Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Travel Series: NEW ZEALAND

It's been a heck of a long time since I posted my last (and only) travel story entry (part of my Globetrotter blogging series begun in 2011). But this year I've vowed to post at least once a month, so here's my first attempt at picking up that old and dusty thread! In my first post in this series, I talked about my trip across Australia with my father and uncle back in 1998. This trip was actually the start of a months-long world trip my Dad and I went on. The second leg of the journey took us to New Zealand, and that's what this blog post will be about.

I've been to New Zealand a fair few times prior to and since 1998 (both my parents are from there). In 1998, we flew from Sydney (where we'd spent a bit of time with my dad's sister and her family) to Wellington. My Grandad collected us at the airport, having borrowed his girlfriend's car for the purpose, and drove us back to Paraparaumu ----------->
We spent a few weeks in Paraparaumu and surrounding areas, hanging with family. My Kiwi family is pretty darn interesting, and I could write about them for daaaays on end. Don't worry, I won't! After a lovely relaxing visit with the family, it was time to move on. We headed off (with Grandad in tow!) to explore the North Island on the way up to Auckland.

Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, I don't know which one we're looking at here (possibly both?).

One of the first places we stopped was the Tongariro National Park, part of which is pictured above. Dad and Grandad climbed one of the mountains, leaving seventeen-year-old me to fend for myself on solid ground. I was thrilled to have time to myself, and drove around listening to my alt. rock/grunge mix tapes. I also had really bad food for dinner (chippies and cookies) and it was awesome.

Seventeen-year-old me, at or near them mountains.
This is my Dad's photo! (he is very very very clever!)

The next morning Dad and Grandad came back down the mountain, and I snapped this shot of them just before they collapsed to the ground in exhaustion:

Next, we ventured to other places, such as Lake Taupo, where we swam in a river with natural hot springs (there is a cool pic of us in the river that Dad took, but I haven't scanned that slide yet). We also went to Rotorua, which smelled strongly of sulphur (understandable, what with the mud pools there):

Finally we reached Auckland, and I'm sure I have photos from there somewhere but I haven't scanned all my pics yet. To close this post, here is a picture of me, Grandad and Dad at McDonald's (and I believe this was the place where Grandad had met up with some of his friends from his motorcycle group whose motto was: "Grow old disgracefully."

Another of Dad's photos.

And for today, that's all there is! Tune in next month for another travel story.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sunday Session #4

It's Sunday, which means it's time for me to share with you guys the songs I've been listening to most over the last week. This week it's a tie again, but only between two songs. Well, really there are three, but one of them was featured in last week's session ("Shooting Shark"), so I'll just feature the remaining two:

These songs are from two of my favourite bands, Catherine Wheel and Alice in Chains. I discovered Catherine Wheel by accident one day when I was looking for a song by the Chicago band Catherine. Instead I downloaded Catherine Wheel's "Black Metallic", which remains one of my favourite songs today. From there, I acquired more of CW's stuff and they have currently reached #7 on my list of overall favourite bands (according to Last.fm).

As for Alice in Chains, well I discovered them after the Australian band Silverchair hosted the music show Rage one night, and played a selection of video clips from their favourite artists (Alice in Chains being one). The song "It Ain't Like That" is one I overlooked for years (since it's on an AIC album I also overlooked for years, Facelift), but in recent years has become one of my favourites. Alice in Chains are listed as #9 on my overall favourites list.

And that's it for another Sunday Session! I hope everyone's having a great weekend! Mine is almost over, and I have to brave the public tomorrow with my black eye and mildly swollen forehead region. Thankfully the sutures come out on Friday!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Permission to slack...and eBooks I have to read this year...!

Some people may recall that last year I had an operation to remove a (benign) skin cancer from my forehead. I wrote about it here. Anyway, I have to have another one removed...today! As a result, I'm going to have big black sutures and a swollen forehead for the next week. It gets more manageable later on in the week, but the first twenty four hours tend to require me to stay indoors with some gauze within easy reach to mop up spilled blood. I may feel a tickling on my forehead that happens to be a drop of blood dribbling downward. Also, last time I had to get my mum over to wash dried globules of blood out of my hair. This time, the incision shouldn't be quite so large, and I may be able to handle washing my own hair. But the whole point of all of this is...for the coming week, I'm giving myself permission to skip some of my "weekly tasks". Basically I'm skipping the physical ones, like walking on the beach and then swimming (boo), and also my yoga class (double boo). But really, I don't want to be resting my sutured forehead on a yoga mat! And I'm not allowed to get the sutures wet.

