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In Third Grade we had an awesome teacher (90% sure her name was Miss Hume, I remember her short, curly, dark hair and tall, thin frame far more vividly than her name, but I always was dreadful with names – and still am) who had spent the previous few years teaching in Indonesia. She passed on quite a bit of the Indonesian language to us in class throughout the day. She also taught the older grades as well so we learned more and more. By the time I graduated primary school and reached high school I knew so much Indonesian that when they tried to teach us (it was one of the mandatory language classes for the first two years of high school) I was a whole year ahead of the rest of the class.

While the vast majority of what I learned all those years ago has been lost in the recesses of my memory there is one thing that has stayed with me for almost two decades: A song about chickens.

The tune and the repetitive lyrics have stuck in my head for two decades.

Several times in the past I’ve tried to track down the song, failing miserably due to uncertainty as to both the spelling of the lyrics and the accuracy of my memory of said lyrics. Finally – driven mad by a need to prove this song exists to my husband – I found a YouTube video.

or if you want to know the lyrics

For the tender of heart don’t try to translate the lyrics, if memory serves things don’t end well for the chickens – yet it’s a song traditionally sung by children (or you’d hope so since I was taught it when I was nine years old).

Have you had a song plague you as long as this one has plagued me?

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What’s a blogger to do when her internet stops working? Why actually get some work done on her novel of course!

I took on an ambitious task recently, turning my epic fantasy trilogy into a quartet. I’d been considering it for a while. I’d noticed a disparity between the size of Storybook Perfect when compared to its two follow up novels. Storybook Perfect runs at 175,000 words, but when I look at the scenes I’ve planned for its untitled sequels neither seems like they will go much over 120,000. Usually the series starts with smaller books and the last few are the large ones. I’ve been thinking of ways to combat this problem. I don’t really want to ‘pad’ the later volumes, padding usually reads exactly like that – as filler. If you doubt me, anime fans, think of Naruto’s filler episodes. They lacked the lustre and power of the episodes that were drawn from the original manga. They weren’t terrible (though some may dispute that statement) but they weren’t up to the standard of what came before or what followed. I am NOT doing that to my books. I want my books to be shiny and strong.

So my next option was cut from Storybook Perfect. I have revised that book more times than I can count and while I could probably shave a few thousand words of somehow (god knows how, but there would be a way) it would never be the tens of thousands I’d need.

So a thought came into my head. Turn Storybook Perfect into two books. There were ideas I had to relinquish for the sake of word count that I could rewrite and of course I’d have to add a new conflict in to wrap up the new book 1, but it could be doable.

I agonised over the decision for a few months, no one wants to go back and tear through something they spent ten years already working on, but I didn’t feel there was any other way.

Scrivener is a godsend. I transferred my existing Word document into Scrivener, split it into scenes so I could flick through to add and remove at will (soooooooooo much easier than scrolling through a 294 page Word document). Now I can also move scenes that will be in book two easily as well.

The only down side is shortly after that I got a fever and a bad flu  >.< but I’m back online and (almost) feeling fine so we’ll be talking again soon.

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So, I watched Bladerunner for the first time ever on Saturday nite (took so long to post because yesterday I was too busy being surrounded by my AWESOME writers group who I am more infatuated with than a schoolgirl for the captain of the football team.). What I say next may shock you.

I was disappointed.

I’ll admit, I was expecting the movie to tackle a lot of what Philip K Dick did with the story it was based on(Do Androids dream of electric sheep). In fact I was banking on it because I am considering writing a novel (or maybe novella) with an android protagonist and I wanted to avoid any inadvertent plagiarism I might do by not reading the story and watching the movie.

The movie was just an action movie. I’m not saying it was bad, I just set myself up with all these big expectations so it fell short of my mental image.

A lot of people these days do that. They imagine this next big game in an old series (or movie) will be as stunning as they remember the original, but it often seems to fall short (Dare I mention Duke Nukem?) so it’s interesting to see a similar thing working in reverse. Of course there is always the standard ‘the movie is never as good as the book’ statement that comes out EVERY time a book is made into a movie.

