Friday, 27 December 2013

Cephalopod Coffeehouse & Do You Have Goals? [Dec.]

It's the last Coffeehouse book club meeting for the year! I want to thank the Squid himself for hosting this great little event each month - I sure hope it continues into 2014 and beyond. Anyway, onto December's read!

I read 3 books this month and rated them all 4 out of 5 stars. Since I can't choose a fave, I decided to just randomly stab a dart at one and make that December's book choice. :)

The story:
Nick wakes up in his room hungover and confused. He sees a pair of women's underwear on his floor and knows something must've happened but he has no recollection what. He struggles to learn the truth of what happened, following the few clues he has along a twisty trail.

From the GoodReads blurb:
"Nick Thorneycroft is a British headhunter working in Luxembourg. His company asks him to recruit a high-flying executive for the company's Russian business. The best candidate turns out to be smart, beautiful... and mysterious. Soon the effects of Russia’s political upheaval, and the arrival of an ex-girlfriend who won’t leave him alone, make Nick’s Luxembourg life increasingly perilous; worlds collide in this gripping, atmospheric tale."

My thoughts:
First off, I was intrigued by the description of Luxembourg. I have actually visited that country, but only briefly to step across the border so I could say I'd been there. I haven't seen nearly enough of the country, so it was interesting reading about it in this novella. Secondly, I really liked the pacing of this story - it was fast-paced but also tense and the plot turns kept me guessing until the end. I wasn't expecting it to end how it did, but it sure added to the "interest" factor.

All in all I'm happy I got to read this story thanks to NetGalley and Daniel Pembrey!

Since joining Misha Gericke and Beth Fred's Do You Have Goals? monthly blog hop (and thank you ladies for hosting such a great hop!), my chosen goal has changed quite frequently. And I have not yet achieved any of the variations of it as yet.

(that was my goal)

So how have I gone this year? Well, I haven't published yet (except for a little poem featured in Vine Leaves, which I am quite proud of, but still wasn't what I had in mind in terms of publishing "something"). This is largely due to my own slackness. Actually, it's entirely due to that. I just haven't put in the required hours for rewriting/revision.

In 2014, I'm determined not only to focus on rewriting and revision, but I am also determined to actually get into line with what this blog hop's all about - setting big, ridiculous goals for yourself and striving toward them.

So stay tuned, folks!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Goals 2013 - an evaluation

I usually finish out each year with a review of what I achieved in the year just gone. So far I've got 2011 and 2012 reflections, and now it's time for 2013's.

First off, you can see my original goal list here. Also on that page you can see my latest updates which reflect the things I did and did not achieve. But I'll mention a few here:

I did

  • make over this blog (and I think it's due for another makeover now)
  • read at least 30 books (so far I've read 48)
  • write at least once a week in this blog (or at least I will have achieved this after I post this month's Cephalopod post :))
  • write one Globetrotter post per month [except April]
  • write one (or more) book review(s) per month [except April]
  • write 1k of new story per week
  • participate in BuNoWriMo 2013
  • participate in NaNoWriMo 2013

I did not
  • read the 4 books I've been trying to read for many years - but now that I know I can read them on Kindle, I might actually be able to get them read at last!
  • write one "Out & About Me" post per month (I missed September)
  • post one music video per month with brief commentary (epic fail! Didn't do a single one)
  • participate in NaNoEdMo 2013 (pretty sure I didn't do this; have no recollection of it anyway)
  • read/edit SQUEAKY
  • finalise & revise (2nd revision) SUNDOWN IIb
  • finish 2nd revision of DAPHNE
  • create at least one new piece of fine art per week
  • scan at least 100 photos/documents per month (my scanner is also broken, so ...)

I won't even bother to talk about the "would like to achieve but not holding my breath" goals I set myself, because I definitely achieved none of them. But the above list tells me I did achieve a fair bit in 2013, even if I also failed on a few things I would have liked to achieve. All in all, I'm considering 2013 a year of high productivity in the writing area, but a bit of an epic failure in the revision area.

2014 will be different, I vow!

