Storybook Perfect

Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Author: Kirstie Olley (page 1 of 37)

Porthos’ Goodbye

A *heavily* pregnant me cuddling Porthos

For months now (possibly even a year, I can’t remember when I started) every time I’ve been passing by our dog, Porthos, and he’s asleep I’ve done what parents of newborns will be familiar with: I’ve stopped in my tracks and waited, breath held, until I’ve seen his stomach or chest rise and fall with breath or some other movement that proved he was still alive. And over the last few months he was napping so much of the time I was pausing at lease five times a day. The saddest part was, this time I didn’t have to check, I just knew. It wasn’t any of his comfortable napping poses. I froze not to wait, but to put my hand over my mouth and start crying.

Like Arima, Porthos was Ezri‘s son, born in the same litter as Arima. He was named for Captain Archer’s (from Star Trek Enterprise) pet beagle, but we had a lot of people (read: not nerds) think it was for The Three Musketeers, especially with Arima around which people would think was Aramis. For a large part of the three’s lives all of them lived together with us, but Porthos had a bit of a journey before those days.

In the young days, still a puppy, Porthos would escape with or without his mother (usually with), but none of those journeys is the one I’m talking about. When he was a few months old Porthos went to live with T-J’s parents. They didn’t rename him because T-J’s mum also is a Trekkie. But it wasn’t a forever home (though not through neglect). When the couple split, Porthos moved with T-J’s mum, but then she made a further move to Tasmania. While she looked for a place suitable for an escape artist dog Porthos stayed with us, completing the trio of dogs we’ve had for  over a decade.

Porthos was an impressive jumper. We had to extend too-short fences with chicken wire to prevent his stunning leaps over, and then ensure all houses after had solid six foot fences. Being the leanest of the trio he was often the first to wriggle worm-like under fences too, and was the last to give up escaping the yard for adventures in the wide world – though his last escape a couple of years back was anti-climactic as he only escaped into our back door neighbor’s yard to play with their dog Indie ;p

so grey you can barely tell he’s a pedigree tri-colour beagle

Porthos started going grey almost as soon as his mother did (so a year and a half early) and his colour bleaching was even more extensive and for at least the last year I’ve been calling him ‘Old Man’ far more than his real name.

While being our only dog for the last 18 months might have been a little lonely since his fur family wasn’t around anymore, his human family’s attention was no longer split, and he also got away with a lot more stuff (such as coming inside far more often). He also got to enjoy more big group walks as it’s much easier to walk with two kids and a dog that two kids and three (or two) dogs, that and in his old age he wasn’t tugging the leash quite so violently as in his more youthful days.

Another benefit of being the last dog is when he started getting picky with his food he was indulged (gourmet dog loaves anyone?). Sadly as the months wore on he got pickier and pickier. Even the food he did like he’d wait to eat, or eat a little now then a bit more an hour or two later. A couple of cheeky magpies in the area would pop by in the morning to have a peck or two at what was left in his bowl. Then morning and afternoons, and now just whenever they felt a bit peckish (bdm-tsh). Seriously though, I should take a picture of these magpies, they are legitimately fat birds compared to the rest of their species.

so old he was gentle enough on the leash for Xander to hold it on his own

He was always funny with his food though, insisting on flipping over dry food bowls because he’d rather eat it off the ground, and often playing what I can only call cat-like with individual biscuits and flipping them up in the air and chasing them. (I tried to find a video of this while sorting through our drives for this memorial but there are soooooo many videos over the years, I haven’t been able to find it yet. Will post if I do though because it’s hilarious and adorable). In a similar cat like way, he used to like to climb up onto my lap and curl up there too. In the picture at the top of pregnant me cuddling him he was trying to curl up in my lap and I was telling him “Dude, I don’t even have a lap at the moment”. Like all our dogs, he never chased any of our cats, but that’s probably because he was raised as a puppy with many of them while they were kittens.

With Porthos’ passing yesterday we now live in a house with no canines, a state  we haven’t been in since the very early days of our relationship. He was 16, like his mum, so a huge part of our lives and our kids’. It’s tough, waking up in a dog-less house, but at least the trio is together once more.

