled his legs to his chest and then rolled onto the balls of his feet, standing in one graceful movement.
“I apologise if I have upset you Shet,” he said, turning off the translator, bowing shallowly and leaving her room.

Shet didn’t understand why Ka-Ru always managed to zero in on the confusing and uncomfortable parts within her and make a b-line for them. In the morning she’d ask for another guide to be assigned to her.

______ Ka-Ru arrived back in the Empress’s chamber and prostrated himself at her furry feet.
“What of the dreams Ka-Ru?”
“She says they are just voices in her head and denies any emotional connection. They make little sense to her.” He sat back on his feet looking into her deeply furrowed face.
“She is lying. Was there a change in her energy waves? In pheremones. The Old Ones were certain.”
Ka-Ru shook his head.
“Try again.”
“She does not trust me Mother.”
“Make her trust you.”
“Your will Mother.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Mumma Milkshake

My Soul Sister and Goddess Daughter
Wynnum - August - 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quote for the Day: Anais Nin

And the day came when the risk [it took] to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Photograph: (c) Linda Willets 2004

Day 5 of NaNo

It's getting a bit predictable these posts ... welcome to November!

It has been an interesting few days for me. More health challenges as my gums heal and my body struggles to deal with the change in diet. Last night I had a stomach upset which just felt like salt in the wounds (actually salt in the wounds is the two hourly mouth rinses with warm salt water and a syringe) I have been feeling more like myself, though I'm still battling to have the same energy levels as I've had in the past. It obviously doesn't help that I'm in the dark moon phase of my own cycles and therefore my body is slowing down and beginning to turn inwards from some introspection. It will be interesting to see what this medical adventure will do to my experience of bleeding this month.

While I've stuggled with my body, I've been struggling with my head also. The clarity and the ease of writing have been anything but. It's been frustrating and disheartening, and it hasn't ben the best way to launch into NaNo for 2008. However I'm relieved that the flow is beginning and the labour of words (finding the right bloody word) is returning. Phew! I'm feeling that this is a 'will do' project - though I have to admit to having not quite fallen in love with my story yet.

I currently have just short of 10,000 for NaNo. I'm keeping up with the pace, despite all that's been going on. Yesterday was a slow day - it wasn't just the day with a race that stops the nation (The Melbourne Cup for those international visitors) but the day that stopped the writing. Thankfully I knew that I was already a head of the game so I didn't worry too much, nor beat myself up for not having made the word target.

This morning I was awake at 6:00am which was cruel considering I'd been up to midnight with stomach pains. I had a shower, got dressed, procrastinated for a good half hour chatting to Paul via MSN and then got stuck into it. Dale, the Tuesday columnist at Write Anything gave some really good advice yesterday ...

Do not count words while you write (I don’t use exclamation points often, but…)! I can’t stress this enough. Writing is difficult enough on its own without letting your unconscious get bogged down with the extra baggage of NaNo. Just write. When you hit a block or run out of time and have to stop, then count. If you’re short of your daily goal, you can pick it up again later.

That's exactly what I did and somehow the words just flowed out. I was hoping to have wrapped up the setting for the story in the first 10,000 words but it seems it will drag a little bit further. There are at least two more scenes that need to be played out first between Shet and Kyle first, then Shet and the two other consortium directors. But it will set it up with the same scenario as I always envisaged ... Shet going off into out space with a thing against Kyle - only in this version (as opposed to the test short stories I did leading up to NaNo) she has no idea who he really is.

I've reposted the Prologue of Blue Melissae here now that I've sorted out the proper order. And I will continue to post 1000 word-ish entries as I go for the rest of the month. So if you have the time or the inclination, please stop by for a read and post a comment.

Photograph: Istockphoto

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Day 2 of NaNo

I felt a little better today than I did yesterday. The swelling has gone on the left hand side of my face and as of this evening, the right hand side is on its way down. I rested lots today and as a consquence missed out on a BBQ next door, but that meant the house was quiet and I could get some sleep!

I didn't get a chance to mention yesterday the awesome cream of chicken soup that Dave made for me - which was finished off tonight. I didn't realise how much I would miss meat and how grateful I would be that someone else would cook for me. Sadly I missed out on Moroccan lamb and a hot chickpea salad for dinner. Rather than torture myself, I took Dylan off to bed and read Monsters Inc instead.

