Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Halloween!

Halloween’s not big in Australia. Ten years ago it slipped completely under the radar. These days you might get a handful of kids knocking on your door, but no one takes much notice.

The ducklings love the whole dressing up and begging for chocolate idea, but I haven’t let them do it up till now. When you spend all your time trying to bring your kids up to be well-behaved, it seems odd to tell them that on this night it’s okay to demand chocolate and threaten to be mean to people who don’t provide it. I love the idea of dressing up, but the “trick or treat” bit bothers me. But maybe countries that do the whole Halloween thing don’t take it that literally? I don’t know.

Anyway, tonight I was supposed to be away, and Daddy was going to take them to hit on the neighbours. As it turned out, my weekend away was cancelled, but I didn’t have the heart to cancel their Halloween plans as well. And they did look good in their outfits. Baby Duck was the world’s cutest vampire. They only visited the neighbours on each side, but still managed a good haul, so they were happy.

The pumpkin photo above is a birthday cake I made a couple of years ago for a scary-themed birthday party. At the same party we had severed fingers, bloodbaths, bats and gingerbread men with stakes through the heart. If you’re celebrating Halloween, I hope you have a good time. I’m sending you virtual Halloween treats:

And if you can explain how the trick-or-treat thing really works, you’d be helping a confused Aussie.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Plotless and panicking

Well, not entirely plotless. But definitely panicking. Nano starts in three days and I don’t feel at all ready. In fact I have more of an idea than I did last year, and that turned out all right, so I suppose I should have a little faith. I know perfectly well that panic and deadlines are powerful motivators for me.

Cool ideas keep occurring to me, but they’re more of a worldbuilding nature when what I need is actual plot details. When I sit down to write on Saturday, knowing all about the political situation or what magic users can and can’t do is not going to help me get words on paper. What are my characters actually going to do? I have an initial situation but no real idea of what happens after that. I hated that last year – desperate brainstorming squeezed into every spare moment so I would have something to write the next day. I got a reasonably coherent plot out of it, so it worked, but man, it was painful. I fondly imagined that I would be better prepared this year and avoid the mad scramble but it’s not looking good. Some serious rabbit-pulling-out-of-hat required.

The other thing that’s making me nervous is that I foolishly agreed to go away for the weekend with some girlfriends. When we planned it Nano never even crossed my mind. Now I’m going to have to be antisocial and lock myself in my room with my laptop for a couple of hours each day or risk falling so far behind I’ll never catch up. I missed two days last year (though not consecutive) and it nearly killed me trying to make up for them. Yet I don’t want to miss any of the fun with the girls either. I know, can’t have my cake and eat it too – but I wish I’d had my brain switched on when we were planning. “No, no, I can’t possibly do November 1st and 2nd. I’ll be busy creating world’s greatest fantasy novel that weekend.”

And speaking of creating: there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that I didn’t make my goal of writing one short story a week these last four weeks. The good news is that I did get two done, which is two more than I would have otherwise, so I’m reasonably happy. Though one is pretty crapulent. Not sure if I can save it, but I’ll perform first aid when Nano’s over. Still, it was a useful exercise and definitely worth repeating. Even if you miss, having something to aim for makes you more productive.

Better get back to that novel planning. I’ve got a lot of panicking to fit into the next three days.

Friday, 17 October 2008

In which the dreaded green wall makes another appearance

The two elder ducklings helped me paint a picture last week for our green feature wall. See? I knew I’d find a use for all those green sample pots.

Baby Duck was all keen to help paint circles too until it was made plain to him that he couldn’t just paint one giant circle on the canvas. He couldn’t even have one little corner to paint whatever he liked. The Pout made its appearance, quickly followed by the Venomous Look. Some people have such dreadful mothers.

Drama Duck pointed out when we were finished that it looked rather Aboriginal. Not sure how that happened, since the piece that inspired us looked nothing like an Aboriginal painting. It was pink and gorgeous but I can’t tell you any more than that because it was just in the background of a photo I ripped out of a magazine when the painting caught my eye.

