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Have you heard of DIPG?

Neither had I until Xander’s swimming instructor – Mikayla – introduced it to us. DIPG is an inoperable tumour on the brain stem. With so little awareness about it there isn’t much research or funding.

Mikayla is organising a fundraiser which will be super fun for children at the Chipmunks at Lawnton on the 19th of May, so if you’re a Brisbanite (or whatever you call yourself if you live here in Brisbane) please come along. If you can’t make it because of distance or otherwise, head over to the Facebook page, Miette’s Journey and like and share it with your friends. Let’s help spread awareness. (To learn more, click here for details)

Also for Brisbanites, if you listen to 96.5FM tomorrow (Wednesday) at around 9:15am you’ll hear Mikayla promoting the event. If any of my tech savvy friends out there know how to record that snippet it would be fantastic if you could and send me or the page a link to it.

Thanks everyone.

Flyer For Miette's Moment
Flyer For Miette's Moment - click for details

 

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Liebster AwardMs Mandie over at ‘Stuff No One Told Mandie’ gave me a lovely award the other day: the Liebster award. It’s a nice viral award for small blogs which creates a wonderful trail of links helping us all promote one another.

This award is designed for blogs with less than 200 followers which inspire others. As part of accepting this award, there’s a few rules:

1. Copy and Paste the award on your blog

2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award

3. Pick your five favourite bloggers with under 200 followers who deserve to be recognised and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have received the award

4. Hope the five chosen bloggers will continue to spread the blog award love!

The hard part here is I worry I might inadvertently insult one or some of the people I offer the award to by inferring they have 200 or less followers. I have no real way of telling, so if I offer the award to you and you have more followers than that I’m sorry and I certainly meant nothing by it beyond your blog makes me feel delighted and inspired.

My award receivers are:

One Thousand Lights – an inspired and inspirational artist

Perogies and Gyoza – great book recommendations and a window back to my beloved Japan. Mouth-watering title too.

Writer In Progress – a fellow author enthusiastically trying to ‘break in’

Of The Sea – A very cool insight into freediving and travel, makes me miss being young!

That Book You Like – fantastic book recommendations and a wonderful artist to boot

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There is always a scenario you never considered. Yesterday I was telling you all how my imagination was driving me mental because all that my mind wanted to do was imagine possible outcomes. I thought of wonderful things and awful things that could happen when I was contacted. I never thought I might not have been the only one. There was another woman who tried to go into the seminar with her pram and consequently was refused entry. She’d driven twelve hours to attend the convention (holy heck, 12 hours in a car with a baby, glad that wasn’t me). In all my musings I’d not once thought I was not the only one or might not have been the one he was looking for.

It dawned on me that this is why we have friends and test readers we share our stories with. They can help us see the scenario we never imagined. I know sometimes I’ve been stuck for an answer and talked with T-J about my problem and he has far too often calmly replied ’what if you…’ to which I glare and pout simultaneously for a few moments because he found my answer so easily whereas I’ve been moping and moaning for days over the issue.

These external views can be so helpful, not just to see answers we couldn’t, but to see plot holes and other flaws. I can’t imagine putting a story out for public viewing without first showing it to my close reader friends. These people whose opinions we value are worth more than their weight in gold (tempted to make a bad joke about worth their opinion’s weight in gold). If you have someone like this who compliments your weaknesses, don’t let them go!

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Imagination is the well spring of the story. Without our imaginations the story would not have been written nor could our readers become so swept up within them. Unfortunately for creative types our imaginations are prone to running away with us.

Why this pontification? Because my imagination is driving me crazy. On the weekend our little family went to Supanova. I was particularly excited because a fantastic author was going to be there and I wanted to listen to his seminar. While I took Xander with me to the seminar, my husband waited in line to meet Wil Wheaton – we decided Xander would surely prefer movement and mummy to standing in line and had agreed when TJ was done he would drop by the seminar and grab Xander, hopefully before Xander became sick of the seminar. Upon navigating the crowded halls I arrived at the seminar room only to be told no prams were allowed in the seminar room so I had to leave it unattended outside or miss the seminar. My heart broke. While dodging cosplayers on my return to my husband and the line he was in I wondered why on earth that was a rule, so dropped by the reception of the exhibition centre to ask them. They told me the rule wasn’t theirs, but the attendant at the door had told me it was.