Sometime soon I'll outline some 2014 goals (but I can tell you now there won't be nearly as many as what you see above).

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Write ... Edit ... Publish (Dec. ed. ~ TRADITIONS)

Today is December 18th, and therefore it's time to post for this month's WEP - the last for 2013! I have really enjoyed participating in Denise Covey's monthly blogfest this year, and look forward to continuing next year. Thanks so much Denise for being such a great hostess!

This month the theme is TRADITIONS, so I thought I'd share some of my Christmas traditions, or just things that tend to happen in my life around each end of year.

First off, the place where I get my morning coffee each weekday on the way to work gives their regular customers a little treat in thanks for their loyal custom!

This year's gift was deeelish! (I ate it earlier today)

Sometime before Christmas, I tend to catch up with two of my friends in particular and we do whatever. A few years back, we went into Freo for a wander around, a hot chocolate, and probably a movie (my memory's foggy, but here are some pics from that night):

Christmas decorations in Fremantle.
I love how they deck out this beautiful big tree.
Anything that sparkles gets my attention!
This was alcoholic.
(This year we are having a Bon Jovi sleepover because we missed out on concert tickets - the gals are coming to my place for a slumber party & that also counts as our Christmas do)

Also before Christmas, the institution I work for puts on a rather decadent Christmas bash, where the bubbles are flowing, the beer is chilled on ice, and the food is sumptuous.

And the department I work in organises a Christmas lunch at one of the many beautiful places to eat in downtown Freo. This year we went to Tabella, which I already knew was awesome. We also do a Secret Santa thing, but nobody has to participate.

On Christmas Day, my mum's side of the family has some "set in stone" traditions, though these days our numbers are fairly depleted (everyone's either moved to Melbourne or to Canada!!). Anyway, our tradition is to go to Cottesloe Beach in the morning for bubbles, smoked salmon & cream cheese bagels, fruit skewers, and of course, a swim!

A typical Christmas day in Perth.
Cottesloe Beach.

Then we go back to somebody's place to eat more food and drink more bubbles:

I do like me some bubbles!
I love taking pics of glasses full of bubbly - what's up with that?

In recent years I have generally also done something with my dad's side of the family (cousins who moved here from New Zealand, and their extended family/friends), generally at my cousin Olivia's place:

They have a pool, and always show us a good time!

Aaaand last year, because my mum was working away (she has a drive in, drive out job down south/east right next to a gold mine), I went down south/east on Boxing Day to visit her:

Gold Mine Road.

So there you go. You got a taste of some of the traditions that mark the coming-up-to-Christmas time period for me.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Travel Series: a sneak peak @ 2014

Can you guys believe it's December 12th?! The month isn't quite halfway over, but holy batballs it's getting close! I can't believe it's nearly Christmas time.

Anyway, I'm not here to ramble on about how fast time is flying by. Rather, I wanted to give you guys a sneak peak at what's coming (sometime) next year with my Globetrotter travel series. I say "sometime" because I'm not really sure when my next Globetrotters post will be. Next year is going to be busy with a lot of revision and maybe a little bit of new writing (I can never help myself around June and November!). But I do intend to post at least something for Globetrotters next year.

Sometime in June 2014 it will be 10 years since I left Australia to go on a rather epic round-the-world trip (15 stops, 13 countries, 4.5 months). All on my lonesome. It's hard to believe it was that long ago, and yet it also feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in my life since then, and it's funny to think that while I was travelling the world with a super-heavy backpack warping my skeleton into an unnatural shape, I didn't know any of what I know now.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a photographic taster of what I got up to in 2004 - and I won't bother with captions or anything - a bit of suspense never hurt anybody, right? ;):

Monday, 9 December 2013

[O&AM] I think I have a phobia of stand-up comedy

I'm not a stand-up fan, for the most part. There are very rare exceptions, for e.g. I will happily watch Jim Carrey, almost as happily watch Chris Rock, and will gasp at the outrageousness of Tim Minchin (but he does music so he's a different matter entirely). But for the most part I really can't stand stand-up. And it's not just a matter of dislike, either - it's almost like I have a fear of it. If I switch the TV channel and land on a stand-up show, I will stab at the remote with a desperation I can't really explain until I've got myself safely to a new channel.

