Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bon Voy-a-gee 2008

This has been an up and down kind of a year... and, gee, isn't that always the way?

On this day, people reflect on the year almost done. Some will sigh over it. Actually, most will sigh over it - the good, the bad and the downright appalling. But I'm not going to do that. Tomorrow, we start afresh and look to the future. Not necessarily have a strategic plan because something will come along to stuff it up, but goals to achieve.

The most important goal, for me, is failure. Yeah, you heard me right failure, or more precisely, the lessons learned from failing. Once upon a time, it was a crushing blow, a rejection of time and effort and of me, personally. After my first rejection slip, I didn't write for more than a year. I only returned to writing when I couldn't not write.

I don't think failing is something that needs a lot of hand wringing and regret any more, but it does require thought on what can be learned.

Rejection for publication can be a good thing if you look carefully at why the piece was rejected and improve it, or seek an alternative outlet.

So, for the year coming up, I'm spending more time editing and more time sending stuff out. As for the rest, well, whatever comes my way, comes my way and I'll deal with it then. No more worrying about the might-have-beens and the things I cannot change.

It's not a so-called resolution, merely an attitude adjustment.

What thoughts do you have on the coming year?

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I hope everyone had a good Christmas; me, I'm dripping in smug.

I'm typing on my brand spankin' new curved keyboard. It's more ergonomically correct, the keys are smooth, it's spill-proofed and it's black. Oh, yeah. Got lots of added buttons - gotta love lotsa buttons.

In fact, I could sit here, typing away munching on chocolates (everyone deserves chocolate at Christmas) and sipping bourbon (my eldest sister is good to me). I could, but that would be ba-ad. Plus other loot... er, gifts.

Family have come and gone, are here, or will turn up in the next week so it's all good. Of course, that means mucho over indulgence for seven days more. Then I suppose I'll have to get some exercise to compensate.

Nah. I have a Tess Gerritsen to read first... and then January will be editing month. I plan to deal with the first book of the trilogy I wrote for Nano, and it's been an exercise in patience not to have at it early. It will be better for the wait.

I've also been working on a short story, but I'm having a spot of trouble with motivation. I have to have a reason for the alien intervention and I'm coming up blank. It will come to me - I hope - but I don't want it to be a metaphor, political or otherwise and that's what I've got so far. Nope, not going to do it.

Ah well, I'd best get back to the guests...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's good for you

Why red wine is so important at Christmas:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trial and error

So I'm still trying out desserts for Christmas Day.

Today, I tried a recipe that looked delish from the beginning of construction to the very end: chocolate mousse.

The plan is to keep it in lined ramekins overnight, then pop the mousse out when it's set and place it in pre-baked brandy baskets and top it all with berry fruits and a Cointreau sauce.

Heating the cream went well, as did the blending of dark chocolate, a coupla egg yolks and butter into the slightly cooled cream. Folding in egg whites just made the stuff look ready to eat right out of the bowl.

sigh. The recipe didn't call for sugar; I'm guessing it - usually - doesn't need it. The problem? It said "70% dark chocolate or better." I chose the better... as in 85%. Yes, I see that wince. And you'd be right. A little too bitter.

Ice cream eased it, as did cream mixed with icing sugar and a small splash of vanilla, but nothing would save it for Christmas. Back to the drawing board and this time, I'll be using 50% or even milk chocolate...

Good thing I trialled it now rather than Christmas Day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Long ago...

Ah, yes. I remember it well; lying on the couch reading a book… when a knock on the door broke me out of Patrick Tilley’s world.

My sister came in, all bright eyed and eager. “You wanna puppy?”

I thought about it for a few minutes and her expression slowly dimmed.

“Yes.” Was barely out of my mouth when she grabbed my arm and off we went. “What’s the hurry?”

“I don’t want you to change your mind.”

I wasn’t going to; it seemed… right.

So she drove me to a friend of a friend’s house. And there, in the backyard, were half a dozen puppies gambolling around their mother. Some were white with red splotches and bits of black; some were more black with white patches. Two were black with tan highlights.

As I stood there, looking at the six-week-old cuties, one black and tan puppy came up and sat on my feet, stared up at me. Nothing for it, then. I crouched down and stroked the soft fur. The mother, mostly white, came over and gave the pup a damn good licking, as if to say, ‘now, you behave’. She then licked my t-shirt, gave me a look only a mother can give… and walked back to her brood.

Well, what could I do?

That was Australia Day, 1992.