Disappointed I went online the next morning to the convention’s forums and asked ‘why?’. I wasn’t asking for recompensation, I just wanted to know why and whose rule it really was (I find calming down and moving on a lot easier when I understand the why of things). Then on Tuesday I had several emails begging for attention and was shocked to learn the author I had missed the seminar of was looking for me. Me? My head promptly exploded. I was a mix of embarrassment and excitement and my husband couldn’t stop laughing at my red face. The author wants to give me something as an apology, even though he is certainly not the one at fault.

So I contacted him back and now am waiting. It’s nerve wracking. Really it is. This is where my over-active imagination becomes an enemy, not a friend. My mind can’t help but entertain all possible scenarios. My imagination goes to both extremes. Maybe in the heat of the moment I said something that hurt the volunteer who was guarding the doors feelings (I wasn’t a monster, but I wasn’t precisely happy either) and he’ll shake his head at me with pushed together brows, clucking his tongue in disdain. Or on the other hand the positive fantasies are pure self-serving drivel which I’m not writing here because its too embarassing to even admit them aloud (let me confirm though – not sexual!). When you have a writer’s imagination you can’t stop your brain from thinking these things. Even though my mind is well aware that all that will happen is we’ll have a cordial conversation, he’ll give me whatever it is he plans to give me and then we’ll just go back to me reading his books and him writing them my imagination won’t stop sending out all manner of scenarios.

So I’m sitting here at my computer waiting for the reply that will finally let my imagination calm down.

So, am I the only one whose head comes up with dream after dream (or nightmare) while waiting for something? I know I’m not, but I want stories, so please share and give me something to do other than hit the refresh button a hojillion times.

 

*You may notice I never mentioned the author’s name. That is intentional. I didn’t write this post to be a name dropper. I just had to write down all the tight chested, close-throated, hot faced feelings to try and calm myself and temporarily shut up that aforementioned imagination that really is relentlessly making up scenario after scenario. Also, if you know who it is, refrain from commenting it, I do not want to be a name dropper even inadvertantly.

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When I say ‘the sentence’ to another writer they usually nod gravely in acknowledgement or scowl remembering the last time they grappled with this particular writing beast.

The sentence is the hardest form of synopsis. It is your entire novel boiled down to a single sentence – and no Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn style sentence that flows on like the river for one and a half pages – fifty words or less.

Difficult though this may be, make a good sentence and you have the perfect answer to when you are asked ‘What is your book about?”. Trust me, that person asking, they don’t want you to ramble on about how the politics of your Dragonmeet are carried out, or in-depth details about your magical system. What they want to hear is “In a world where the gods predetermine absolutely every moment of your life, a young woman from another world joins a group of dissidents in a fight against the gods for freedom.”

That’s the sentence I just tapped out for Fanta’s story. It isn’t the tightest sentence, a little tweaking of words will probably occur between now and approaching agents, but I need to know this sentence so if by some crazy, random happenstance I come face to face with an agent or publisher (oh I can dream, can’t I?) I can quickly sum up my novel and hopefully garner interest.

The sentence needs a few things to work.

You need to make your setting clear. Obviously mine is a fantasy world as implied by ‘in a world where the gods predetermine absolutely every moment of your life’. Of course, you don’t need to be as blatant as I am. If your world is just our normal, modern one you can make that obvious by mentioning a job or a landmark or something else that pertains to your story that will tip the reader/listener of your sentence off as to where the story is set.

You need to mention your protagonist. You don’t need to tell their entire back story but it’s usually good to throw in a powerful adjective and maybe a job or descriptive to give people a little more information about your protagonist. I started out with ‘young woman’ because that’s what Fanta is, a 22 year old woman, but you aren’t necessarily compelled to find out more about her by simply reading young woman. Young, scantily clad woman draws some attention, not the right attention but you get the idea. What you need is something pivotal to who she is or the problem she is facing (apart from the fact she’s about to fight the gods themselves). Fanta is struggling with the decision to get married to her live-in boyfriend, who she doesn’t know what to feel about anymore, so ‘romantically confused young woman’ could be good, but that can imply lots of different things. In the end I decided the fact she isn’t from this world is a compelling piece of information.

The absolute most important thing for your sentence is your main conflict. Clearly for this tale that is the war with the gods over the right to choose how to live their own lives with the antagonist of the tale being the gods themselves.