There have been shows that I've found painful to watch because they're so cringeworthy - like the UK version of The Office. Don't get me wrong, I think that show is brilliant, but I actually physically cannot watch it. Stand-up is different - it's cringeworthy but for all the wrong reasons. I get this almost claustrophobic feeling while watching most stand-up, like the walls are closing in and I just want to run screaming. I'm fully aware that it makes no sense to be almost scared of stand-up, but I'm also fully aware that it's real.

Most people I know like a bit of stand-up, and there are comedians they'd drop everything in their lives to go and see. But for my part, I'd almost rather get up in front of a huge crowd of people and have their eyes all on me (one of my biggest fears is public speaking) than have to sit through a stand-up routine. I just find stand-up so incredibly awkward and I can think of very little more boring than spending an evening watching DVDs of stand-up.

So there you go - you learned something new about me. :)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Post-NaNo slump ... ish thing (and IWSG #1)

So I finished NaNo and my word count was 106,132 words. I'm happy with the story even if I'm not yet quite happy with the writing - it is a rough draft after all. I now have twelve complete novel drafts. None of them are ready for publication or even for a final read-through by a CP or beta. So that will be my goal next year - get some of my stuff pub-ready (or at least final read-through ready).

Since NaNo ended, I've watched a lot of DVDs - Veronica Mars is my latest addiction, thanks to a friend's recommendation; and did you know there's a movie coming out next year?!! Woo! - and done very little of anything. Things are also crazy busy at work with huge projects underway (many due by year's end. ha.). So I am getting home each arvo having to resist the urge to go out and charge a 6-pack of beer to credit card. Yes, I'm also waiting eagerly for payday (story of my life lately).

So that's what's going on with me right now. And it's already December 5th!

How has the start of December gone for you guys?

P.S. I just read a news story about these guys - and I think they're awesome!

I am editing this post because I only just realised today I'm also meant to post for the IWSG - this is my first time posting, and I guess I am a bit insecure about jumping on this very large and shiny bandwagon! I have visited numerous blogs over the months/years and commented on IWSG posts - but I have always felt a bit intimidated about joining in. Silly, isn't it? But that's how I felt!

I also feel a tiny bit insecure around all the writers out there who are already published, because while I now have twelve novel drafts to my name, not one of them is publication-worthy right now. The thought of publishing something (anything), all on my own, quite frankly terrifies me. I am going to do it, but it's just plain scary. Since releasing my first CD of music, I've found out just how crap I am at selling my "wares", so to speak. And I don't doubt I'll be equally as crap at selling my book wares.

I had a taste of self-promotion when organising my first (and only) blogfest last year. That was hard enough. But trying to convince people to buy stuff I've created, as in really trying hard to talk them into it, is definitely not going to be one of my strengths.

So there you go. That's my first foray into the world if the IWSG. I'm sure I'll have more to say next time ... and yet that's another source of insecurity. What if I never have anything good to say on IWSG day ever again? :)

Friday, 29 November 2013

8-BIT CHRISTMAS (Cephalopod Coffeehouse book club)

As it's the last Friday of the month, it's time for a bunch of bloggers to post for the monthly Cephalopod Coffeehouse (a.k.a. "Friendly Gathering") hosted by The Armchair Squid. The idea behind this monthly hop is that each month, participants will post about their favourite book read in the last month.

I read three books during November, and I really enjoyed all of them. It was kind of hard to choose which one to review here, but I decided to review 8-BIT CHRISTMAS by Kevin Jakubowski.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC copy.

I put this on the "children's literature" shelf, even though it's narrated by an adult character looking back on his Nintento-crazed childhood. But if you were a child in the 80s, you'll probably appreciate this one.