I bedded my new companion down in a cardboard box in the laundry. To make her more comfortable, I wrapped the mum-licked t-shirt around a hot water bottle and tucked in a clock. She was fine, for a while, and then hours later set up to crying. Puppy. Crying. A heart-wrenching sound. I leapt out of bed at bugger o’clock in the morning. She was sitting on the cold tiles. I fixed her another hot water bottle and settled her again. Nope. Not fifteen minutes later, she was howling again.

At a loss, I opened the back door – in case she wanted to… go to the bathroom. Out she shot, into the darkness of the backyard. Remember, she’s a black puppy, so the night hid her. Once my heart settled back down I went out and called for her. Not a peep. Had she escaped? Decided she didn’t want me anymore? Wanted her mother who was miles away?

Nah. She came trotting back, a happy puppy from the side of the house. To this day, she’ll do her business out of sight of people, or turn her back – if she can’t see you, you can’t see her and she’s okay with that. It’s nice to get a house-trained puppy.

Right now, Saxon’s yet to arise for the day. As a grand dame, she takes her time; as a grand dame should. She still enjoys her walks up the street – albeit slowly – still bravely comes to me when I’m feeling pissed off and can still look at me as if to say ‘well?’ (…it’s my dinner time, it’s time for bed, for a walk, for you to scratch mah belly…)

She’s a little blind, has a bit of Arthur-itis, which I manage with medication, and follows me around the house. When guests come, she’s a little mournful at sharing, but bears up stoically. She also has the ‘hey, I’m sleeping here’ look if you wake her up before she’s done (so cat-like, but you didn’t hear it from me!)

And so, I wish Saxon a very happy birthday; she’s been with me a long time and I hope for time yet. She’s stays out of love for me and I try not to give her cause to reconsider. Saxon is the last of the litter. A gorgeous mixed breed pup with eerie intelligence, who can still makes me laugh at her antics.

I’m grateful my sister dragged me away from that book. My life would be very different if not for Saxon steadying my ship.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Coming around...

Some years ago, I studied history at University; it was, in fact a minor in my degree. For one semester, I did the Industrial Revolution and found it fascinating. There was plenty of information on how the Revolution changed the world - politically, socially, technologically... For my final essay though, I decided to write on how it affected the ordinary person and their way of life. It was a time, remember, when people walked off the land and into factories.

Unfortunately for me, my tutor downgraded the paper for 'being too specific' - he wanted something more general.

I've always thought myself as an 'old school' journalist; that is, I write just the facts without the colourful language of tabloid journalism Murdoch and owners of his ilk have introduced over the past few decades. To me, a journalist gives the facts, the reader makes their own conclusion and it is not the journalists responsibility to give them either a slanted story or an opinion.

I began writing press releases for a government department, and felt rather proud of myself for issuing information, not editorialising. Enter my boss who asked: "Do you have a personal objection to using adjectives?" So I had to add them in.

Cue today. I'm busily volunteering at the local maritime museum writing articles for the local paper. I did three today on well known ships of the area. And so I duly gave them to my boss. She had two things to say:

"Could you make them more specific?" and,

"I think you should put more colour into them, make them more story-like."

So it all collides, years later. I get to write specific stories about the local history of where I grew up. Can't ask for more than that.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

12 hours

What a difference 12 hours make!

After bemoaning the rain and wind and cool conditions of yesterday, this morning dawned hot with gale-force winds from the Outback! But, the winds are late. Windy weather usually arrives in October, not December, and then calms down for hot days.

The birds aren't having much luck flying - unless it's sideways - and I think some of my laundry is now gracing the shores of New Zealand. Bark from the tree out the back is stripping away like a peeled banana.

Some years ago we had winds so strong it took down power lines... and we were barbecue-ing for about four days. It was a convenient time to defrost the fridge.

So far, no brown-outs; the local electricity company has kept trees away from the lines. Ah well, if it happens, it happens.

Time to wrap prezzos for the prezzie run tomorrow - if it can all fit into the boot! A scenic drive to the highlands, lunch with sisters and a car stuffed with love; what could be better?

Friday, December 12, 2008


Summer? What Summer?

It's raining here again, which isn't a bad thing really. Although I would like to get out and mow the lawn. Ah, well. I'll just get to some writing instead.

Yesterday, two hundred plus people donned their Santa suits for the Santa bicycle ride... to the local pub. The rain held off, though it was overcast. The ride raises money for the area's bushfire brigade and I think they did well this year. Maybe next year, there'll be even more riders.