Another thing I wanted to mention was that one of my goals this year is to read a bunch of eBooks I've been collecting over the last year or so. I have to admit I'm not a huge eBook fan, but when you win a free one, or when you had to buy it in eBook format because it's not available in any other format, you're going to read the thing! The books I have on my TBR "eShelf" right now are:

That's a lotta eBook readin' for one like me. haha. But because I've made it a goal this year, it will happen.

Do you prefer eBooks or the real deal? (sorry, that's just how I think of print books...as "real")

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Awards, round #1

This is what happens when you are a slacker like me. You get an award, and months pass. You get another award, and maybe another month passes. Then there's a sudden rash of awards going around (probably not the nicest way to put it! My excuse is it's gross and hot today and the weather is affecting my brain!) and you get more awards. And then you have to do this single post because it's just getting a little bit silly collecting awards.

Except I'm not going to do them in a single post anymore, because there is one award I want to wait to post about - simply because it would be much easier for me if my top commenters widget was working!! (I've tried three different ones today, and none of them work...what's up with that?) So I'm going to talk about the some of the awards today, and the rest at a later date (hopefully not months and months from now!).

In recent times, I got these awards:

The Thumbs Up from Skunk award, from Brooke R. Busse

What it's about: It's named 'The thumbs up from Skunk award' since "we all feel like stinky, stinky skunks some days" and there are people who "make us feel (and smell) a lot better".

What I have to do: Name one thing that you love about yourself, then pass on the award to as many bloggers as you want to! One thing I love about myself is that I'm creative in so many different areas!

Who I'm passing it onto:
  1. Laura @ Daily Dodo
  2. Jenni Merritt
  3. Ruthie @ Live, Love, Laugh, Write
  4. Lara Schiffbauer
  5. Danette Baltzer

The Versatile Blogger & Irresistibly Sweet awards from Tanya Reimer

What they're about: Well, obviously they're about gorging yourself on pavlova and sitting on grass so green I know for sure it can't be Australian grass...right?

What I have to do: I have to share 7 things about myself...and while I've done this before, I figured it's been so long I may as well do it again:
  1. I detest the hottest of summer days, but love going to the beach when the sun's nearly down
  2. For some reason, people are surprised by the fact that I loooove metal
  3. I was born on July 25th in the U.K. at somewhere around 6:00pm, which kind of means I was born on July 26th in Australia (but my birthday is still July 25th - do NOT want to share a birthday with Australia's ex-PM John Howard. YECH!!)
  4. I always vote for the Green party, and I don't care who knows it! I believe that in this country nowadays, it's the only way I can sleep at night!
  5. I love music festivals but am now thinking I should give them up because they're almost always on disgustingly hot days, and I've got a skin cancer problem (benign, but still, a problem)
  6. The first food I ever ate as a baby was avocado!
  7. I don't like eating any animals that still look like animals. If we had to kill our own food, I'd be vegetarian in a flash. For now, I get to be a hypocrite and eat meat other people killed for me.

Aaaand I'm done (for now). But before I end this section, I want to thank everyone who has given me awards - I really really love that you thought of me! So thank you! :)

In other news, it's Australia Day today! I want to wish my fellow Aussie bloggers a very happy Australia Day!! Here in Perth, we're having hellishly hot weather ("very hot" and "sunny" is a disgusting combination, in my book), and I'm huddling in my air-conditioned living room until the moment when I have to venture out into the inferno for an Aussie Day bbq. I hope the rest of the country isn't frying quite so thoroughly! And that you have a safe and happy Australia Day in which nobody gets punched in the face.

    Tuesday, 24 January 2012

    PRISON NATION...a review!