Jake is 9 years old when the first glorious grey Nintendo Entertainment System hits the market. The richest and most spoiled kid in town gets a Nintendo and all the other kids are suddenly swarming onto his front lawn, looking for new ways to suck up to him so they can have a turn on his NES. He only lets 10 kids in at a time on weekends, so the stakes are high and the competition fierce. Kids even go so far as to surrender some of their best toys just so they can go down to the rich kid's basement and Nintendo-land.

All over town, kids begin plotting how to get their parents to give them Nintendos for Christmas. But when disaster strikes - starting with a kid's tantrum, and leading to a falling TV and ultimately a squashed dog - the town's parents are up in arms about the evils of Nintendo. The only NES in town is no longer available for weekend tournaments, and the kids are getting desperate. The parents even go so nuts they arrange for local stores to stop stocking NESes on their shelves. All the kids in Jake's class are now kissing their dreams of owning a NES of their own goodbye. But Jake isn't giving up on his dream. A stroke of inspiration gives him a new plan for how to save the town from being Nintendoless forever.

My thoughts:
I kind of LOVED this book. As a child of the '80s, but also as someone who can apparently appreciate Kevin Jakubowski's sense of humour, I was snorting with laughter at almost every turn of a page (or "turn", really, as I read this on Kindle). Also, I could relate to that whole "rich kid with a NES" thing, since we had a neighbour who had every game console known to man, while the rest of the kids in the street made do with our hand-me-down Atari.

Some parts of the book seemed a bit odd to me, for e.g. rather modern-sounding dialogue like "Dude!" which I'm not sure was authentic to the 80s. But what do I know, I was just a kid back then. Perhaps my memory is rusty. ;) I also found myself disappointed with the fact that Jake didn't get a NES for Christmas - even though he got something seriously awesome instead (and no, I don't mean the Lite Brite. haha). But yeah, all in all I thought this was a highly entertaining read, and I would recommend it to anyone who:

a) can relate to an obsessive love/fondness for Nintendo,
(I myself had a Super NES, which I bought with my own saved up pocket money at age 12, and it was still beautifully lumpy and grey)
b) loves the '80s, or
c) wants to enjoy a large number of laughs (it's the best medicine after all).

Also read in November:
Hard to Handle by Jessica Lemmon
The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

(both courtesy of NetGalley. Thank you!)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Travel Series: U.S.A. = Ca., Or., Wa. & Ga., 2001

In June 2001, a few things were happening in my life all at once:

  1. We were moving house;
  2. I was finishing up another semester of uni (I had about 3 essays due I think);
  3. and I was preparing to travel overseas to meet my first ever ... wait for it ... internet friends!

These were people I'd met through my love of the epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, which drew me to an online community of fellow fans in mid-2000. I knew these people really well, having spent copious hours chatting to them (it's amazing the things you learn about people you've never met in person!). But I was still nervous. And I know my mum was as well. ;)

In 2001, going off to meet a group of people "from the internet" was a huge deal. It's still kind of a huge deal today, actually - people still look at me funny when I talk about my internet friends. But I guess it's more commonplace now than it was then.

So we moved house, and I staggered across the uni semester finish line, and finally it was time to pack my bags and head for the airport.

From Perth I flew to San Francisco, where things got off to a rocky start because my friends and I couldn't FIND each other! I didn't even hear my name being called over the loudspeaker, probably 'cause I was too busy crying into the pay phone to Mum. Finally, though, I got found, and with a certain amount of sick relief we all headed off to the car and hit the road, heading northeast towards Auburn, CA.

It's true nobody killed me over those first few days (or any of the other days to follow), but my mum must have been wondering, since it was another 3 days before I thought to let her know I was safe and found. Sorry, Mum! ;)

Most of my time during this trip was spent in California, but we also went on a rather epic road trip up north, collecting more friends along the way. We drove through Oregon (where we stayed a night with one of those friends), and finally up to Washington State. In Seattle we met up with yet more friends and hung out for a few fun-filled days.

Deception Pass, WA (no, that's not me).
The Seattle gang (me with my arms around my shins).