Still, I’m happy. It's quite big, about 3' x 3'. It combines the greens and apricots I needed to tie the colours of the room together, and it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. Demon Duck took particular joy in accidentally-on-purpose wiping a great deal of paint over the white pants she was wearing (they were old). I think it made her feel more artistic. And it beats letting them watch TV.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Keeping secrets

Some women keep secrets from their husbands. Big ones, like lovers or the truth about the kids’ paternity. Small ones, like shoes or bags paid for in cash so they don’t appear on the credit card statement.

I’m not much of a secret keeper. I enjoy talking to him too much, I guess. But it occurred to me today that there may be a couple of writing-related things that, while not secret per se, I may not have quite got around to mentioning yet.

The first is Nanowrimo. I foresee much eye-rolling when I break the news that his wife is disappearing for the month of November again. I wish I was one of those people who can power through the necessary wordcount in an hour or so but, sadly, it takes me more like three hours a day to keep up. Takeaway dinners, here we come.

The other revolves around what I’m working on for the rest of October. What I’m supposed to be working on is the second draft of my novel. What I’m actually working on is a series of short stories. Inspired by Jay Lake, among others, I’ve made a pact with myself to write one short story a week this month – just to see if I can do it. Heaven knows, I need to up my output if I’m ever going to get anywhere, and a few more pieces to start getting out there and submitting would come in handy.

But I know what he’ll say. “Why don’t you just finish one thing before you start something else?” And it’s a reasonable question. “Because I have the attention span of a cardboard box” is not the best anwer. Nor is “because these ideas are New! Shiny! I love shiny!”. I know I’m the queen of unfinished projects, but I promise I will get back to the revision. Eventually. I just have this Nano novel to plan first …

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Guess what?!

Okay, don’t strain yourselves, you’ll never guess. Besides, I’m dying to tell you.

Got an email today with the news every aspiring writer wants to hear:

“We are happy to advise you that your story ‘Pre-Dinner Drinks’ has been selected for publication in ZineWest 2008 and is eligible for the competition prizes.”

I’m going to be in print! Admittedly, only in a small regional magazine, and payment is a free copy, but still. My first published story. Thirty-two entries were chosen for publication from 108, and all those are now eligible for the grand prize of $400.

I have no expectation of winning that. In fact, I was sure they wouldn’t take the story. After I’d submitted it I showed it to my writing group, and they convinced me it was unfinished. So I dreamed up a new ending and was just waiting for the rejection before I revised it and submitted elsewhere. It’s funny how these things work out, isn’t it? I think the writing group was right, but somebody else thought the story was good enough as it stood. I guess it shows you shouldn’t try to secondguess these things. Some people will like your work and some people won’t, and you’ll never know which is which till you send it out.

I tell you what, though, there’s nothing like an acceptance to give you a confidence boost! Look out, world. This is but the first step in my fiendish plan. Today, ZineWest. Tomorrow, NYT bestseller list.

No harm in dreaming, is there?

Friday, 3 October 2008

Seven telltale signs that it's school holidays

There are a few surefire ways to tell that it’s school holidays around here.

1. Children who are unable to get up on time for school miraculously leap out of bed at crack of dawn to watch TV.

2. Everyone is so pleased to be able to stay home and do nothing for a change that a million playdates and excursions have to be planned to alleviate the boredom.

3. We mortgage our house to pay for movie tickets for five people to the latest kids’ movie.

4. The ducklings’ love/hate relationship with each other escalates to new heights/depths.

5. Their mother starts looking around for a cardboard box big enough to ship at least one child overseas.

6. Maternal patience starts to wear veeeery thin. As in “Muuum, the dog hurt me – she dug her nails into my foot.” Me: “I don’t care if the dog disembowelled you, I don’t want to listen to any more of your whining.”

7. Dinner conversation devolves into a succession of slightly off jokes. You try eating pizza with broccoli on it with someone saying: What’s green and hangs from tall trees? Giraffe snot!