Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Possum Hunter

Yup. The roof men have been. The roof is sealed and we have two blissfully slumbering possums trapped inside the roof. Its going to be an interesting evening.

Hubby and I are armed with apple slices and a possum trap (just a cage they go into and can't get out of) and two possum boxes waiting in nearby trees, all cosy and ready to go. The only thing we need to do is get cranky possums into trap and thence to garden. We are quite nervous. Actually I'm not, but hubby is. He's envisaging scenes aka the end of 1984 (ie his head being attacked by possums).

I'm planning on watching events unfold from the safety of the couch.

Shall let you know how it goes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Being a Judge

I got a lot of questions last night (in the RWA chatroom) about being a contest judge. In, I think, all of the writing contests each entry has to be judged by a published author. I love being a judge, it never ceases to amaze me how imaginative and creative people are.

We published judges know how confronting it can be to enter your work in a contest, we've all been there, and I have to say its good practice. You have to learn to handle criticism if you are going to make it as a pubbed author. Writing is many glorious things, but to do it for a living you cop rejection and criticism frequently. Just wait until an editor gets their hands on your beloved book. They'll rip it apart. But, they are doing it so that your book is better, so that it will sell better, you that you will get better reviews. Contest judges have the same motivation. Their comments are to improve your work. Yes we can be wrong, but we are frequently reading a part of the story out of context, and yes we miss things, but when that happens just glide over the comment. Think, 'no, she's wrong, she doesn't understand that I'm foreshadowing (or whatever)' and move on.

Just remember that judges judge because they want to help you get your book published.

Judging is no small undertaking. I usually take on 7 - 10 manuscripts, and right now I have a pile sitting on the floor about the size of a ream of paper. I devote about 1 - 1.5 hours per entry. I read it through making mental notes and getting a feel for the whole thing and then whip out my red pen and highlighter and get to work. If something is good I say so, and I say why, same for if its bad or not working. The why part is incredibly hard. Its so easy to just say 'Loved it' and move on, but that doesn't help the writer. They need to know what they're doing right and what they're doing wrong and WHY.

Its also important to remember that when you enter a contest you don't get judged by one judge. Usually its three or four. This helps put each judge's comments in perspective as well. If they all hone in on one point then its clear that point must be changed no matter how vital or poetic. Though from my experience judges see your work very differently, which is fascinating in itself, its amazing how one person will pick up one perspective and another miss it entirely.

I truly believe that it was the comments of a contest judge that got Running Scared across the line and accepted for publication by Samhain. It was in the Emerald. This judge tore my entry to bits. You have never SEEN so much red pen. At first I was confronted, couldn't look at her comments for days, but when I did I saw that she'd been constructive. I could write, the story was good, she said, and then started to use a lot of words that included trite, boring, cliched and awkward (yes I did get rather pissed-off). But she was right. Totally right. I re-wrote the whole thing and sold it two months later. I always thank heavens for her (actually I have a suspicion as to who she was and have bought all her books!!).

Absinthe & Anzac Day

Its officially cold. Have started making porridge in the morning for the screamies. Yes, winter is upon us.

Yesterday was Anzac Day, and no, I was unpatriotic and did not manage to crawl out of bed at 4.30am like James next-door and attend the dawn service. My Grandfather was in the RAAF during WW2 but at 92 he is still pretending that the horrors he experienced didn't happen so there has never been a family emphasis on Anzac Day. I am however having him over to spend the day tomorrow. What better way than to say thanks than to let him see his Great-Grandkids looking cute and angelic and, most likely, having howling tantrums about the place. (He comes for the food, I know this).

Have been doing research on Absinthe (or Absynthe). After a demented day yesterday which included a trip down to Ingleburn (godbless the new in-car DVD player), was avoiding writing The Bunker and ended up in the Romance Australia chat room for a couple of hours (as well as taking part in a Samhain HTML newsletter workshop, bidding on ebay and rearranging iTunes). It went off, and if you're a RWA member drop by next Friday, 8pm - 10pm. So anyway, in the chatroom we had a long discussion with Tracey the absynthe expert, its always intrigued me given it was illegal for most of last century. Here's what wikipedia has to say about it (oh how I love wikipedia).

Absinthe is a distilled, highly alcoholic (45%-75% ABV), anise-flavored spirit derived from herbs, including the flowers and leaves of the herb Artemisia absinthium, also called "wormwood." Absinthe is typically of a natural green color but is also produced in both clear and artificially colored styles. It is often called "the Green Fairy."