The trio snuggled up in a nap pile, I had to take the photo through the window because if I opened the door to go outside they would hear it and come rushing to the door to beg for food.

Quite Early Mid-Year Goals Check-Up

the first Retailored Fairy Tales novella is already available

After reading Eat That Frog, Turning Pro, The War of Art, The Successful Author Mindset, and listening to quite a few different writing related podcasts recently I’ve been thinking I need to focus more on a single series, or at least the universe that series is in. So now, in my quite early mid-year goals check-up, I’d like to announce I’m going to be focusing almost exclusively on my Retailored Fairy Tales universe for the forseeable future.

This will of course lead to some adjustment in my goals for the year.

My goals previously stated, with revisions following are:

  • Rewrite Written by The Stars – for the sake of focus I’m cutting this one for now. I really love this story and i know a complete rewrite will save it from the editing purgatory it is currently languishing in, but I want to focus completely on my Retailored Fairy Tales universe
  • the latest Retailored Fairy Tales short story, Groundskeeper, is available in Stupefying Stories v 22

    Complete edits on Lovely/Lonely – same story as above, I love it, but I’m trying to focus. I may still work on one or the other of these two noves if I start feeling a bit ‘burned out’ on RFT but I’m essentially relegating these to ‘stretch goals’ now

  • Get the Charming For Hire series ready for publication and release it – this is now my number one focus, though the release part may change, I want to have all but the very final book first draft and the first four at least professionally edited before begining my release schedule, that way I can do a rapid release. If necessary that may mean release won’t start until next year and I am zen with that (I can explain the whys of this more but it goes into book marketing and the current market a bit and might be boring to those of you who aren’t also writers ;p )
  • Continue writing and publishing short fiction for traditional markets – I’m not cutting this one completely. I’ll continued to edit(and re-edit ;p ) and send out my existing shorts, but for the rest of the year I’d like as many of my new stories to be in my RTF universe as possible
  • Work on my fiction podcast – staying about the same, but might just change it to making my own audiobooks. i still love this idea though, I want to narrate some of my fiction so much XD
  • Write at least one new novel – I still will, but they’ll be all be Charming For Hire ones ;p
  • Work on more Retailored Fairy Tales stories – lol, unchanged
  • Continue learning – I’ll never cut or change this one. Ever.

So a little bit of cutting, a little bit of modification and some stay perfect just as it is. Sounds a bit like editing ;p

And for any fans of The Troll’s Toll, you’ll be happy to know I’m going to refocus on writing the second of The Troll’s Troubles Trilogy and finally outlining the third book too. No ETA right now since Charming for Hire is my number one focus, but if you’re keen let me know and I might shift to The Troll’s Troubles instead.

April Goals Round-Up 2019

I fell just short of my goal of writing 50k words of The Charming War/The Handrell War.  47.5 k so close! But between school holidays, all the public holidays and a bad case of ‘I got a video game for my birthday’-itis to have managed to get that close is Herculean in my opinion.

As happens with NaNo novels I know there’s a lot of chaff words, characters getting excessively verbose for no reason other than to up my word count and doing more highly introspective navel gazing than I’d typically write, so I’ll have plenty of words to shave. However unlike other times, I’m not feeling burned out on the project. I’m confident I can finish it and do my word trim pretty quickly and start working on the next Charming book.

I was so hyper focused on getting the Charming book done I didn’t touch any of my short story back catalogue.