I've cancelled the Women's Wisdom Circle for tomorrow because for once in my life I'm being sensible. If tomorrow goes like the last couple of days - I don't start to feel like I am capable of any other than sleep until about 3pm in the afternoon. While I'm slowly feeling my energy and my resilence building, I don't want to destroy it by pushing myself. What I find most amusing about all of this - is that the site of the tooth extraction is honestly the least of my worries - they are both healing well and offering up little pain.

As long as I manage to keep pace with my NaNo word total (currently standing at 4066 words) and keep healing .. that's all I'm really worried about.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November is here

Well it has arrived. Just like the sun comes up in the morning, and the moon rises in the evening, after October comes November.

The last few days have been challenging from me - since having my wisdom teeth removed. I struggled both on Thursday and Friday to be able to sleep and then last night, against probably my better judgement, I went out to a Halloween Party. Granted we left early (9:30pm). Today it has been like hitting a wall. I did finally catch up on some sleep, but have felt and been physically shakey all day. Thankfully Dave is cooking me some cream of chicken soup for dinner tonight. The body can only go so far on custard, jelly, yoghurt and scrambled eggs. While I may not know my limits, my body definitely does.

My face has swollen more than it has done since I had it done - I've got a fantastically assymetrical face from one side being more swollen than the other. My jaw is hurting from being clasped while writing and well being a little stressed out from the surgery.

In amongst all that wisdom teeth merde - yes NaNo has started. I decided I'd travel along with main character Shet on her journey from Earth to outerspace, and from no memories to the reclaimation of her memories. The project has been tentatively named "Blue Melissae" but we'll see what happens with it. After month of struggling to try and understand and create an alternate version of Brisbane - sat down this afternoon and there it was. I've been reading Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" and I think that's helped me to see a way in which to conceptualise a world, just a little removed from our own.

I've already killed off one character - Dr Pietersen of Paul's "Salvage the good times" podcasts (I did get permission to use Dr Pietersen- however I never intended to kill him off - that was a complete accident and totally unexpected - don't know what Paul will think about that!)

I wont be publishing all of my NaNo project here. However, if you are interested, you can find the whole blow by blow (including the ??? in places where I'm not quite sure what to say!) at Blue Melissae. I'd love to have you all along for the ride - especially this time around with me playing in a totally foreign genre.

Happy November, Happy NaNo .. and may the good times roll!

Cartoon from Toothpaste for Dinner

Friday, October 31, 2008

From the mouth of babes:transformers vs Mr D

Mr D often comes out with classic comments and observations, but since I’ve developed in the past, a sense of apathy towards blogging (which I can say, thankfully, has changed) I miss sharing them with anyone. Truth be known, my memory is so bad, that I’ve often forgotten the exact string of words by dinner time. And you’ll agree with me, unless you remember the whole thing, it becomes like a joke with a forgotten punch line … conserve the oxygen!

Tuesday is DVD day for us. We go down in the afternoon and collect up our supply of DVDs for the week (they’re $2 on Tuesdays). Dylan cottoned on at an early age about movie and program classifications (another one of the light bulb moments where he made sense of it all) meaning we’ve avoided the worst of the nagging and explanations about why things are not appropriate to watch, and potential meltdowns that come from all that stuff.

If he wants something that is rated PG (Parental Guidance Recommended) he’ll come to me and we’ll negotiate it. The cartoons of The Ninja Turtles and Transformers are both rated PG, and as a consequence we’ve been able to stop him from watching them – holding him off with the ‘when your older’ or “I don’t want to watch this with you” (which is not a lie!) We have another trouble moderating his obsession with guns without introducing more of it.

So Tuesday, I was cruising for my weekly movie, when I heard his voice coming from the front counter.

“Excuse me,” this little-big voice says. “Why have you put G on Transformers. It’s got guns and violence in it and my Mum and I can’t watch it?” He knows what ‘G’ means and he knows that it’s never on Transformers.

I had to go and interpret for the video store manager, who looked a little perplexed and taken aback but the tongue lashing my four year old had just served him.

First I had to explain to Mr D, that the man behind the counter didn’t choose what ratings went on the DVDs – the manager explained that it’s the Board of Classification that did that. But that didn’t solve Mr D’s dilemma about Transformers being rated G. The best the manager could come up with was that it was ‘just a cartoon’ … like that was going to wash with Mr D. He frogmarched me off to show me the offending DVD, which was a spin off from the original Transformers, which obviously has less violence and I struggled to try and explain it all to the manager who watched on rather amused – or was it bemused?