And then there’s the ‘love scene’. I put that in hyphens in the most derisive way I possibly can. There was no romance there, only date rape. Go back and watch the scene if it’s been a while since you watched the movie. She doesn’t look impressed when he kisses her cheek/nibbles her ear/whatever it is he’s doing behind her lustrous eighties curls, she flinches away when he tries to kiss her on the mouth. She runs for the door and he won’t let her leave. Where is the romance? Not in this scene that’s for sure. He even tells her to tell him she wants him while he pushes her back against a wall. I was glad to see it wasn’t just me disturbed by the scene as when I complained to my husband he concurred, though he did say maybe it was an 80s thing ‘me big strong man, you confused android girl, me show you how to lurve’. Regardless, not cool.

I understand that Philip K Dick died before the movie was completed, he knew it was being made and reportedly was excited to see a scene showing off the world. I wonder what he might have thought of the movie if he had lived long enough to see it.

What was your take on the movie, am I being too harsh because of my trumped up expectations? What about the ‘love scene’, did it bother you as much as it did me?

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I want to share an interesting link with you all, particularly my writing friends.

Here it is – Why Does Magic Need So Many Rules?

I am so on the same page. Everywhere you turn (in the world of fantasy writing) people tell you that your magic system needs to be formulated and restricted in a set way, and while some points I’ve heard are valid, others I’ve sat there and thought ‘ya kiddin’ me?’ but kept that internalised, fearful I would be laughed at for saying exactly that – seriously people, it’s magic.

It also reminds me I really need to read the Earthsea Quartet.

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My earlier post on research referenced online research and how a writer should use their research to enrich the world and create atmosphere, not show how very well you can search through Wikipedia. I just finished reading the section in Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ related to research and to use his words, “don’t let the tail wag the dog”. Not sure I could say it any better than that.

In that post I sort of made research sound dull, like you’re stuck in front of your computer trawling the internet for information fish or in a corner in a library flicking through encyclopaedias. Research doesn’t have to be, it can be fun too (not saying the library and computers aren’t fun). Another example, and from the same book, is my trip to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens.

Mentally I was (still am) quite adamant that I wanted my ‘real world girl’ to live in Brisbane. I moved her into a house I once lived in, sent her to Uni in the heart of the city and even knew the path she would cycle along to get from home to Uni. I also knew if I went to Uni at the Garden Point campus I would have lunch EVERY DAY (well I suppose except for rainy ones) in the Botanic Gardens, so I wanted my girl to have a favourite spot. Everyone has a favourite spot, why shouldn’t she? This required some knowledge I didn’t have, so yay: family trip to the city!

We explored the Botanic Gardens, met a lizard, saw baby pukekoes, played in the bamboo and eventually even found a tree I deigned perfect for my protagonist to sit under every day. I even went to the effort of wearing the clothes I imagined her in the first time I visualised her (hence including that terrible, blurry shot) the white singlet with mystic symbols, the jeans shorts and the fabulous strappy sandals. Of course I’m not 21 anymore and certainly not a red head, but it was fun to play dress-up and get into my characters head, and all in the name of novel research! Now, if only I can convince my husband to let me swim with a manta ray as ‘novel research’.

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It’s rather odd researching for a novel. You need to know a lot of details (even when your world is made up) but while you research you have to be careful to not put too much of your findings in your writing and bore your reader. It’s a fine line to walk down. You need to create authenticity with your details, but you can’t bash your readers over the head while fanning yourself with a smug smile that says ‘I know more than you do’.

For example, I spent over an hour trawling the internet looking up Bedouin musical instruments (I started off thinking Arabian musical instruments, but then thinned it down a little more). I researched what they looked like, where they came from, listened to how they sounded on YouTube, all for perhaps a paragraph and a couple of tiny references when a musical troupe performs for my protagonist. The instruments themselves and the music they created were overshadowed largely by their players and the dancer alongside them. Those characters in turn were overshadowed by my protagonist.