For May my goals are:

  • Finish the first draft of The Charming War/The Handrell War
  • Get at least three more back catalogue short stories back out there
  • Prep thorough outline for next Charming book (‘The Glass Witch’)
  • Start process of hiring a professional developmental editor for Charming Rivals
  • Write one new short story (ideally set in the Retailored Fairy Tales universe)

You might notice most of my goals are still centered on my Retailored Fairy Tales universe. There’s a reason for that which I’ll go over in a blog post tomorrow, my ‘Quite Early Mid-Year Goals Check-Up’ ;p

And as usual, if you’re curious as to what I’ve been reading through April, here’s the list with links to my review on Goodreads if I made one:

  • The Language of Thorns – Bardugo’s fairy tales from the Grisha-verse were obviously right up my alley
  • Tribes – an interesting idea worked up. Not sure exactly where I belong in my tribe…
  • You do You – makes me want to actually read her other books
  • The Song of Achilles – a lovely romantic angle of the Achilles legend
  • The Fire’s Stone – a cool older fantasy novel which is wonderfully inclusive, but suffers from head hopping-itis
  • TransMission: My Quest For A Beard – another cool trans memoir
  • It Burns – technically an ‘audio program’ but it was still a very interesting listen. Also currently free on Audible if you read this fast enough ;p
  • The Power of Body Language – an interesting read to expand my knowledge of kinesics, so much fodder for my writing 🙂
  • Eat That Frog – a good but fairly simple time management book
  • Turning Pro – an inspiring follow up to The War of Art

March Goals Round-Up 2019

I did pretty well this month, not as good as I was hoping, but definitely made some headway against the lost time so far.

The ending of Nothing Charming was a bigger mess than anticipated >.< I needed to rewrite the final scene into two heftier scenes (I summarised some of my final points too hard and fast, my beta readers were unanimous in response to that), but in the end I managed to finish the structural edit. All events and structure are as they should be. I still need to do a fact check, a line tinker, and a proof read, but I’ll save that for after I’ve written the next one so I can cross check facts across all three books.

  • Complete edits on Nothing Charming: as established above, done.
  • Prepare the plot outline for ‘The Handrell War’: 90% done. I have an event outline perfected, but there’s a few conversations I know characters need to have to resolve somethings and set other things up for later books, but i don’t know precisely where to fit them. I think when I’m elbow deep in the story I’ll be able to feel it out.
  • Write two new short stories: I wrote two new short stories as hoped, ‘Apple Knight’ (3,000 words) and ‘Spinning Gold’ (500 words).
  • Get all my back catalogue stories back out there: I got four more of them updated and out there, not as many as I would like, but not shabby either
  • Read through the current Written by the Stars draft, lift plot points, rework with Story Equation to create new plot outline for use in Camp NaNo in April: I changed tack in the last week of March, figuring I need to focus on just the Charming series right now, once that’s all done and out I’ll let myself look at other things. I feel like the focus will ground me better, and if I move with the right amount of speed I can still get it all done. so instead i made ‘The Charming War/Handrell War’ my NaNo project for April.

Throughout March I attended a couple of webinars and read 5 craft books, that’s plenty of ticks for my year long  learning goal ;p

For April my goals are:

  • Write 50k of The Charming War/Handrell War (and figure out its title ;p). 50k might be all of it, not sure, should be in the ball park though.
  • Get the rest of my short fiction back catalogue out there

At the start of the year I set myself a goal to read 100 books this year. I’ve just finished the first quarter of the year and I’m within spitting distance of halfway to that goal. I went too easy on myself – that or I’m doing too many chores and therefore reading heaps more audiobooks ;p

Books I read:

  • Save The Cat – finally ;p
  • Stormdancer – a reread to remind me what happened before finishing the series at last
  • Kinslayer – no saggy middle in this trilogy
  • Endsinger – a quality end to the series
  • Deep Point Of View (Busy Writers Guides) – a thorough explanation and an easily usable plan of action!
  • Save The Cat Strikes Back – because why not read the whole series when the first two have been so helpful ;p
  • Reindeer Boy – a squishy one-shot full of cuties with antlers ;p
  • The Last Fifty Pages – because I needed an extra push to wrap up my ending right and this book released with perfect timing
  • Shadow and Bone – I wish I hadn’t read King of Scars first, totally ruined the big mid-point twist, and I know I would have freaking died over it without the advanced warning. I totally cheated myself,
  • Siege and Storm – very happy to have my second trilogy this month also not suffer from saggy middle syndrome. Tight and trim here.
  • Ruin and Rising – Bringing the trilogy home well 🙂
  • How To Write Short Stories – doesn’t sound like a book I really need ;p but I read it because the author is good and it never hurts to gather up a few extra tips to polish myself 🙂
  • Six of Crows – a romantic entanglement novel hiding itself as a dark fantasy heist novel ;p (seriously tho, everyone is paired up, it’s hard to miss for a chronic shipper like me)
  • Crooked Kingdom – so good, but why’d you have to kill him Bardugo >.<