Usually the writer should start with the sentence and use it as a tool to keep their story on track. I didn’t. Didn’t with Storybook Perfect(to be honest didn’t even know its importance back when I started my first novel) and didn’t with Fanta’s Story. Breaking the rules! This worked in my favour in this particular case because I when I became sick a few weeks back I stopped writing – it was hard enough keeping up with commenting and the blog – and when I tried to start again I felt disconnected from the narrative. So I wrote my sentence to try and get myself back in the groove. It worked, because now the first draft is finished. Hopefully now the sentence will help keep me in check during my revision as well.

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I just finished my second novel.

Wow, my head is spinning with the excitement and I feel like I can’t catch my breath even though I’ve not run or danced or am having an asthma attack.

It’s hard to believe that what took me nearly ten years the first time around has this time taken only a smidge over two months – definitely an improvement on efficiency. I started on February 14 with the intention of entering the novel in the Vogel Awards (since changed my mind). That’s crazy fast. Admittedly, I had the idea a little over two years ago but had never tapped out anything more than a general outline and one funny bit of banter between the main characters and the occasional scribble of an idea I had from time to time. On the 14th I outlined the whole thing into scenes in Scrivener and on the 15th I started to write. Now, on the 19th of April, I have finished my first draft.

Fanta’s Story (which I’m considering calling ‘All the Stars’ or something damn close to that) is 65,000 words, but will probably end up a little longer in revision as I’ve had a few ideas and need to develop a few more things in my revision. If you’re curious and on Pintrest, I have two boards up related to this novel: ‘For All the Stars’ and ‘Clothing Research For My Latest Novel’. A bit more of a description will be coming in my next post, but I’ll leave you hanging for now for the sake of this post’s brevity.

So what’s on the-to do list now? Well I need to revise. It’s only the first draft I’ve completed and I’d be ashamed for anyone to see it yet (apart from perhaps my parents). First I’ll probably make myself read something non-fiction (after I finish ‘The Forbidden Land’ anyway), then re-read my book on revision (I have two, so I’ll probably flip a coin) then try to do the best edit I can. After that off to my loyal test readers and while they devour it, onto the next project, which is still a bit up in the air as to what it will be.

Well, now I’ve made this post its time to run spell check ;p

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I was asked this question yesterday by an old work friend in relation to having a child. He’s been with his lovely wife for most of the time I’ve known him – which is a good few years, easily five – and just like most couples the question has started to loom. As is often the case, she is ready, but he remains apprehensive.

This was the first time he had seen me since I gave birth. The last time he saw me I was a pregnant, water-retaining whale in a fancy dress at our company’s award ceremony for managers. It was kind of hard to miss what was happening, but I guess they hadn’t started talking about it at that point in time.

“Is it worth it?” He asked me, eyes attached to the child straddling my hip. It took me a few moments to realise precisely what he was asking me. I thought like most co-workers he meant was it worth it returning to work as a casual after being a manager for so long.

I can’t remember my response verbatim, but this would be pretty darn close.

“I won’t lie and say it’s easy, because it’s not. Late nights, early mornings, giving up things – but nothing, NOTHING, beats listening to him laugh and seeing his face as he learns new things and enjoys playing.”

He nodded along. Whether he was convinced by my words or not, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure he has no idea I even have a blog, but I’m going to write like I’m talking to him still. So Matt:

Sure, you give up things. For example the only reason I was there was because we had tried to go watch a movie, but after an hour Xander just couldn’t take it anymore so I left (luckily the tickets were free, so I really didn’t care). Having a child is more rewarding than the value of those lost or once common now rarely done things. It goes beyond just looking at that perfect face and laughing along with the most infectious giggle ever created. It even goes beyond the sense of accomplishment as you teach him how to talk, walk and play new games. You learn to value those precious little snippets of time and use them more productively, you enjoy those rare things far more now they are rare and you discover a whole new world through the eyes and actions of your offspring.

I waited to have children. T-J openly confessed he couldn’t wait to have kids very early on in our relationship and I was straight-forward in my reply that I did want them but it was going to be a while before I would be ready. I calmly explained I was too selfish and immature. I knew these things about myself. I could not have been the loving mother I am today six years ago when we first were married. Waiting until you are ready is important but there is also a line between wanting to wait and not wanting at all. What you need to assess is which option is you. Don’t rush to it. If your partner is the right person they are willing to wait (just ask T-J, he waited 7 years). But I’ll answer your question right now.

Is it worth it?

Hell yeah.

