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Well the three weeks of working 5-6 days a week at the day job are finally over – huzzah! Of course I’ve been battling through it with a cold which – now the work has paced back – has become even worse. At least now I have a chance to catch up and start blogging at my more usual pace of every 2-3 days rather than the meagre once every 5-6.

During what little downtime I had our family was playing catch-up with TV. We’d watched halfway thru the first season of Lost at the time it was originally airing, but then became distracted by some other show and never caught back up. So we just watched the whole she-bang in marathon style each night. For all the complaining you hear people make about it I expected it to be much worse. Also thanks to the radio station who on a drive home from work while they talked about spoilers gave the spoiler for the ending. Luckily the guy who gave the spoiler clearly didn’t understand the ending so over simplified it thus making it not that much of a spoiler. I also think some of the irritation others felt sprang from EVERY episode ending in a cliff-hanger. When watching weekly that would have me chomping at the bit as well. It was a lot easier when the longest distance between episodes was 24 hours.

We also watched the last episode of House last night. Don’t worry, no plot spoilers here, but the ending definitely satisfied me. The episode itself was a little odd, but it was a good way to wrap things up. Does anyone know if the song that ran at the end is sung/written by the band that wrote/performed ‘Hell’ (you’ll probably recognise the lyrics better: in the afterlife, you will be headed for some serious strife, now you make the scene all day, but tomorrow there’ll be hell to pay), I’m too lazy to look it up right now. If no one answers I might get up off my metaphorical ass and look around the interwebs for the answer, but I have to get ready for my next day-job shift soon.

I’ll talk more about re-writing my opening chapters based on critique and a review of Jane and the Dragon soon.

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In my previous post ‘Nerves’ I told you all that I had submitted the first chapter and a half of my current WIP for critique. One of the reasons I chose that was because of how much I was struggling with my revision of the first draft and how I couldn’t pin-point what was wrong. Well my group certainly knew! It was unanimous that my protagonist was a whiny, passive bitch. It makes perfect sense. In Storybook Perfect my main protagonist (Yui Watanabe) is already a strong young woman so doesn’t have a great deal of growth in that area. I wanted Fanta to grow more so I purposefully weakened her at the start, burdening her with an anxiety disorder among other things. Unfortunately I made her so weak she’s not easily likeable.

Fortunately this is something I can fix. The person Fanta becomes later in the story will simply have to be clearer at the start. I’m quite confident that this is the problem I was sensing from my manuscript – the false/forced growth of my protagonist. I’m sorry Fanta, hopefully they’ll like you a bit more next time ;p

Getting my work critiqued was great. It was also widely agreed that the alternate world setting was awesome. That makes me beam with pride since the reason my other novel was turned down by the agent who requested the full manuscript was because the world was too ‘stock standard fantasy’(I’ve made a lot of changes now so it’s a bit less run-of-the-mill for those curious – I listen to feedback). Funnily enough she disliked the world, but loved my protagonist – the exact opposite of this story, so I’m laughing quite a bit right now.

I also really love talking to several of the members of the group. I’m looking forward to next time eagerly.

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The last two weeks have been crazy with work. My once part time job in which I worked two days a week for 5 hours a day or less is suddenly a five days a week, full day shift job. It’s because the store manager is on holidays and while the boss is away everyone seems to be looking to me to run the store and the massive mid-year sale set-up. I can understand why, I was a manager for 5 years sometimes running much busier stores, but I came back from maternity leave as a simple casual for a reason: to avoid this. This is the cause of my less-frequent posting, but not the cause of my nerves.

I’m nervous because I uploaded my first piece for critique with my writers group. I originally planned to post some of my very best work (the first chapters for Storybook Perfect if you were curious) but didn’t for two reasons. Number one is because I am struggling a bit with revision on Fanta’s story – something’s not clicking right, but I can’t pinpoint it (editing in tiny fragments of time is not helping me either) – and a critique of the early chapters might help me find what I’m missing. Reason number two is because what would I do if my ‘best work’ was torn to shreds?