What I loved about this episode was that a) Mr D discovered the anomaly, b) decided to do something about it and c) did something about it all by himself. He didn’t talk to me about it – he took it up with the person who he saw was responsible for the indiscretion.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sans Deux

As I write this I am recovering from surgery - that was about eight hours ago. My tongue, bottom lip and chin are still numb, but thankfully there is no pain at the site of the extractions (sounds so awfully clinical doesn't it?)

I've decided to go with limited pain relief. Because I am allergic to codeine, I'm taking of all bloody things - Naprogesic, which for those who aren't in the know, is marketed specifically for period pain and associated malaise. So I've given myself the goal of four tablets in the next 24 hours and that's it. The surgeon informed me that limited use of pain medication in the beginning actually meant that you used less in the long term, than holding off until the pain was unbearable!

I'm taking regular doses of arnica for the swelling and the bruising, and have been told that the swelling will peak in about two days time. The surgeon (the ever so lovely Dr Walker - and who EVER heard me say a nice thing about a doctor AND a surgeon!) also told me that there are people who get almost no swelling - I'm angling to be in that subsection of the population. As additional support - regular doses of collodial silica to aid with the healing (and perhaps save my hair and skin from the worst effects of the general anaesthetic) and also olive leaf extact to ward off the potential for any infections.

Dr Walker was incredibly supportive of my non use of pain medication antibiotics - giving me all the information that I needed to make informed decisions about their use and what signs to watch for that would indicate infection. I'm hoping to be looking bloody wonderful next Friday when I go back to him and give him the run down on all the natural remedies I've been using.

And no ... I'm not including a lovely photo of myself post op. You can use your own imaginations. I will however say that Annie should watch out should she ever need to be picked up from an operation ... the first thing she did was make me laugh, which is a weird and almost wrong facial function when you are totally numb. At least it made me feel better.

There's also movement (only in my head at the moment) towards one particular project, but I will hold off until the 1st to unveil it ... and I'm definitely, almost, positively sure that I will blog each day's work. I'm feeling as though I need the support of comments and feedback from folk to help me over the line this year in a totally foreign genre.

The Fantastical/Fanatical Dawkins

Paul’s latest blog post F-I-C-T-I-O-N is a reflection on Richard Dawkin’s latest attack. He writes: “If Dawkins wishes to examine whether bringing up children to believe in a religious explanation for the world affects their ability to think rationally about science is one thing, but the Telegraph reports that he wants to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards". Underlying that is the belief that when parents read fiction to their children, they are expecting them to believe these tales as unquestionable truth.”

Mr D is four years old and as an avid fan of Doctor Who he is fascinated by time travel, by sonic screwdrivers, aliens, monsters and The Tardis. At the end of the day though, he knows that it’s make believe. How so – well, we told him. That hasn’t stopped him enjoying watching Dr Who, nor has it quelled his passion for running around playing with anything that has a blinking light zapping, pretending he’s got his very own sonic screw driver. And it’s spawned a healthy curiosity for science, particularly in the manner in which the world functions.

Would Dawkins approve of the fantastical Dr Who?

I have no idea – I don’t profess to know the man’s mind nor want to. Past experience has left me wanting to throw something heavy and blunt in his direction (and I’m not even vaguely religious!)

What gets up my nose most about Dawkins, and this is a similar argument I have had with my partner (who did his Masters Degree in Environmental Geochemistry) in the past, is that science is just another belief systems. Granted it is an ever evolving and questioned set of beliefs, and yes they are beliefs based in shifting sands of empirical evidence, but to me they are just beliefs, at best good theories in motion.

If you take medicine for instance, read text from any reputable anthropologist and they will posit that medicine, which likes to raise itself up on a rather high pedestal, is just a set of beliefs – some will go as far as saying that surgeons are culturally created, as much as they are educated and trained. I’ll go as far as saying that medical science has set itself up as the new religion and doctors as the new Gods (it’s pretty obvious my general loathing of the medical profession). How else could people have blind, unquestioning belief in the science of medicine? (And blind, unquestioning acceptance of science to me is just as great a sin as the same with religion!)