Later, I flew to Atlanta, Georgia, to meet up with two more of my (interwebs) (also potential axe-murdering) friends, one of whom had actually paid for my plane ticket out there (she rocks to this day!). We hung out, watched crap movies, and met her then new boyfriend (now husband). We did a bit of sight-seeing as well, including visiting Stone Mountain and the Coca Cola Museum. And we met up with yet more WoT community friends.

The Atlanta gang.
Me (middle) with 2 friends at Stone Mountain, GA.

There was one more meeting that occurred in 2001, during a few hours I spent waiting at Phoenix Airport for a flight. I met up with two more friends there.

At Phoenix airport.
I finished up my trip back in California, and flew home fully in tact (no limbs missing at all, nor many brain cells). I had taken off a fair bit of weight, but mostly because I lost my wallet before the trip even began (left it on the plane on stop-over in L.A. - picked it up on the way back as they'd kept it in lost property, bless them!).

So for my whole trip I hadn't had my own funds to assist in gorging myself on food. My friends were good enough to feed me, and for that I am eternally grateful!

Anyway, that about sums up my 2001 trip to the U.S. to hang out with people I hadn't ever met in person before. I'm still friends with many of them to this day.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Write ... Edit ... Publish (Nov. ed. ~ SHARING)

It's that time again, when a bunch of us get together to participate in Denise Covey's full-of-awesome monthly blogfest, Write ... Edit ... Publish. This month's theme, as the image above suggests, is "SHARING", and here are some of the suggested themes:

  • tell us about your writing in November
  • write a flash fiction piece with SHARING as a theme - maybe an Adam and Eve story?
  • post some pictures to suit the theme (raid Pinterest!)
  • share something memoir-ish about your travels, experiences, your life
  • write a poem that encapsulates SHARING in some way
  • other...?

For me it was pretty easy to choose what to write about this month - NaNoWriMo!

You know, I can't tell you all how happy I am that NaNo has become so immense since the days of its humble inception. Sometimes, great ideas flare for a while, and then burn out. Maybe the great minds that come up with these ideas work so hard and get worn out, with nobody there to take up the slack and keep their great idea alive. Thankfully that didn't happen with NaNo, and I can't see it happening anytime soon. NaNo is basically an institution now!

I've participated since 2002, failing twice and participating "unofficially" one year. Most of my 11 novels have been NaNo-born. And I guess that's a good enough reason for me to love NaNo!

In truth, I seem to do my best work during months like November, when I'm given permission to just write like a nutter. And by "best" I don't mean "really great writing", just that I get a lot of work done. Of course, it never feels like work, per se. It's more like freedom from work, actually. NaNo is my time to slack off from what I probably should be doing (revision, editing, etc.) and do something for the pure exhilarating fun of it. So this month, I haven't been doing hard work at all. I've been having a supreme amount of fun.

During November so far, I've written 83,305 words (and a tiny bit more as of tonight, which I haven't counted up yet. Too busy writing up this post!). I've loved pretty much every second of it.

(I usually forget to share the linky list of all
the participants, but I didn't this time! Here it is)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Too many words, and I'm glad

It's November 18th, and my NaNo word count is 68,820. I still have a number of juicy scenes to write (by "juicy" I mean dramatic, horrific, sappy, any of that). And I'm pretty sure my word count is going to end up being the usual overbloated type I'm so good at producing.

Sometimes people are daunted by the idea of editing stories that have at least 40k too many words. I know I have been in the past, with some of my other bloated works. ;) But in this case, I'll be glad to have all that extra padding to work with, since I'll have to start things off with some of the old slash 'n burn. I have high hopes of being left with a good amount of quality(ish) wordage afterward. And yeah, I'm already looking forward to revisions, without even having finished the story. But once I've finished, I'll do my usual thing and set the novel aside for a while. Let it stew.

I've got other things I want to achieve before picking this novel back up for revisions (rewriting my novella, reading a new novel I'm beta-ing, and revising at least one of my other novels). But you never know ... the temptation to return to Nora's world earlier than planned might become too great.

For now, I'm still enjoying the slightly shadowy initial journey. And I'm pretty sure this story is gonna end up being one of my favourites.

I hope you're all having a great November!