I know I’m just being paranoid, I mean the work is pretty solid – those opening chapters were enough to get the first agent I approached to ask for my full manuscript, so they can’t be too crappy – but that doesn’t ease the fear that all writers have: that I’m just not good enough.

Funnily enough, even with that thought in the back of my head it doesn’t stop me from uploading other work for critique or from continuing to work on becoming a published author. Even if I worry I ‘might not be good enough’ I’m not going to give up, because you know what? If I’m not good enough now, what’s to say I can’t work hard and eventually be good enough – or better? Anyway, giving up just isn’t my style.

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All around the place at the moment are posters up that say “Can’t” in big, bold lettering and a tiny URL down the bottom. The minimalist approach is to inspire people to look up the website in the hopes that the lack of information will be irresistible.

It won’t work on me. Okay, sure, I’m as curious as all hell. No joke. I’m being driven mad by curiosity, but I’m irritated by the fact they’ve used a negative word for their advertising rather than a positive. I would rather see ‘Can’ than ‘Can’t’. If they had chosen the positive word I wouldn’t keep my curiosity at bay. Right now though I don’t want to see the word can’t everywhere I look, so I’m ignoring the advertising as best I can because I don’t need any more negativity in my life.

Really, what marketing genius decided can’t was a better option than can?

Am I being unnecessarily obstinate, or do you agree they could just as easily have chosen a positive word?

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Bleh, between the cold and my job suddenly going from two days a week to five I haven’t been very active here on the blog, sorry. Todays post is a sort of follow-up to my last post on buying locally.

Atelier Meruru Collector's Edition
Atelier Meruru Collector's Edition

I am a JRPG fan. For those unfamiliar with the term, that means Japanese Role Playing Game. They are role playing games with anime styled characters and the sort of crazy twisted storyline you expect from anime as well. You usually have to sink around 100 hours into them to play the whole game, which makes them serious value for money too. Because I live in Australia video games cost ball-park $100 (sometimes as high as $120 or as low as $70 for a new release), so you want that value. Some of my favourite games are the Persona series, the Final Fantasy range and the Atelier series.

The sad part is some of the best games never even make it to Australia. Because Australia has a smaller population than America we similarly have a smaller number of buyers for a niche market like JRPG’s. I always buy my games from Australian stores to try to support the Australian JRPG market.

I want Atelier Meruru. More importantly, I want the collector’s edition of Atelier Meruru. I don’t care if you call it limited edition, collector’s edition, premium pack or game with extras, I want it. And yes, I know the shirt will be ridiculously huge but I will wear it anyway.

The problem is they won’t release it in Australia. The game will come out here, but only the standard edition and only enough copies to cover the first couple of weeks of sales.

Sure, I could buy it from one of those stores that imports the game from overseas, but I’m still not supporting the Australian market. Those stores import from America or the UK, meaning they purchase from that country’s market, bolstering their numbers not ours. Also, it’s usually cheaper if you’re going to get an import game to just buy it yourself from Ozgames or Play-Asia.

So here comes the conundrum, do I buy the game on its own and support the Australian industry – which may mean in the future we might get these collector’s editions afterall – or spend the same amount of money(ok, $10 more with postage, but damn close) to get the collector’s edition imported from overseas?

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Picture of Atelier Meruru Collector’s Edition unedited from the NIS America Store.

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Jane and The Dragon

I was so glad to discover my local bookstore can order ‘Jane and the Dragon’ in for me (Not sure what Jane and the Dragon is? Go to this earlier post to find out). I much prefer to buy from local businesses than the internet, not just for the personal contact and the sake of warranties (though I’ll not deny either of those to be a factor) but because I want to support local businesses. These are people who quite possibly own the house down the street from me and while I’m sure my one or two books a month (who am I kidding? A week more like it ;p ) don’t seem like much, but it makes a difference between what could be their business staying open or closing down.