Absinthe was portrayed as a dangerously addictive, psychoactive drug. The chemical thujone, present in small quantities, was blamed for its alleged harmful effects. By 1915 absinthe had been banned in most European nations and the United States. Although absinthe was vilified,[2] no evidence has shown it to be any more dangerous than ordinary liquor. Its psychoactive properties, apart from those of ethanol, have been much exaggerated.
So, further to Thursdays post (a long moan about turning into a boring fart) in addition to possible hair dyeing, tattooing, and piercing, I'm adding a taste for absinthe - hmm, I do believe I'm starting to find my inner Goth.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Old Friends... Or DAMN YOU Facebook

Hubby and I are having another night in. Just like every other night since we got pregnant. The fire is going, music is on, the wine is nearly gone and I am cheerfully surfing ebay for teacups that I Simply Cannot Live Without.

Usually I'd be perfectly happy.

But tonight I'm inwardly howling.

What Have I Become?

Facebook is to blame.

I've come across some old buddies of late. People who knew me in my youth - and I'm talking 17 odd years ago now (oh and Freddie Bear who knew me when I was eight so he doesn't really count as I was just working up to my prime at that point). And don't get me wrong, I'm deeply glad we've made contact. I have been wondering about these people for years. And now here we are swapping stories of divorce, babies, adventures, studying, being an artist's muse, swimming with sharks, all incredible moments of their lives which, little do they know, are going to end up in a book sometime!

But its made me a bit melancholy, and its taken 3/4 of a bottle of wine to figure out why... I kind of miss that wild, reckless, drunken girl I used to be. What happened to her? Where did she go? Rolling drunkenly around the Muddy Duck in Wagga and escaping home in an orange combe-van, avoiding strippers (male and female) at 10am on a Sunday morning at the Church in Kings Cross, London, busily evaporating last night's hangover with snakebites, or running around a gay nightclub in Kunming in China (and being ardently pursued by Italian cigarette company reps). Then it seems life got serious, or I calmed down, or grew up, or something. Only I don't suppose I realised Adventure Cait had really left the building until I started to look back over my twenties and thirties and see that I haven't darkened the door of a Youth Hostel in nearly ten years, in fact I've let my membership lapse. Shared bathrooms? I Dont Think So. I like my hotels 5 star, thankyouverymuchindeed.

God. When did I turn into my parents?

I'm feeling the need to do something outrageous. Just to prove I can. And no I don't mean Smoking a Cigarette, or Getting Drunk at Hornsby RSL or even Opening Another Bottle of Wine. Suggestions welcome and I'll let you know what I come up with.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Birthday Parties... the aftermath

This photo was taken by me hiding inside the house. You see they've got balloons.

Yes. If there is one thing in this world that sends me into a cold sweat its being in the presence of balloons.

Children's birthday parties are a trial, always had been. I remember once being at a work chrissy thing and there were hundreds of balloons suspended in nets from the ceiling, ready to be dropped at any moment. I left early. I couldn't bear it. And everyone kept asking why I kept staring fixedly upwards.


Its really arrived...


Am avoiding writing at the moment. Not writer's block. Am over that. Just every time I sit down to write I find something else to do. Like surf ebay for tea-cups. Or, find friends on Facebook. Or fiddle about on Myspace. Or watch TV, clean out the laundry cupboard (3 packets of mothballs? 3??), tidy the kitchen, organise someone to remove the possums from our roof, check the weather... you get the idea.

So, latest obsession is dying my hair. I'm thinking bright red and blue streaks. No seriously I am. Its just such boring hair and it just sits there. I want Loud Wacky Hair, which will go very nicely with my Loud Wacky personality. No really, I am loud and wacky, well I could be, if I wanted to.


Hubby is appalled and trying very hard to be 'a good supportive husband' - okay, so when he told me I was mad I managed to look like I was about to cry and he's been running scared ever since.

Ohhh Queasy....

Have just got home from wonderful birthday party. For Tom who's two.

So here is what my children ate this weekend...
Saturday: Breakfast (cereal, milk, toast). McDonalds for lunch (yes, am bad, weak mother). Most of dinner (steak and veges) was chewed thoughtfully and then spat back on the plate (or the floor) - although hubby liked it.
Sunday: Breakfast (cereal, milk, toast). Fizzy drink, popcorn, cake (although the actual cake part was left uneaten, heaven forbid it may have had something healthy in it like white flour or sugar or butter - they just scoffed the blue/purple icing), more fizzy drink, frankfurters, vegemite sandwiches, more cake icing, jam tarts with lollies on them, fizzy drink. Then, NOT ONLY did their mother end up with half the birthday cake to bring home, but we ALL got lolly bags as well.