Alita: Battle Angel – My Thoughts

some of my earliest anime/manga purchases – yes, that is a VHS tape ;p

I’ve been a Battle Angel Alita fan for over 20 years. I first saw the anime while still in high school and I’ve been collecting the manga for 18 years (it was one of the first manga I ever bought!). As if I wasn’t going to go see the movie.(it did take me a couple of weeks to get to it though, with camping, road trips, and getting away from the children ;p )

I went in wary, after all western adaptions of anime hits have not always produced the best results…  I went in curious to see what would be changed, how much would be added, how much of the world and its future and history would be put in. I went in cautiously optimistic because of my long held love for this series.

And I was not disappointed.

The movie wasn’t without flaw. It suffered a bit from ‘put all the things in!’ syndrome, but it felt more like an enthusiastic I’m-a-big-fan driven urge, not wanting newcomers to miss out on any of the coolness that is Alita. This did cause it to get a bit shuffled around, and sometimes subplots lost traction because there were so many that sometimes the romance subplot or the motorball subplot wouldn’t even get a mention for six or seven scene. The problem didn’t  reach movie-ruining levels for me (though I’m left wondering if someone with no knowledge of the world might have felt somewhat lost).

Several of the iconic moments (Ido pulling Alita’s remnants from the scrapyard, Alita holding Hugo’s hand hanging off the side of cables of Tiphares/Zalem, ect) were beautifully rendered, and though only touched on it was fun seeing some of the little nods to the fans (like the quick look at Jashugan). The special effects are great – but you probably already knew that considering who made it and the availability of trailers.

I was a little irked by some of the name changes, Daisuke to Dyson is understandable for an American audience (though why ‘Dyson’ is he a vacuum cleaner?’) but what kept niggling at me was Tiphares to Zalem. It threw me every damn time.

just try and tell me she isn’t weirdly perfect for the role

I love love loved Rosa Salazar as Alita. Her voice, her acting, her look (which admittedly is largely cg, but shh) were all great fits for one of my all-time favourite characters.

The emotion remained there well too, (SPOILER ALERT y’all) I still teared up as Hugo’s elbow joint breaks and he plummets away, even though I knew it was coming (and have seen and re-seen that scene into probably the triple digits by now between the anime and manga), and I really enjoyed the romance elements (though the scene with the heart didn’t work quite as strongly as I think it was supposed to).

Overall I was pretty happy with it, and would be up for any sequels, but worry a bit how non-fans might struggle with it.

 

ps. if you liked it and haven’t read the manga do it! Do it because Sechs is AWESOME. (also say that last bit out loud to a friend beside you on the couch like I did and you’ll have a great long-running in-joke ;p )

February Goals Round-Up 2019

I really don’t want to write this one, because I’ve done so little. But when you realise how much I had to work around it’s surprising I got anything done!

I finished reading all of the Deep Editing lecture packet from Margie Lawson (though I’ve not applied it to ALL of Nothing Charming yet, only what I’ve edited so far). Speaking of Nothing Charming, I’ve edited a further 22 pages using both the Deep Editing class, the four beta readers’ feedback and my own nous. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I only had access to a computer for ten days this month, and most of those I was working the day job, packing, cleaning, and critiquing other peoples’ work for the Vision Writers meeting this weekend.

To break down how I went with my goals directly:

  • Proceed with edits on Nothing Charming: I did 22 more pages. Progress FTW
  • Percolate some flash fiction ideas while driving on the holiday: I had two ideas while away, but I don’t know if they’ll end up being flash, they might be more my usual short story length ;p an idea’s and idea though, length doesn’t invalidate that in my opinion.