My parents owned their own business for as long as I can remember (and another before that one which they owned before I was BORN). When they sold it I was shocked – almost as shocked as when they sold the farm and moved to the Gold Coast (lucky bums). I grew up in a working environment, talking with other local business owners in the center, listening to Mum and Dad talk about the ins and outs of the business and eventually when older, joining those conversations.

Being raised in a family that survived on that income makes me more sensitive to the trials and tribulations of a small business owner and of course more inclined to try and buy locally. Yes I know I could get the book for less online, but you know what happens online sometimes? You get sent an item that was bent in the post by an over-zealous postman, or the item isn’t as described and the returns policy expects you to post it back three days before you even received the item. Not to say that you should never buy online – just I prefer to buy locally if the option is there.

Does anyone else feel strongly either way? It’s always nice to hear other points of view.

Jane and the Dragon picture from the Official Jane and the dragon Website

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Fluro Quilled Echidna

I love reading non-fiction. It feels like I’m resetting my brain. Every second page gives me an idea ranging anywhere from just a little thing I can slip into one of my stories to create some authenticity to entire stories that revolve around that one thing.

Whenever I read a book I know is going to spark my creative fires I keep a stack of post-it note flags beside me. Post it note flags let me quickly write the title (or working title) of the story the idea will most likely go in and a little bit about the idea in case it leaks out of my brain in the flood of other ideas. Of course the problem is some of my non-fiction books end up looking like a fluro quilled echidna, case in point pictured here, and I’m only about half way through.

I also like to read non-fiction just to learn new things. Fiction makes me marvel and question and ponder more philosophical things usually, but non-fiction tends to teach me and inspire in a different way.

I read to be inspired, regardless of fiction or non-fiction labels. How about you?

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Jane and the Dragon

Recently I discovered a cool children’s show called ‘Jane and the Dragon’. Naturally I loved the medieval/fantasy setting, I liked the gaming style animation of the characters and the pencil shaded look of the backgrounds and what REALLY sold me (and this is no surprise to anyone who knows me well) is the main character is a girl training to be a knight.

I found out shortly after watching several episodes it was based on a series of books for children and my mind couldn’t help but ask “How could this possibly get any better?”

I’m currently hunting down the books – they appear to be out of print annoyingly enough but there are many online services designed to help me circumvent THAT issue – partially for my own guilty pleasure but more so for Xander. Why? Because until recently I had no idea how little the realms of fantasy (among other things) have few positive female role models.

Personally it hasn’t been until entering the blogosphere that I even realised this. Perhaps I have always had the good fortune of consistently picking up the right kinds of books where women were strong and brave and bold – often outside of the confines of their usual roles, but sometimes from within those restrictions as well. More likely it is the fact I’ve always been a tomboy and as such gender roles were by and large ignored by me. Some of the posts I read make me roll my eyes at the melodrama, but some have such clever points that I can’t help but feel shocked.

So why then do I care about my son reading stories where women are positive role models? That is because I want him to one day be talking with a girl, disheartened she will tell him ‘I can’t be a *Insert role here* because I’m a girl’ and his response will be a look of bewilderment followed by a reply of ‘who on earth told you that load of balderdash? Of course you can’. Okay, maybe he won’t say balderdash, but what more could a mother want to hear?

Xander already has access to some great tales of feminine strength that are brilliantly disguised as ‘normal’ fun stories ranging from comics to books and even a few video games (there’s a sad few of that last format). He even has several real life role models (of course I count myself, but there are a couple of others as well who I hope can stay in his life for him to both learn from and love). So the future looks promising for my sweet little man and with some luck for that poor misguided girl too.

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If you’re interested you may like to read this nice letter to the girls of the world.

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picture from the official Jane and the Dragon website.

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I do have some proper content to provide you with, but first I just want to gush briefly about my son. While buttering our breakfast crumpets I wondered why on earth he was being so quiet in the living room, so peered around the corner to check, assuming Sesame Street would be filling his little eyes with wonder. Instead I found him on one of the chairs at the dining room table. He had prised open my laptop and grabbed what remained of my morning tea and was drinking the tea with one hand while bashing the keyboard with the other. This is exactly what he perceives my early morning to be ;p It was so cute, but I couldn’t grab the camera for fear he might spill the tea on my precious PC.