I harvested the pumpkins (all three of them) from the garden yesterday, and am making pumpkin soup for dinner. At least then I can tell myself I've offered them some form of non-processed food.


Tomorrow I will be a better parent. Tomorrow.

Hilarious Blog

Its hilarious. Just read the post about her hat.

I'll put it up on the sidebar when I get a chance.

GITB - Abundance & Pain

So, my GITB course is trotting along, quite quickly actually. I just manage to forget all about doing the readings for one week and another list comes along, so then I do the readings for the previous week so I don't feel guilty and... well... you get the idea. Its the story of my life anyway.

So last week was about the Abundance in our lives. Yes my life is overflowing with abundance, and germs. But mostly abundance. No its good. I'm not one for counting my blessings, actually I take them rather for granted. Which is bad. I should write a list. I shall add writing a list of all my abundances to my list of things I should do.

My bottom. Now that is abundant. And getting more abundant by the minute. Oh well. Its cold, the knitwear has come out and I've found this excellent long cardigan thingy that covers my abundant bottom, so it can just stay abundant I reckon.

All bottoms aside. One of our tasks was to imagine our perfect lives and work towards it. So I imagined my perfect life. Nice house. I love my house. Nice Garden. I especially love my garden. Loving family. Weeell some days I'm not sure about the loving, but they're all mine and I kinda like them - okay let's just say I'd be reeelly upset if they went away... permanently that is.

Anyway, without being too vomity about it, I have to say that I'm pretty much there when it comes to living my ideal life. The ONLY thing missing is a horse. Yes. A horse. Things aren't too bad when the only thing missing from your life is a horse.

SO, then this week just so we don't feel too cheerful for too long we're doing PAIN. Now (and this is true) when I see the word PAIN I just think that it's the french word for bread. Then I start thinking about french food and my bottom ends up being more abundant. Yes. Unusually optimistic for me, but there you have it.

So we're supposed to be looking at past hurts and how they've changed your life. So, for example, you are a gifted artist, but some discontented art-teacher tells you you're crap in Year 8 and you crawl away and never paint again. That type of thing.

Now I'm not without my share of past hurts. I anybody really? I had a boyfriend killed in a car accident when I was 19, it took me a long time to get over it. I've lived through a divorce. And yes, they were great turning points in my life. They did send me off in new directions, but I think its all good. It got me to where I am now and, as I said before, I can't imagine a more perfect life for myself (apart from the horse thing).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

All is revealed...

So its not the fact that
  • I'm woken up 3 - 6 times a night, or
  • I cook
  • I clean
  • I shop
  • I adjudicate
  • I pay bills
  • I write
  • I diagnose
  • I hug
  • I work
  • I drive
  • I clothe
  • I talk and walk and type
  • I organise
  • I watch and worry
But no, I'm exhausted because I have low iron levels. Well thank you Sydney Morning Herald for deciding that all women are exhausted because they're anemic.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Its cold, my feet are cold, and yes I know some of you reading this are currently being snowed upon, but 17 degrees in Sydney is a very cold 17 degrees. Much colder than elsewhere. No, I'm convinced of it.

Am tired and very, very crabby. Hubby has gone to Dubbo on business. Yes, selfish, I agree. The rest of the household, fully aware that there is only ME to take care of their nocturnal wanderings, put on a magnificent effort last night. After three hours of scratching fleas and purring the cat decided to take a twenty minute break outside and then come back and nag at the door. The dog had similar ideas. Miss Beanie kept dropping Funky (a plastic horse) and Red car (a red matchbox car) on the wood floor and then howling for them to be picked up, because hell, the fifteen other dollies and teddies in bed weren't nearly enough. Miss Bugalugs was snoring, possibly to make sure I didn't miss her father. AND there was a thunderstorm.

I ask you.

So, glutton for punishment that I am, this morning bleary eyed and foul tempered I potter off to the supermarket (only to have the checkout chick count every last cent in her till BEFORE serving me), then go to the butcher (who was busy chatting and not in the mood for serving customers), then to Bakers Delight (where I was served by a TRAINEE who couldn't count and nearly got eaten by the bread slicer).