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This one is for fantasy writers and gamers alike.

I dress my protagonist of Storybook Perfect, Yui, in full plate armour, which merely has a slight extra bowing in the breastplate to accommodate her bust. In less formal combat she wears a chainmail hauberk and a surcoat. Not much different from what her fellow male knights wear.

I knew from the very start I wasn’t going to dress her in any sort of a midriff baring outfit. Sexy though they may be its just ridiculous to give your opponent easy access to you belly. If you angle your sword right you can even pierce up and under the ribcage to the lungs and heart in some of these outfits. While I do enjoy playing some of these cutely armoured women, I would never dress my warriors in such frippery. It’s only there to visually pander to the male gamers.

I’ve collected a few links in regards to women in armour, both with stand points similar to mine, but with far more beautiful pictures and much more detailed arguments. To be honest I’m supplying these links for selfish purposes also – so I can easily find them in future.

This one is by an actual black smith (How cool!) and details why armour specifically shaped around each breast individually could be dangerous to the wearer.

This one from The Mary Sue rightly argues the point of if you are able to believe in magical powers and the ability to carry 99 copies of about a hundred different items and 999,999 gold without twenty pack horses why can’t you believe a woman would be able to wear a full suit of armour.

If you have any links to realistic armour for women I’d love for you to put them in the comments because Yui will not be my only warrior female and I’d love more references for the future.

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We writers can be a superstitious lot. I know writers who have a special location they prefer to work at, or a particular item of clothing they think makes the muse be more attentive. A lot of us seem to have something we believe we need to make us more successful or more creative in our endeavours.

I’m an intensely superstitious person – but not in the standard way. Walk under a ladder, yeah, done it way too often. Black cats? Cute and cool, but don’t care which way I cross their path. Mirrors, broken a few, mostly for art projects back in high school or by accident when moving. However I have certain habits, like when I used to drive to work every day I would look out at a lake I drove past and knew I would have a good day if I saw a bird with its wings fanned to dry in the sun. If there were no birds, I knew that a particular someone I didn’t like would probably visit my store that day. Weirdly enough, it was relatively accurate. A bizarre little superstition, but even now – though work is in the other direction – if I drive past, I look to the lake for my bird friend and gauge whether that day will be good or not.

Shinto Pencils
Shinto Pencils

Lucky charms play a big part in superstitions. Some writers have a special notepad, or pen they like to use. I’m quite partial to my Shinto pencils I bought from the Meiji shrine when I was in Tokyo. The pencils are traditionally bought by students. The students use these pencils to write their notes as they study. The pencils are supposed to invoke a Shinto god to give them luck in academics, make them pass that entrance exam or just generally be smarter. The power of the pencil is released more and more as it grows shorter and shorter with each sharpening. I use mine to write notes about my stories as I plan them.

I also have a lucky editing charm, a pen I bought from Ueno zoo (also in Tokyo – I TOLD you people I’m a Japanophile). It’s one of those multi-colour pens where you click between red, blue, green and black. I use the red and green to do my proofing and editing.

Do you have any weird superstitions or lucky charms, even if they aren’t related to writing?

 

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Short stories are a great exercise for a writer. They allow the mind a chance to flex its muscles (so to speak) and the writer to push the boundaries of their craft and try their hand at other genres than just their favoured one.

I write short stories most frequently outside of my favoured genre of fantasy. Of the short stories I have written in the last two years I have written two horror (one with vampire bad guys (no kissing these vamps) and zombies, the other with a serial killer and very cool twist), two mystery, one ‘nostalgia’ romance (I think I kind of came up with that genre name, it means the person is remembering being in love – if you know what the genre is really called let me know!) one urban fantasy, three slice of lifes and one fantasy.

Writing outside of my preferred genre seems to be the only way to keep at bay my ultimate short story writing flaw: actually keeping it short.

Short Stories are a struggle for me, not because I can’t write them, but because I will fall in love with a character (or several) or the premise and want to expand on it and next thing you know a less than 3,000 word short story becomes a fantasy quartet. I’m joking, that only happened once, the rest of the time it’s usually just a stand-alone novel.

I must confess that I prefer to write novels over short stories. Everything just seems to flow better and I don’t have to stifle ideas or squash down narrative as I sometimes have to with short stories. True it is much harder to complete a novel than a short story, but there is something more fulfilling in the work – to me at least.

What do you prefer? Or are you a fence-sitter?