I might have managed to edit a few more pages of Nothing Charming, but I recieved a nice rejection back for Mermaid In A Jar so edited that story both with the feedback from the rejection and with the Deep Editing course. I’ll do one more read through later today and submit it to the next publisher.

bonus points for the skink in the bottom left hand corner

The massive time suck was the road trip to Sydney. While it was no good for my writing and editing it was super fun in general. I also got to see a lot of baby (or at least immature) birds that I’d never seen before. I saw baby peacocks with their peahen mother, and an immature bush turkey (it was so small and scratching up his little mound already uber-cute!). There were kangaroos at every campsite, some sidling right up to our tent. We also met some super friendly possums and land-on-your-arm lorikeets – and those are the wild animals! We also went to Taronga Zoo and the Sea Life Aquarium (dugongs!).

As much as I goaled low for February, I need to make up for the lost time. Here are my March goals:

  • Complete edits on Nothing Charming (and maybe convince friends and family to chip in for a professional edit for my birthday ;p )
  • Prepare the plot outline for ‘The Handrell War’
  • Write two new short stories
  • Get all my back catalogue stories back out there. At the end of last year I fell seriously behind and I hate sending out stories that haven’t been self-edited between each rejection – you never know what I learned while they were out and what I’ll catch on a fresh read
  • Read through the current Written by the Stars draft, lift plot points, rework with Story Equation to create new plot outline for use in Camp NaNo in April

Yes I *know* I keep saying ‘no more NaNoWriMo’, but its a checkbox on the Five Year Best Seller course, and I don’t want to skip any steps.

And lastly, a stretch goal of:

  • Edit Lovely/Lonely

The list’s a bit long, but I’m confident I can handle it, especially with Harley at kindy an extra day a week to meet the minimum attendance requirements.

Lastly, for those who want to know, here’s the books I read in February:

Curlew At My Front Door

By now most of you should know I love bush stone-curlews, and today when I got home after picking the kids up from school I was ready to just unbuckle them and head on into the house, but Harley cried out, “Look, ducky!”

So I looked and it wasn’t a duck, but a bush stone-curlew, on my front lawn only a couple of meters away. It was watching me warily, but I snapped a few pics and pushed the kids inside and she’s still out there chilling even now a couple of hours later.

Obviously I’ve locked the cat flap too so they can’t go out and try to tangle with our guest. I might stay up late tonight and see if I can hear her singing 😀

January Goals Round-Up 2019

January was busy. Here in Australia this is summer school holidays, so I had both the kids at home all but literally the last three days of the month. On top of that I helped T-J fix some of our sagging ceilings in the house (he did the nastiest part of the work, the climbing in the roof during searing Australian summer days!), and also installed a new car stereo, which ended up being a much more complicated process than I’d at first anticipated (whatever happened to plug n’ play?).

There was good stuff too. Xander’s birthday is early in the month, and we took him to Paradise Country where they currently have all sorts of cool Shaun the Sheep stuff including a stage show, statues, meet and greet ect . You can probably guess we bought him quite a bit of stuff at the gift shop there too.

But you’re probably here to see how the writing is going(and whether or not I’m working on the story you want to read ;p ).

I set three goals at the start of the month and here’s how I went with them.

  • edit and resubmit several of my ‘in circulation’ short stories: I got two more back out there, but have several more I need to hurry up and get around to
  • compile beta feedback on Nothing Charming and complete edits using the Deep Edits lecture packet from Margie Lawson: It’s a longer path than expected combining four peoples’ feedback, your own new ideas, AND the advice from a course all at once. Also, school holidays >.< I’m just a little over half way done page count-wise, but previous experience tells me the ending often requires the most work, so time-wise I’m probably not really halfway done, but it’s hard to accurately guage.
  • compile beta feedback on Lovely/Lonely and commence edits:. I don’t like to be editing two things at once, too much risk of mucking up, so I haven’t even touched this.