You only have to look at the centuries old battle between doctors/obstetricians and midwives. What brings the two to clash – their belief systems. They both want as many mothers and babies to live as possible – but the values and beliefs they overlay, mean they often feel differently about how to reach that outcome – all based on their belief system. Obstetricians are trained to do – midwives are trained to watch, to ‘be’. In maternity care there are so many procedures and interventions routinely used in hospitals despite research that cautions against their routine use - interventions that bring little benefit or no benefit and at the worst end of the scale, down right dangerous. Yet best practise is jettisoned because the way things are done have become habits, and beliefs have sprung up to support and perpetuate those habits. And there is more than one obstetrician who specialises in IVF and Caesarean sections who has referred to themselves as “God” because now they can not just cut the babies free, but they can make and implant embryos.

As an evolutionary scientist – Dawkins should be deeply disturbed and questioning the manner in which a growing proportion of the next generation are bypassing the experience of a natural birth and what this will mean for us as a species in the short, medium and long term.

Rather than be concerned if fairy tales are destroying or hampering the next generations ability to be rational and logical – how about we spend time nurturing and equipping them with the ability to think creatively and critically, empower them to have confidence and belief in decision making. That’s the most important aspect of rational thought for me.

Last year a friend of mine, who is a psychologist, came to stay with us. From a very early age I’ve fostered in Mr D aptitude for decision making. It starts simply – offering two t-shirts and allowing him to choose which one he would like to wear, getting him to set the table and making choices about who sits where. She looked sternly at me and told me point blank “Don’t give him choices. Just tell him what to do!” Why?

I’m not sure how much decision making opportunities we got as kids, but I don’t want Mr D to grow up like me - with no confidence in decision making. I don’t want him so caught up in the emotive aspects of the consequences of a decision that he’s unable to make good judgements based on the available evidence, a certain degree of detachment and a rational weighing up of the consequences – paralysed into inaction, or recklessly just deciding, regardless.

Obviously at four, Mr D isn’t faced with lots of earth shattering, life altering decisions, in the greater scheme of things, but I realised after a conversation we had yesterday that he has a definite ability to think rationally and logically about the things that do change in his life – especially the ones beyond his control. He will be having a second year at kindy next year and as his parents, we’ve been very cautious about the way we’ve gone about discussing this with him. On Friday we found out that he’s been accepted back for a second year and while we were ecstatic, the excitement and relief of the news was lost on Mr D. So we left it.

Yesterday he said to me: “I’m not old enough to go to school yet, you need to be five to go to school and I’m only four. I’m going to kindy next year and there’ll be new friends there.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. This came solely from his processing of the latest change in his life - with zero input from either his Dad or I, his Poppy who stayed over the weekend or his teacher. It’s come from observation and processing, to come to a logical conclusion. I hope he never loses this.

Rather than be worried about reading fantastical stories. I’m certain that there are many more things that Dawkins should be concerned with – such as including science education at all levels of schooling, as well as the fostering and encouraging creative and independent thought.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NaNoWriMo Dilemma

Last year I invested time and energy into convincing myself that I couldn’t possibly do NaNo. I’m sure that I can look back on my morning pages and give you direct quotes and the rather persuasive arguments that I ran with. But sense prevailed. With it being a last minute decision to participate and without a concrete story, I sat six days out from NaNo contemplating a character. That’s all I had – one character and something of a trajectory for that character. I guess at least I had that … there are other writers in more creatively challenged positions, poised on the brink of NaNo.

This year, I’ve had all year to invest time, energy, effort and vision into my NaNo preparation and participation. I began developing my story back in January (if you’re a regular, loyal reader you’ll remember back to the Adam and Eve short stories) … but I kept coming up against walls in extending the stories into a NaNo project. Walls that remained stubbornly in place, I’ll add, even after I’d done a World Building course and been given vital encouragement from Sonny Whitelaw that not only could I write Sci-Fi, and I write it well. My writing group encouraged me, told me that it was a worthy story, that they wanted to read more. What more would a writer need?

For me it wasn’t enough … the momentum slowed and then finally stalled, to be replaced by Shet’s story (aka my little blue men story) which appeared about six weeks ago. And I was off and running again. You’d think I was sorted. But no!

Since chatting at the Brisbane Kick Off Party on the weekend, my Adam and Eve story has come back stronger and clearer than ever. I don’t need to build a world for this project … the story itself will build the world, how could I possibly know what the world will be if I haven’t had a chance to creatively explore, follow the story and the impact of this technological change on society. That was what was creating the block – rather than creating a block by forcing a character to do something they didn’t want to do, I was trying to force the setting. So I’m unblocked, excited, but perplexed.

Which story do I go for?