Then, just to make sure I had spread the joy, I went to Bunnings (where the luddite who served me insisted on putting the 50kgs of dynamic lifter I'd asked for onto a different trolley, leaving me with two trolleys to deal with - uh thanks. Also the Bunnings carpark is on a steep hill. WHY don't they have brakes on the trolleys? WHY? It did not make life easy or even dignified to try to haul 50kgs of dynamic lifter into the car when the trolley is hurtling back down towards the shop taking out elderly doddery people as it goes.)

THEN I went to the vet on the way back so that I can DO something about the cat's fleas. Yes. You're correct. Didn't have either brand of flea stuff for cats. But she did helpfully suggest I either a) drove to Asquith to their OTHER vet practice, or b) soaked the cat in flea spray stuff.

Yup. All things considered I was quite polite, but something must've shown, I doubt I'll be getting an invite to her 21st.


Friday, April 11, 2008

And just to continue this week's theme...

I simply have to read this... mostly for the cover. But also to find out if her dress does actually fall off. Its defying gravity as is.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Damn You Ebay

How... HOW am I supposed to concentrate on long list of Things To Do when am flogging stuff on ebay?

Yes. In a fit of inspiration I placed the unwanted items from my Shelf Of Negativity on Ebay. And guess what, at last refresh they were earning me $180. Uh huh. $180. I'm as stunned as you. I think its poetic justice at work. The auctions end in about twenty minutes or so, and I'm sitting here hitting F5 like a woman possessed. Actually I've got a tension headache and at this rate there'll be a nosebleed before the end of it.

You know some days I do wish I didn't get so stressed out about everything. Actually, most days I wish that. However, am slowly accepting that I only ever take things in my stride with calm competence when under the influence. Drugs or alcohol, either is fine.

Speaking of stressed out, drove to Leichhardt today. Yes, torrential rain and the WORST roads in Sydney. It was bliss. Especially when I was so busy yelling at the bored screamies that I took a wrong turn and extended the entire ordeal by forty minutes by getting completely lost. Yes I had a map. No I never get lost. But today I just couldn't get it together. I'd consult the map, have it in my mind to take next left then right, but then have a panic and take next right instead. It was awful. This is why I never leave the suburbs. I never get lost in the suburbs. Its clear that I'm not designed for the trendy inner-west. Had to give up on map and ring clever Janine who sorted me out in no time. NOT ONLY was I in search of her old house (they moved years ago) BUT ALSO I was about sixty seconds away and had been for a good twenty minutes of panic-stricken block circling.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Three things I'd like to know about supermarkets...

1. WHY is there always a person going in the opposite direction up and down the aisles that gets in your way EVERY SINGLE TIME?
2. WHY does it take me 25 minutes to find the plain tuna amongst all the shi-shi p00-p00 ones with added bits (and that goes for packet soups - just try to find the chicken; and toothpaste).
3. WHERE have they put the apple juice - oh I could find plenty with myrtle flowers in it, or blueberries, but no plain apple juice.

Yes its been one of those days.

My feet hurt, I feel like I've been endlessly standing up. Am dementedly tidying the house as Angela our cleaning lady is upon us tomorrow, and I just want to make it so she can actually see the dirt, instead of it hiding below a layer of toys and clothes.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Picking up the Pace

Its been quite a few weeks now since I did any serious writing. It's been a well needed break. But in the last couple of days the urge to get in front of the computer has started to return. I'm still totally and utterly blocked on the plot of The Bunker. I'm not sure I can go on from the point I'm at, so I suspect the solution is going to be to go backwards, ie rewrite.

But, of course The Bunker isn't the only thing going on. I'm starting to work on the promo material for Secret Intentions, the back-cover blurb, tagline, cover art, that sort of thing. The edits are going to arrive at the end of the month as well, which I'm looking forward to. Its been a looong time between books, and I'm keen to get to work on the next project with my excellent editor.

In the meantime I'm tossing up between getting on with All That Glitters and rewriting At the Diplomat's Bidding into a more substantial romantic suspense. I suspect its going to be At The Diplomat's Bidding. Then I can send it off to my erstwhile agenty type person and give the poor girl even more to do.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

GITB - Fear

So this week in my Girls in the Basement course we are looking at fear. In her lecture Barbara Samuels talked about how she only really discovered fear when she had children...
And then I had children. And I holed myself up in my house like a
prairie woman waiting out a plague of locusts. The world suddenly seemed
absolutely horrific with danger... I was mainly afraid of anything that
could hurt my children, or hurt me so that they would be motherless or I
couldn't take care of them. It terrified me to discover there was love
like that in the world, love so vast an all-encompassing that I would not
survive the loss of them. I knew I wouldn't.