    Last week I finished reading Jenni Merritt's debut novel, PRISON NATION, and I have to say it has the makings of a great "beginning" - the way it ended, while kind of low-key, was also vaguely epic, or rather it spoke of much epicness to come. I suppose PRISON NATION could be seen almost as a drawn out prequel to what might come next. I definitely think there should be a sequel (and Jenni assures me she plans to write one eventually. Yay!!). To briefly recap the story, main character Millie 942B is a "Jail Baby", born into a huge prison where her parents were sentenced for life. Millie's about to turn 18, and upon her birthday will be set free into the Nation beyond the prison walls to start a life of work as a proud, hard-working citizen. Only there's a lot she doesn't know about the Nation she's been taught (a.k.a. a wee bit brainwashed) to love without question. After her release, she starts to learn truths that have heretofore only been hinted at: truths about her own parents' histories, and about some of the so-called criminals she shared her living space with for her first 18 years.

    One criticism I had of the story was that, sometimes, it seemed that Millie's release from prison took too long to arrive. I mentioned in my GoodReads (spoilery) review that there were certainly moments prior to her release that we needed to read about, because they painted a picture of Millie's life in prison and also prepared us for future parts of her story to unfold. Also, there was definite tension in the air which never really left even after Millie was released. Still, sometimes I felt like the "daily mundane" details of prison routine could possibly have been condensed a little, and sometimes seemed to draw away some of that tension.

    After Millie left the prison, her life seemed to be going in a positive direction, but there was always an underlying threat that not everything was as it seemed, or that big bad ugly truths were still waiting to be uncovered. I definitely found that the last 100 pages really picked up the action. But the story ended on an "OMG, what next?" note, which is why I'm now waiting for a sequel! All in all, this story has the makings of being completely epic, and I will definitely read a sequel when it arrives. But I'd hope to see events unfold in a more fast-paced and tense way with any future installment. Of course, sometimes you need "down time" here and there, to give your poor heart a rest, but fast-paced and gripping is generally what compells me to devour an entire book in less than a day.

    In summation, Jenni's debut shows a lot of promise and I can't wait to see what she does next!

    Sunday, 22 January 2012

    Sunday Session #3

    Time for another Sunday Session, in which I share with you guys the music I've listened to most in the last week! Every week so far there's been some kind of tie for 'top spot'. This week is no exception, and there are eight songs to feature!

    Commentary is at the bottom, but first, this week's songs are:

    • Blue Öyster Cult, "Shooting Shark" - this is a lot more 80s than most of their stuff that I've heard, but I absolutely loooove it (new discovery) (and yes, I do love 80s stuff in general. hehe).
    • Janet Jackson, "Velvet Rope" - a relatively recent (i.e. last year or two) discovery as well. Beautiful song, and the album is great too!
    • Seam, "Sweet Pea" - a very rockin' alt. rock song, one of my all-time faves by this band, who I discovered by accident because my dad gave me a Seam CD he'd bought second hand and didn't want anymore.
    • VAST, "Lost" - it took me so long to finally buy this VAST album (Visual Audio Sensory Theatre) but I am very glad I did, and this song is one of the reasons.
    • Mylo, "In My Arms" - I do like the odd bit of dance music, and I can thank a dance-mad friend for introducing me to this guy & a few of his songs that I really like!
    • Stabbing Westward, "When I’m Dead" - lovely depressing gothic-ness, I suppose. haha.
    • Bullet For My Valentine, "Forever And Always" - this track seems to get a bit of flack from BFMV fans, but I like it! So there!
    • Alice In Chains, "Private Hell" - this is from the "new" Alice in Chains, sans Layne Staley. I was a little bit doubtful, personally, about AIC continuing after Layne's tragic demise, but this song is an e.g. of how they're doing it right (in my opinion).

    And that wraps up another Sunday Session as well as another week! I hope everyone's had a great weekend, and I'll see you next week!

    Thursday, 19 January 2012

    Revision hemming and hawing

    As part of my 2012 goals, I'm revising my novel FIRE, and as I mentioned in a recent post here, it's quite possibly going to end up going the way of its fellow SUNDOWN. With the latter, I cut approximately 7k off the start during a particularly gory revision session (which was, incidentally, prompted by some very harsh critique that gave me insomnia). In that session, I got rid of a whole bunch of backstory (7k worth, matter of fact). I can totally do that with FIRE, too. The action doesn't really start until...well, probably 20k in. hahaha. Oh, I killeth me.