I could just have written ‘they played music’, but how does that help illustrate the strange new world my protagonist finds herself in? I detail my music, give you some sounds and a picture for your imagination to work with, but I don’t tell you everything I’ve learned about rebabs and khallols because frankly, the reader doesn’t need to know. The reader only needs the atmosphere the presence of these instruments creates.

That is what your research details are for, creating atmosphere – not showing how well you can comb the internet.

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Xander’s First Swimming Lesson

Yesterday was the end of term 2 swimming lessons, but sadder than that it was the last day of work for our swim teacher Miss Mikayla. You may briefly remember in the post about Miette’s Moment that I mention we had the best infant swimming teacher ever. She plays with Xander (and all the other kiddies) as well as teaching them and I remember being impressed to see how quickly Xander learned swimming. She was helpful and informative, always happy to share a personal-life tale to giggle over or a fact about water safety. She was also the master mind and organiser of Miette’s Moment.

Miss Mikayla finished yesterday morning with light-hearted claims that it was just pool water under her eyes, but we knew better because we had similar excuses.

It’s hard to find good teachers for anything, and when you just happen to stumble on one by pure luck you stick with them like glue. We have been swimming with Miss Mikayla for a year now and sadly now that time is over. I’m not sure what is worse, knowing it is over like I do, or simply never seeing someone you adore and trust again like Xander will.

Goodbye Miss Mikayla, we won’t soon forget you, and all the best for your future.

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Normally I post my reviews on Goodreads. This blog isn’t intended as a book review blog (not that I’m against them, I follow quite a few and they are the ruin of my bank balance) however considering how many posts prior to this one have been about or sprung from ‘Jane and the Dragon’ (how many? Try here, and here) I felt I really did need to post my review of the book I so enthusiastically tracked down.

As with several other books I have purchased for my son, the for my son part needs to be put in sarcastic quotation marks, like someone is standing there waggling the first two fingers on each of their hands to emphasize the fact it was more for me than he – at least for now. The reading age this book is aimed at is several years away from my seventeen month old son. I’ve sat down repeatedly and tried to read it with him, but we never seem to make it past page 5 (there’s 24 pages, so that’s a dismal failure) if I read the text. We have leafed through to the end admiring the pictures several times and I’ve read the book on my own a couple of times.

Jane is destined to be a lady-in-waiting like her mother, but what she really wants is to be a knight. She is brave enough to tell everyone. In return for her honesty everyone either shuts her down or mocks her for it – except for the court jester, who gives her a suit of armour(it was his because he too once dreamed, but now he wants her to dream it for him). Just in time as well, since a dragon swoops in and captures the prince. Jane seizes the day and rides to the prince’s rescue to fight the dragon and – well I’ll leave you to read the book or watch the show to find out what happens next.

The characters are quite a delight, Jane’s mother and father – even though they are minor characters are clearly drawn (in words, not pictures – though pictures as well since this is a kids book) in their responses to Jane’s announcement that she wishes to be a knight. The prince and king are also well thought through and it’s lovely to see background characters receiving a decent treatment.

Jane herself is what drew me to this book and she didn’t disappoint. Jane is brave and forthright and works hard. She also allows herself to dream big. I love these qualities and can’t help but adore Jane. She also is merciful, which is a great thing for a knight to be – for anyone actually. Jane is in my personal Hall of Fame for good female role models.

The artwork within is colourful and detailed. The costumes, Jane’s wild red hair, the dragon himself, all magnificent. The artwork looks like it has been drawn with coloured pencils so might inspire children to draw their own adventures. I would love to share some here, but I have a feeling that would infringe on copyright, so I’ll just tell you to buy the book yourself or go to the library and borrow it. (Here’s a link to the Book Depository if you want to order online, but I do encourage you to try buying from your local bookstore – after all, tomorrow is Save The Bookstores day.)

I was surprised to find it was originally written in 1988, but republished again when Martin Baynton joined with Weta to make the TV show. I love that in the author bio on the final page there is a small explanation as to the origin of Jane’s character. It’s a great insight as to why Baynton chose to write this book.