And then there is the consideration that regardless of what project I take on for the NaNo rollercoaster ride, half way through it will be the wrong project. What a bloody awful place to be in as a writer. The damn grey ox strikes again!

I could …

… flip a coin, roll a dice, pick a story from the hat - leave it to chance

… run a poll for all my non existent readers (I could just see it – a draw between Annie and Paul’s as they vote for different stories)

… or even worse, just surrender, sit down on the first day of NaNo and write. Let the story decide for itself what it will be. I’ve done this with characters before … after weeks of careful and profound daydreaming/contemplation, alternating between two differing versions of the character, just allowed the character to walk on the page and expose themselves (in the nicest possible way of course!)

I’d be game to try – after all I love the potential of both stories – but I’m not sure that I can trust my judgement or what might walk onto the page Saturday, given I’m having my wisdom teeth removed on Thursday (yes that’s tomorrow!) and I have no idea if I’ll need pain relief and what that might do to my creative processes.

I’ve got some scheduled posts for the next couple of days, to tide me through the worst of the post op haze … so I will keep to my ‘post a day’ promise, even if I won’t technically be writing them one a day. And I guess I’ll be back on Saturday to let you know what I decided … or what the story decided … and if there will be a blog dedicated to it!

Wordless Wednesday: Seeking

Cape Byron Light House.

Bay, NSW, Australia

(taken during the Byron Bay Writers Festival in July 2008)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On the dark dark moon

It's a dark moon energy, loitering about in Scorpio. For some reason the Scorpio vibe never gels well with me. It's a time when I sleep badly (especially when its a full moon) and seems to heighten my sensitivity to lots of things. I feel on edge, as if I can hear things that aren't there, and see things from the corner of my eye that don't exist.

While I haven't yet smudged the parts of the house that I want/need to (including my writing space) - I'm hoping I'll be up early enough to warrant setting my white sage alight and wafting it through the house, accompanied by a few well chosen words. I often wonder if the neighbours look at each other in bewilderment as to what I could possibly be smoking - as I normally smudge the house when Mr D's gone to kindy. Sadly no funny ciggies here - just bunches of cleansing sage.

Today, after the box having literally sat in the lounge room all year, I gathered up a collection of birthday presents and sent them. No I didn't sew the Red Riding Hood cape that was to go with it, nor the dinosaur tail. I thought all year was long enough to get motivated to do it - and seeings I haven't it was time for the presents, and the box that has literally been gathering dust to go. I also looked in the other box that's been sitting on the coffee table. It's got the odds and ends in it from the last make over of my creative space. It now has my unfinished curtains in there, the fairy lights and other bits and pieces that never made it back onto my desk. I think I'm resolved to hanging the curtains unhemmed and living with it. I always planned on sewing little silver bells to the bottom ... though Mr D will probably have grown up and left home (if the current rate of progress is anything to go by!) before that ever happens.

As NaNo begins on Saturday, my writing space could have a make over - not necessarily a functional one (ie. clean up all the stuff that hasn't quite been organised yet) but a beautifying one ... treat myself to the curtains - so the afternoon sun doesn't fry me, and put up the fairy lights, however impractial and ecologically nasty - it will remind me that there is something magical and special about writing!

And the desk and the present weren't the only parts of the house to get the treatment. I went through the fridge and felt embarrassed about all the biology experiments happening on various shelves and the composting project that appeared to be conducting itself in the vegie crisper. All clean and tidy now ... and Phil's back from Canada, so I started but didn't have to finished the dishes. Ahhh ....

And now I'm sitting here amusing myself, to be honest, distracting myself, while I wait for sleep to descend on me. I realise now that watching The Happenings, with this particular lunar energy, was probably not a terribly smart move. Even now I feel spooked, as I chant over and over again, it's just make believe, it's just make believe. But it got me thinking about time wasting and the plethora of distractions modern society has. What are we all escaping from. I'm OK with saying tonight that I'm escaping dark and scarey thoughts evoked from the movie ... but what are others out there distracting themselves from.

In the The Artist Way one of the exercises is to go on a reading drought - that is you aren't allowed to read ANYTHING (remembering of course that the book was published before the internet explosion). Cameron says that people medicate themselves with words ... and that's probably a very apt, and rather uncomfortable evaluation of the internet.

Tomorrow's a new day (actually it's today given that we've just clicked over midnight) ... and a new moon. What a lovely energy to begin NaNo with - but more on that soon.

I have no idea who to attribute this eerily photograph - however it was found at Iris39