    Seriously, I like the whole novel as it stands...but no agent or editor or publisher would. After all, it is a similar word count to what SUNDOWN used to be in the olden days (basically, I started out with about 148k to work with). So it needs serious slash 'n burn work. Still, I had decided to just get on with this edit, and leave the slash 'n burn till next round.

    Now I'm thinking, What's the point in that? Why not just get straight to it now?

    Tuesday, 17 January 2012

    The A-Z challenge, 2012

    About time I got around to posting about this, eh? Last year I participated in the A-Z blogging challenge, which takes place in the month of April. For me it was a full-on month of blogging by the seat of my pants (yep, pantser at heart over here!), and by the end of it I was sort of scrambling around for anything to write about (my problem was I found too much, so ended up making lists!). You can read the summary of my experience last year in this post, my A-Z wrap up from 2011. You can also see all the posts I made for the A-Z by looking at this label, or by checking out my April 2011 posts.

    But we're in 2012 now, and with some excellent news: This year, the A-Z challenge is happening again! It's a great way to meet heaps of other bloggers and it's also a nice way to challenge yourself with creating one blog post a day (except for most Sundays) for an entire month. Sign-ups are from January 30th 2012, so be sure to hop on over to the Official A-Z blog on that day to sign up! It's going to be raaaadical!

    Guess what, though? I just realised I'm going to be away from home for the first 5 days of April! For two of those I will be on a plane! Perhaps I'll have to take a chance on post scheduling and hope nothing goes horribly awry! But that's my problem to think on another day. ;)

    Sunday, 15 January 2012

    Sunday Session #2

    Yessss, I'm back (I didn't forget!) for another Sunday Session. It is indeed Sunday, and it's 3:56 pm. That's about half an hour before I posted last week's session. But I'm going to get this post up and then head off to the beach for a good walk and then a refreshing swim (it's really hot here right now!!). Last week it was a tie between two Smashing Pumpkins songs. Well, this week it's a five-way tie!! Instead of posting all the videos at normal size, I'll put tiny little thumbnail links in for most of them, and a big one for the song I most wanted to highlight...

    This week's songs are:

    I had to add the Effigy video myself, since there are hardly any traces of that band around the interwebs and I really wanted to show off the song here on my blog. Effigy are a band from my hometown who never really got that far, despite releasing two albums and having a few successful singles. Their second album Century Collapsing (© 1995), which features "Rose Thorns", is for me a mixture of sheer brilliance and numerous "meh" moments. "Rose Thorns" is the absolute highlight for me, and reason enough to buy the album! They were well known for their lead singer's rather girly singing voice, and got a lot of flack for it. Personally that doesn't bother me, as the songs themselves are what I care about.

    As for the other songs in this post, well I don't think they need much explanation (except "I Am One" I guess - it's the original version this time, from SP's debut album Gish). All these songs are the ones I've listened to most in the last 7 days!

    Friday, 13 January 2012

    2012 goals so far

    I've got a huge playing card collection...this is one of my packs!
    (I collect them while travelling, you see)

    This year, I've got my usual Goals page, but I also did up this chart (inspired by Ruthie at Live, Love, Laugh, Write! and her spreadsheet) that helps me keep track of my weekly goals. They're not all writing goals, but here's a rundown on them anyway:

    • WIP chapter review - I'm working on FIRE, and I've edited two chapters which have merged into one. I've cut out a few words, but I'm already thinking of the next round of revisions where I may chop off many thousands of words from the start (as happened with SUNDOWN revisions). FIRE sure as heck needs some slash 'n burn. This round though, I'm taking it easy, to refamiliarise myself with the story.
    • Chrysalis story review - I've revised two so far. One of them I'm shelving, but I'll keep working on the other in the hopes of someday submitting it somewhere. The latter started out at about 3.7k, and is now over 5k.
    • Read Catrina story - Catrina is a character of Michael's creation (Michael was a participant in Chrysalis last year). He wrote many instalments of the Catrina (formerly Caitlin) saga, and somewhere along the way, I fell behind and stopped reading them. So far this year I've read two!
    • Yoga classes - I skipped the first one solely due to not having any cash at all and being totally broke. Too much sharing? *Blush* But I went to yoga this week and got stretched to within an inch of my life. haha. Pigeon Pose was quite an eye-opener...
    • Beach walks - I do these on the weekends. They're 4km walks followed by a glorious swim in the beautiful ocean. Got to love my home town for its beaches!
    • Write song - So far I've written one, but haven't got to this week's yet. However, I have the entire weekend to work on it so I'm not worried. My goal this time is to write a rockin' song instead of yet another melancholy one (I've written a lot of melancholy stuff in the last few years).
    • WIP 1000 words - Generally I've written about 1.5k per week. I'm working on DANNA, one of last year's NaNo novels). I'm mostly happy with my progress so far, but I also know that part of the story is weak, so I'll have to look at improving that later.
    • Sort 100 photos - I'm well on top of this, having sorted way more than 100 photos. But the hard part of this really hasn't begun yet, scared to say!
    • Monthly goals (Travel post, Book review) - I have not done either of these yet. Better get cracking!
    In other news, I got some awards - THANKS people! - and will address those at some point soon. But also, check out my Blogfests, Etc. page for some cool upcoming activities!

    How's 2012 going for you guys so far?

    Wednesday, 11 January 2012

    Query letters are hard to write because...

    << Hope Roberson recently wrote a "Best of the Best" post which focused on the art of writing pitches and loglines. In that post she talked about how whenever somebody asks her what her story's about, she gets all incoherent and "um, blah" (I paraphrased). Her point was that, surely since she wrote the story, she should be the one who knows it best, and should be able to easily summarise what it's about. But she has troubles with doing so.

    I think many of us can relate to that! For me, reading her post reminded me that I've always struggled with writing queries. Maybe her post wasn't really about queries, but still, for me it's a similar deal. I wrote a successful logline once, and it garnered some serious agent interest. But queries are a different matter altogether. Sometimes it's like you've got too much space in which to ramble on, and so you end up doing just that - rambling.

    But one thing I realised back when I was attempting to write queries was that...I don't actually understand my own story as well as I thought I did. The example was DAPHNE, which is the first novel I ever started other than my epic fantasy of doom that shall not be named (except it's called RAGEWATER). As I was attempting to write queries for DAPHNE, and getting seriously in-depth critique at Absolute Write, I realised I don't even know the core of what my story's about! I'd really thought I did, but the more I tried to summarise the story, the more obvious it became that I didn't.

    Suffice it to say, I've stopped attempting to write queries for the time being. My novels need to actually become what they're meant to be before I can try to write a summary of what they are.

    Have you mastered the art of the pitch/logline/query?

    Sunday, 8 January 2012

    Sunday Session #1

    I saw another blog ages ago (sadly I think I've lost track of it) that did a Sunday Session every...well, Sunday! (makes sense right?) and I thought it was kind of a cool idea. Instead of doing a proper post on writing or whatever, I thought doing this would be a cool way of letting you guys know what kind of music I'm into. I'm a rather fanatical member of Last.fm, where you can see what music I'm listening to every day. I've decided to base the Sunday Session selection on whatever song I've listened to most in the past week.

    This week I've actually got a tie, and the songs are both by my favourite band of all time, the Smashing Pumpkins. The first track is called "In My Body", and the second is an early recording of "I Am One" from their debut album. I'll tell you a bit more about each song below.

    "In My Body" was released as part of the album Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music. The Pumpkins, back in the year 2000, had released what was to be their last proper album for 7 years, Machina, but they also had more than another album's worth of material recorded which apparently their record label refused to let them release. So they decided to release it for free online instead!

    This version of "I Am One" was recorded in the Reel Time Sessions, and was released on vinyl apparently. Also it was released on this mix CD I managed to grab a copy of from Amazon a few years back. That version was a really quiet mix, but this year (errr, I mean last year - 2011) when the Pumpkins released their remastered versions of Gish and Siamese Dream in some sublimely beautiful packages (yes, I own both, and still have not stopped drooling!), the Gish re-release contained a wonderfully remastered version. And that 2011 version is what you hear in the video above.