God. I so know how this feels. And I think the most utterly terrifying part is that the fear NEVER goes away. Being a mother of young children you are constantly on red-alert, even when its me time, there's always that niggle.

And what is even more amazing is that every mother lives with this fear. Its ordinary. Its part of every day life.

See. THIS is why I deserve all the tea-cups money can buy.

Teacups - oh yeaaah baby...

I don't own these, but oh how I wish I did...

Just so you know what I'm talking about when I refer to tea-cups.

My day...

This is how Wednesday 2nd April has been in the Caitlyn Nicholas household.
5.53am - Hubby dissapears to work
6.17am - lurch out of warm snuggy bed in the dark to struggle to computer and bid on sodding teacup in the UK. Get there with 15 seconds to go and lose out.
6.27am - fall over sodding Elmo who starts telling me that he loves me
6.28am - fling sodding Elmo out door
6.29am - sodding dog starts barking
6.30am - Small people wide awake and ready for breakfast ONE HOUR before they usually are - decide I hate ebay.
6.31am - make cup of tea
6.51am - reneg on 'no tv in the morning' policy
7.05am - make cup of tea
7.08am - realise one child is running temperature
8.03am - phone doctor - find out there are no appointments and demand to be put on a waiting list
8.15am - tidy rooms, put on first of seven loads of washing
9.07am - pushing small screamies on swing
9.41am - do deal with teacup chick to get teacup I missed out on yesterday - feel mollified and forgive ebay
10am - curse that children's programs are ending. Spend more time pushing swings. Wonder how the hell the house turned into a pigsty when I tidied it just days ago.
10.01am - unload dishwasher. Load dishwasher. Hang out washing. Put load of washing on containing Miss Bugalugs favourite duck towel. Leave Miss Bugalugs with nose pressed to machine sobbing 'duckie, duckie,' and make cup of tea.
10.07am - ring Mum to complain about ebay and doctor - realise we've got no bread for lunch, decide to make motherly chicken soup with teddy-bear pasta for poorly child
10.30am - Blinds man arrives to measure Miss Bugalugs window - her blind recently went pling and we've been incapable of un-plinging it
11.30am - Blinds man goes, having sadly failed at selling me several security doors and blinds for every naked window we have
11.32am - wood guy arrives to dump wood
11.51am - serve motherly chicken soup which is instantly rejected. Change soup name to teddy-bear soup with teddy-juice and is wolfed down.
11.53am - doctor rings with cancellation
12.30 - finally get everyone into bed for naps
12.35 - replace Miss Bugalugs nappy
12.41 - replace Miss Bugalugs nappy
12.51 - get teary-eyed over photos of clever Janines new bubs - born yesterday arvo - YAY. Idly wonder about having more children, and firmly dismiss idea as insanity. Make cup of tea, do yet another load of washing, hang out more washing, tidy up lunch, watch Dr Phil, long for a housekeeper.
2pm - Wake up everyone to go to doctor
2.03pm -replace Miss Bugalugs nappy
2.30pm - get home from doctor
2.31pm - Dianna arrives with her screamies to play for the afternoon
2.45pm - Cup of tea, bun and excellent gossipping
4.15pm - Roof man arrives to see about possums in roof and leaky bits
4.51pm - Have in-depth conversation about flashings, eaves and whirly-gigs
5.01pm - Hubby phones, running late, thereby scuppering carefully thought out pizza-for-dinner plan
5.02pm - get dinner
5.15pm - do last load of washing
5.35pm - feed everyone
5.40pm - hubby arrives home
6pm - collapse in front of marvellous cooking shows on telly and decide its been a rather long day.
6.51pm - get clothes in off line.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I got stuck...

I've been really stuck writing The Bunker. I just couldn't get over the fact the heroine was turning out to be one of those annoying perfect people like you see on CSI:whereever (insert town of choice). Beautiful, brainy, undaunted. God, she was so mind-numbingly boring. Then the plot went tits-up and I couldn't think of a way to fix it, so instead I went on ebay and spent lots of money on useful things like teacups, and the whole thing turned into an impromptu break from doing anything that involved my brain.

Of course since easter we've lurched from disaster to disaster, oh rest assured, that hasn't slowed. Gimme a couple of days to get over processing 300 students scholarships, dealing with our latest virus (in children not computers), being outbid on a teacup I really, really wanted, organising to get the possums out of the roof, wood delivered, Miss Bugalugs blind fixed, cooking, cleaning... You know, the usuals. And I'll give a detailed analysis!