So one completed, one half way done (approximately) and the other untouched. Not too bad considering I knew I was setting the bar high. It might come as a surprise, but I really didn’t waste much time at all on Ragnarok:Eternal Love. I did have a bit of fun, and can see myself logging in every now and again, but I’m not addicted like I was to the original. I don’t know if it’s me, the platform, or the game.

My February goals are going to be pretty skinny. I’m on holidays so almost entirely AFK for two weeks, plus don’t forget the sort of planning and fall out such a big family trip has. And most of the first week of February I’m working lots of extra shifts at my day job while various bosses take their accrued days in lieu from the Christmas period. I’ll be lucky to get one productive week out of February, and I’ll probably spend most of that doing my feedback for the next writers group meeting >.<

So my February goals are:

  • Proceed with edits on Nothing Charming with an aim to ideally complete them(but the knowledge I probably won’t)
  • Percolate some flash fiction ideas while driving on the holiday(there will be much driving ;p )

I’ll shoot for the stars again come March ;p

I plan to share some views on some anime I’m really enjoying in the next few days, and I might share some stuff from my big trip too, so hopefully more blog posts between now and my next goals round-up (which was totally my modus operandi last year ;p )

And for those curious, here are the books I read in January:

Just a few books ;p

Did you read anything good last month? What about your goals for February?

The Magic of Differing Opinions OR Why Beta-readers Rock

imagine this is me, and that book is my beta-reader feedback

So I’m finally (yeah, I know, I’m bad) getting around to compiling up the beta reader feedback on Nothing Charming. Four  people sent me back their feedback and it’s wonderful because I’ve now got four different opinions on it.

One reader is all in on the romantic sub plots, another confessed she’s hardcore shipping the couple I intend to get together, but another person struggles with some of the relationships and the clarity of what happening, while another really didn’t get anything from any of the relationships. Which sounds bad, but it’s GREAT! Why? Because he identified himself as not being a fan of the particular type of fantasy I’m writing, so I have identified someone who is not my target market. He still found plenty to like(and his enthusiasm for those things has spurred a few spin-off short story ideas), but I now know what sort of reader these books won’t appeal to and can avoid promoting/advertising to that section of fantasy fans.

Another great thing about the differing opinions is I can balance them against one another. If most of them say the same thing in feedback, I’ve obviously got a problem I need to get onto. If two people disagree, I ponder which of them is closer to my idea of my ideal reader. And just because that one reader isn’t my target audience, doesn’t mean I ignore every note he’s made (and not just because that would be rude ;p ) but also because that different view could be just the right spice to offset elements of my story.

I love feedback, critiques, and beta-readers. It’s all so helpful to see how other people see my writing, and I’m excited to keep moving forward with editing Nothing Charming (even though I’m a little bit behind plan (and yet here I am blogging about it and not doing it, the fine art of procrastination ;p ))

January 2019 Goals

I specified my goals for this year, but almost forgot to lay out my goals for this month; the steps that will get me toward my yearly goals. So without further ado:

  • edit and resubmit several of my ‘in circulation’ short stories (stories I’m currently sending out and trying to sell).
  • compile beta feedback on Nothing Charming and complete edits using the Deep Edits lecture packet from Margie Lawson,
  • compile beta feedback on Lovely/Lonely and commence edits.

as long as I can resist playing this ;p

It’s a fairly hefty list (even if the last one is more open ended with merely ‘commence’ edits ;p ) considering it’s school holidays so I’ll be doing this with kids constantly at home around me. I have some lofty stretch goals for the year though (I didn’t list them in my yearly goals yet) so I’m planning to get as much done early on as I can.

Last year I gathered all this wonderful feedback, but haven’t had a chance to actually go over and get to work on the notes. So this month is the start of rectifying that.

Also, whenever I get a short story back with a rejection I always give it at least one run through before putting it back out there – after all usually at least a couple of months have passed and usually I’ve learned or thought of a few new things which I can use to improve my work. I do quite a few more than one if it was a feedback rejection, because I have notes to work with.

Anyway, here’s hoping I don’t spend all my spare time paying Ragnarok M: Eternal Love when it comes out, and get lots of work done!

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