    Okay, I think that's all I have to say about these songs. Check back next Sunday to see if I've forgotten all about the Sunday Sessions! hehe

    Friday, 6 January 2012

    Too many rough drafts, not enough revision

    The other day (probably yesterday...it's kind of all blurring together for me right now!) I was reading a blog post by Angeline Trevena - her monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group check-in. She talked about her (almost total) lack of inspiration for rewriting/revising/etc. She likes to work on fresh, new material - that's where her passion really lies. And I quote Angeline directly:

    "The trouble is, I just know that if I write something new, I'll end up with yet another 1st draft that never gets edited. My life is full of 1st drafts, but I still keep chasing the excitement of that new story." - Angeline Trevena

    This totally struck a chord with me! If you look at my WORDS + music page, which is a page listing the projects I'm working on, you'll see that I have a fair few completed drafts. I also have a fair few non-completed drafts that I'm still working on (WIPs). Aaaaand, only one of my novels is anywhere near being properly polished (it's on draft #5 or something, currently). The rest of them are in dire need of some TLC. And while I actually quite enjoy revising, editing, etc., that part of the whole process is definitely way more work than the initial spewing forth of rough material.

    Angeline prefers writing new material. I don't necessarily prefer it, in fact I really get invigorated and inspired by revision. But the fact remains that I have given far more attention in my life so far to writing new stuff, instead of polishing what I already have.

    What's your ratio of rough drafts to polished "ready" works?

    Wednesday, 4 January 2012

    Chore vs. passion

    That's what I'm reading. Oh, and I'm still reading the Grimm fairytales, but I got it into my head that I should "mini-review" each story as I read it, and...so far I've reviewed the first one (because I had to go back and retro-review). And I've stopped reading more, 'cause I have so many to catch up on (and review). But anyway, see above for a book I'm not doing mini-reviews for 'cause I'm just reading the whole thing flat out. I have a huge TBR list and no time to waste, people!! This is business!

    I'm kidding. It's not business. But sometimes I think that it really is. The things I do for fun (writing, reading, drawing, singing, playing guitar) become slightly more like my "real" job (as opposed to the one I spend most of my waking life at each week). They don't feel like chores, though. Not yet. Not most of the time. If they start to, I'll know I'm doing something wrong.

    Do you still have the passion?

    Monday, 2 January 2012

    I feel the need to get organised

    Yes, I said organised. Maybe I achieved a lot last year, but this year I want to achieve some of the things I pretty much neglected last year. They weren't necessarily writing goals (I did just fine with those), but other goals that will help me get my life in order! For instance, editing and culling (and etc.) the thousands of photos I have on my laptop, or digitising all my "personal papers" so I can get rid of the paper itself.

    I could do these things randomly, whenever the mood takes me. But what if the mood never takes me? That would leave me with these things still not done. So I'm thinking of putting my life on a schedule. Not really my blog, 'cause I can't stand to be all regimented like that, at least not for too long at a time (one month's worth of it in April for the A-Z challenge is fine by me, but after things like that I totally need a break from routine!):

    So here's a rough outline for how I could potentially organise my life, around my writing goals and everything else:

    • Monday nights: Revise a Chrysalis Experiment story
    • Tuesday nights: Yoga class, then edit/transfer into iPhoto at least 100 photos
    • Wednesday nights: Edit a chapter of any given novel that's being worked on
    • Thursday nights: Write at least 1000 words on one of the unfinished novels you're trying to finish
    • Friday nights: Write a song!
    • Saturdays: Work on any of the above that isn't yet done, or repeat any of the above, or be a couch potato watching DVDs all day...until arvo/evening when you go for a 4km walk on the beach followed by a swim (sans shark attack)
    • Sundays: (repeat of Saturday's activities) and write a blog post (if one hasn't already been written)

    This leaves the latter part of Fridays and Saturdays for whatever partying activities I may be required to get up to, and also allows for my full time job and my need to procrastinate and waste at least some of my time on fruitless activities like vegetating on the couch.

    It doesn't, however, account for the monthly activities I will be aiming to get up to, such as posting at least one Globetrotter post here per month. I think another was attempting to write at least one book review per month. Yes, only one per month. Like I said, being too regimented has never worked well for me.

    Do you guys have plans for how to spend your free (a.k.a. writing-related) time?