All in all it’s a great book. I loved reading it (yes, from an adult perspective as well as a mum perspective) and can’t wait until Xander is a little older and can comprehend the story to see what his reactions are. I think I’ll have to go out and buy the sequels as well. “For him” of course ;p

 

 

What did you think of my first book review for a children’s book? Did I miss anything you would consider important?

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I had planned today to post my review of Jane and the Dragon. However I was quite distracted by a Facebook message from a friend who has recently become a new mum. She was asking for help because she wasn’t sure her tiny new son was getting enough sleep. She also worried that she was creating a terrible dependency by not teaching him to self-soothe yet – at the tender age of six weeks.

I had almost forgotten what those early months were like. Between the immense lack of sleep and the thousand different things books/people/the internet/your conscience tells you that you should be doing you lose all self-confidence.

It’s a brave new world, motherhood, and no amount of books or babysitting prepares you for when it is your child cuddling up to your chest, so tiny in your hands you can’t believe he took up so much space in your belly. You may have a clever friend or family member who is wise enough to tell you to trust yourself and do what feels right, but listening to them and not the plethora of information around you is harder said than done.

While all that information can be important, you will find no end to conflicting advice if you read enough. This is where that trust comes in. Trust in yourself. Don’t put your baby in a cot in another room if that doesn’t feel right to you. Don’t put your baby in your own bed with you if it doesn’t feel right to you. Both sleeping options are perfectly fine(as long as you follow precautions such as safety guidelines and SIDs prevention tips) and I assure you neither will affect the likelihood of your child growing up to be a psychopath (never did the research for this sorry, but I’m pretty damn sure). Some studies will tell you your child will gain independence better if he sleeps in another room, some other studies will tell you he will grow up and be more faithful to future partners if he co-sleeps (I kid you not, I saw research which claimed to prove this). Research can be skewed by the opinions of the gatherers all too easily.

You can probably guess I hail from the parenting school of ‘do what works for your family’. As long as you follow safety guidelines, the advice to prevent SIDs and common sense then I see no reason to do something that doesn’t feel right for your family. If asked I give advice but I will never be offended if the receiver doesn’t follow it. Just because something works for Xander and I does not mean it will work for my friend and her child. She is not a clone of me and her son is not a carbon copy of Xander, thus what worked for us may not be so efficacious for them.

All I can hope is that every new mother can find faith in herself and look forward to a long and beautiful life with their new children.

Note: I used ‘he’ throughout this post only because I have a son, feel free to imagine it a ‘she’ if you prefer, my advice is not gender exclusive. Do also focus on the fact I say “As long as you follow safety guidelines, the advice to prevent SIDs and common sense” I’m not advising anyone throw out safety! Though I would hope no one would feel something was right if it were dangerous I do recall those early days to be crazy and hazy at times.

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Writing my second novel was the easy part. My son was a sleepy angel who would wake me for a 5:30/6am feed then sleep til 8am and go to bed at 9pm (obviously there were naps during the day as well) allowing me to get up early and stay up late without exhausting myself and I used this fabulous month to tap the novel out of my brain and onto the page.

I printed it out as soon as I’d run spell check and tried very hard to wait a fortnight before editing(a well-known writer’s trick that is supposed to ‘distance’ you from the words you wrote).

The entire editing process has been painfully slow. I’m only about two thirds through. I wrote the novel faster than this. The lethargic pace is partly due to my son not being so generous with his bed times (babies love to change up their schedules every few months). The other (read: larger) problem was that something was wrong, but it was eluding me.

In my earlier posts I told you all that my writer’s group sure as heck knew what the problem was. As soon as my problem was identified I was full of ideas and went back through that first chapter and a half and rewrote probably 90% of it. A few lines and paragraphs made it through alive, but the remainder were slaughtered as sacrifices to the Muse.

It’s very interesting to see how much a simple idea (or hint or tip) can help you. It’s just as interesting to see how much of a problem the same ‘simple’ idea can be when it remains unidentified.

Has anyone else found this to be true?