At the sound of the siren, warning of their approach, I grabbed the camera only to discover the batteries had died and I couldn't find any fresh ones in time. Funny how rechargeable batteries aren't as good as fresh ones. sigh Anyway, here's one from last year:

The kids along the road love it, especially the sweets tossed to them. The local economy loves it too. Can you imagine it? Two hundred Santas. In the pub for the afternoon!

I'd like to join them but... I don't have a Santa suit, nor do I have a bike. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I think it's time the Government announced that Christmas shopping two weeks from the day, be declared a contact sport.

Fortunately, I'm done. Now for the wrap and prezzo run to deliver.

* * *

I've been climbing the family tree again, and woe, discovered an alleged criminal. Why alleged? Because Abraham died in jail before fronting court of 'natural decay'. His son, Jesse, was acquitted of the crime of sheep stealing, of which they were both accused. However, Jesse got himself nicked by the plods the following year and transported to Australia for life. That was in 1832. He'd already spent six months in the pokey for stealing a shovel (six months - for a shovel).

By 1855, when Jesse died, he had land near the Lachlan River, cattle and horses. Back in England, Jesse's remaining sibling, Matthew was too old for a journey to the colony and sent his son instead to sort out the problem of Jesse dying without out a will.

Edwin arrived in 1860 with his wife and the few children who hadn't married - including my great grandmother. He decided to stay and so one connection to how we arrived is made. All because of a coupla dudes who couldn't keep their hands off a neighbour's sheep.

Now I'm going to hunt down the connections with the other side of the family. Will there be as much drama or simply a need for change?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Soul Keeper

Or...righty then.

To replace the short stories I didn't post during Nano, Soul Keeper is now up on Scribd.


Det. Kate Saxon is hunting her partner's killer. But in Kate's world, the line between life and death are about to be blurred.

It's longer than a short story and wa-ay shorter than a novel. Novelette, maybe? Novelling?


After a month - and a bit - of writing, I figured it was time to do some computer maintenance. I usually do it every week or two, but for November I didn't.

And woe... defragmentation took hours, hours I tell you! Once upon a time, I had a computer that had a whopping 25 megabyte hard drive. I could not imagine needing more and the defrag zipped through like a rat on crack.

But with the advancement of technology, hard drives became larger. I now have a 40 gig hard drive and the defrag is more like a rat on Prozac.

Before, I had no excuse not to write; yesterday I did. And what did I do with my new found time? I watched Mamma Mia! Finally. It's a bit of a giggle - who knew Meryl Streep could sing and Pierce Brosnan... not?

The effect was that I felt a desire to put on one of my Abba CDs. Yes, I have a four CD set from years ago, when they were considered daggy.

Now the beast that is my computer should be back to it's natural zippy self.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The hordes

I braved the ravening hordes today to finish off my Christmas shopping... and failed.

Mothers with their small children were out in force, with hard edged strollers and kids whose screams rivalled any police, ambulance or fire siren.

I even started early, but to no avail. Normally polite people suddenly developed fangs and demonic expressions and children showed off their dark sides by yelling at the top of their lungs because they wanted something off the shelves. When denied, they dragged the aforementioned item down anyway.

Feral eyed staff darted for cover, lest they be hunted down and questioned at length. And don't think the men were anything other than determined hunter-gatherers, with their lowered brows, protruding jaws and eyes that dared you to get in the way of their objective.

Nope. I'm never going into a toy store again.

Not that the others stores I visited were any different: mothers ignoring the plaintive cries of their offspring, staff in hiding, children running amok between shoppers, fathers doing their best to escape the family unit...

But when I dragged myself home three hours later, I discovered now have three, maybe four gifts to get.

I realise now that today was punishment for starting early, for not joining the human wave of panic a week before Christmas. One more day. One more day and I'll be done.

The next time, though, I'm filling up on red meat; raw. Then we'll see who has the baddest at-it-toode.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Nano ends

So, Nano is done for another year.

I stayed up until midnight to watch the countdown and to keep my nose in front.

This morning, I woke up late and felt like I had a hangover - aching head, dry mouth, eyeballs feeling too large for the sockets... and not a drop of alcohol involved. Damn it!

Today, I'm relaxing. I've watched American football for most of day, and loved it.

Tomorrow I'll throw myself back into it and post the story I failed to post in November (ba-ad Jaye, very ba-ad!) and finish the last of the Nano books.

I got jammed up on how the French dispose of nuclear waste... In January, I'll go back and edit it all, that will be close to 250,000 words.

But for now, rest, relaxation and a good shot of Sean Bean in Sharpe.