Friday, 15 November 2013

A NaNo update!

Hi everyone. I'm here to report that I won NaNo on November 13th (last weekend I wrote over 18k, just on Saturday and Sunday. It was bliss!), and I am currently sitting on 54,909 words. I'm still loving the story, so much so in fact that it keeps me up at night (not good for my health, but very good for the creative part of my brain!). I still have juicy bits to write, and am pretty much desperate to get around to writing them. This is definitely a good sign.

There have been other NaNos where once I hit 50k, I really had to struggle to write anything on the project for the rest of the month. There have also been NaNos where it took me most of November to hit 50k. And of course there was one NaNo where I wrote 120k in 30 days (NaNo kept me up at night for all the right reasons that year, too). It really varies from year to year, I think. But one thing I know is that I better enjoy this "last hurrah (for the time being)", because next year I hope to use June (BuNo) and November (NaNo '14) to do serious revision work. Then again, maybe I'll just use the rest of the year for that. Problem is, I tried that this year and just slacked way too much.

For me I guess there's just something magical about both June and November that makes me really inspired to write something new. Nowadays I always have a new exciting idea to write. But the consequence of this is that currently, my ratio of rough-ish drafts to ready-to-publish drafts is 11:0. In other words, not too good. ;)

Did you do/are you doing NaNo this year?
How are you going?
Loving/hating your project?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Andrew McNaughton

I only just heard the news - I'm the last to know I think. I was just over at Nick Wilford's blog which I hadn't visited in a while, and as I scrolled down through the comments on a NaNoWriMo-related post, I started to get very confused. At first people were just talking NaNo, but then I saw them starting to give their condolences over Andrew, Nick's step son. This was the first inkling I had that something had happened. I've since learned that Andrew passed away over this weekend just gone.

Andrew was the inspiration behind Nick's Overcoming Adversity anthology, which many writers in this community contributed to. He was a young man who had a bright future, and we were all hoping we could contribute to that.

I've since found more information over on Kyra Lennon's blog, as well as on Mark Koopmans's and Yolanda Renee's. I just wanted to add to the sentiment already being expressed all over the place, and give my biggest condolences to Nick and his family in the wake of this tragedy.

Rest in peace, Andrew.

Monday, 11 November 2013

[O&AM] Thinking about death (while not feeling depressed)

I don't really want this to be a dreary, depressing blog post, but it's a topic that's been on my list for O&AM since the beginning, and I always knew I'd get to it someday. Basically I was 17 when I first started thinking about mortality - my own and other people's. Later a friend told me this was the start of my "quarter-life crisis". A little bit early, sure, but I don't think that's particularly unusual.

The way I was at seventeen, morbidly dwelling on my inevitable demise, makes me wonder about a lot of the YA books out there. Do the teens in those books think about their own mortality? Do they get bogged down by the depressing fact of life that we're all gonna die someday? I did read one YA in recent years that dealt with heavy themes of death and abuse and all that, even though it was a funny, loveable book. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is definitely one of my favourite books ever. I briefly mentioned it back here. And I reviewed it here.

Anyway, I've had my dark times where I've been obsessed with mortality, but for the most part I've got past the obsession - the compulsion to think about it even though I never wanted to. These days I'm enjoying my life and making a lot of it, even if I'm probably not yet quite making "the most" of it. I've done some great things - travelled around the world (twice), formed strong friendships, had and lost (not-so-)great loves, released a music CD, written 11 novels, fostered homeless cats, bought a house, etc.. I will do more great things, at least that's my intention. And while I still often think about mortality - mine and other people's - 'cause I can't help it, it generally doesn't drag me down as much as it used to.

I hope this post didn't depress anyone. I just wanted to share with you a part of me that is ever-present. That's what this little series is about, after all - giving you guys the chance to know me better!

A quick NaNo update:
I hit 40k last night. Specifically, 40,346.
I wrote over 18k this weekend (0 words on Friday).
I'm still loving my story.
I still have many "meaty" scenes to write.
I think it'll wind up being a good length.
And I lurve my characters.

p.s. This is my 500th post!!!!