OK, on with the content my title promised.

I’m revising the recently finished first draft of (working title) Fanta’s Story – it has a temporary alternate title of ‘All The Stars’ but it’s fighting against ‘The Missing Stars’ and ‘The Dissidents and Stars’ all I know is stars are most definitely going to be involved in the title. More on titles in a later post.

Right now I’m wondering if I may have jumped into my revision a little too soon. There’s plenty of red pen to be found, rewrites scrawled on the back of the page it will belong to, but something still doesn’t seem right. I can’t pinpoint it right now and the work is still far too rough for me to show it to anyone just yet. Possibly my squirgly tummy is reacting simply to that roughness – Storybook Perfect was rewritten about eight times before it even made it to first draft stage NOT THE WAY TO DO THINGS, BELIEVE ME! – or maybe my brain is filled with the paranoia which comes along and plagues writers and other artists from time to time. You know what I mean, that ‘I’ll never be good enough’ attitude that pushes to the fore-front of our grey-matter on occasion to make us doubt our skill, our talent, our resolve, our very self-worth.

Writers often talk about ‘the Muse’ as the wonderful part of our mind that blesses us with the very best ideas. This beast that bursts forth I call the Anti-Muse. Creativity splutters to a halt, and the editor becomes even more perfection driven than usual, critical of everything without reserve. I’m even looking at my website – which long term readers will know took me three days to get to this stage due to a lack of knowledge of CSS code – and thinking it looks too kiddie, like my attempt at a Sailor Moon fan site when I was fifteen. It’s frustrating because I do not have the time to learn the code I need to make the site look more professional but neither do I have the money to pay someone to do it for me and the Anti-Muse sure as heck won’t let me leave it like this for much longer.

The Anti-Muse has some good ideas of things to add, like perhaps the blurb or pitch for my novels and a teaser or taste of the first chapter – I might leave that for when I have the books at a stage where they are ready or almost ready to sell – but she’s none to nice when she offers these ideas up.

A part of me wants to step back from the revision and give myself a little more time, but the other part of me tells me I might as well finish this run off and then come back again at a later date, after all, we all know I’ll never just do one revision anyway.

I think what I really need to do is take the Anti-Muse and go for a drive and leave her in some ditch on the side of the road between here and the highway (there’s a lovely, long stretch of road with not much but fields, trees and distant houses that runs for about 15 kilometres) but considering she’s a part of me (and has a few valid points) I think it might be better to weather the storm and keep reminding myself she’s just my anxieties given voice.

Do you have any good names for your Anti-Muse? Or can you think of any particularly heinous monsters whose name could be used? Let’s have a good laugh at the expense of our inner-critics.

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I’ve been wanting to join a writers group for a long time, craving the chance to both be critiqued by others (particularly those not emotionally invested in myself and my work) and to improve my own critiquing skills. Both time and fear have been holding me back.

The fear was the smaller of the two problems. I’m not an introvert so talking to strangers isn’t a daunting task. What worried me was that the group would not work for me. I worried that either I would dislike them (too harsh with their critiques and/or taking joy in that or too nice and pandering, not allowing themselves to say things that needed to be said) or they would dislike me for the similar reasons to why I might have not liked them.

The group I joined was a delight. We all noticed different things from the same pieces and while opinions occasionally differed it didn’t create any animosity between the opposed individuals. I was also glad to find out I wasn’t  awful at critiquing – which was another fear I had since I’ve never critiqued anything and then been able to listen to the author’s reply, unless you count myself… which would be weird.

While the whole group writes in the speculative fiction genre we all seem to write slightly different sub-genres, giving us all a chance to enjoy the widely varied worlds and styles. It was a fun day with some very cool people. I’m looking forward to our next meeting and a little disappointed it’s a whole month away!