Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Ugly Quiltling

Once upon a time there lived an ugly quiltling. The poor little quiltling didn’t look anything like the other quilts in the family, who all laughed at it and said how ugly it was. Even its own mother didn’t love it.

The poor little quiltling would sit by the lake and watch the beautiful quilts go by, and dream of growing up to be a beautiful swan quilt.

Sadly, this never came to pass.

See? Ugly!

I’ve joined the free motion quilt-along on Christina’s blog A Few Scraps. I’ve done some free motion quilting before – mainly stippling, though I branched out into (wonky) flowers and butterflies in my last quilt.

Definitely need more practice! I thought it would be a fun way to improve, so I finally put together the ugly quiltling the other night to be my practice piece. The idea was to put together a quilt top that you wouldn’t get too attached to, so you wouldn’t worry about “ruining it” as you learned. “If at any time you think to yourself ‘My god, this is one ugly quilt’ then you have succeeded,” Christina said.

So the poor ugly quiltling will never be beautiful, but it will certainly be very useful. Heaven knows what I’ll do with it when it’s finished – no one in the family likes it either! Maybe for the dog? My tastes in fabric have certainly changed a lot since I bought those. I think they’re from my “trying to like country style because everyone else does” phase. I’m looking forward to getting started on the actual quilting part.

Back in my normal colour palette of bright and vibrant, I’ve just made a pretty handbag out of the same gorgeous bird fabric I used for Demon Duck’s apron.

I saw it on Terry’s Treasures blog, and she kindly linked to the pattern, which turned out to be very easy, though I thought it would be bigger than it turned out. Maybe I’ll make a bigger one another time. I have so many quilting irons in the fire at the moment! Not unusual for me, of course, queen of the unfinished projects.

At least I’m making progress again on Verity. Hopefully another 5,000 words or so will see me typing “The End”.

Monday, 20 September 2010


As you get older it gets harder and harder to do things for the first time. I love learning new things, but trying new things? Scary! Of course, there’s always a million things you’ve never done, but by the time you’ve got some history behind you, the list of things you’re likely to ever attempt shrinks.

I can assure you, for instance, that there is no way I am EVER going to jump out of a perfectly good plane and trust my life to a concoction of silk and rope that will hopefully deploy at just the right moment to save me from being splattered across the face of the earth. Nor will I ever go scuba diving, or learn to speak Japanese (not to pick on Japanese, which I’m sure is a perfectly good language – just can’t see it ever making it on to my list of 100 Things to Do Before You Cark It). And I’ll probably never tailor a three-piece suit, or drive a semi-trailer, or get into a fist fight or a million other things, large and small.

But lately “firsts” seem to be popping up all over the place. I played my first ever game of netball, after watching the girls from the sidelines for the last three years. First ever game of any team sport, in fact. And it was awesome. Who knew sport could be so much fun?

This week I’m going for my first ever taekwondo grading. I’ll be a yellow belt! Huge, I know – it’s only one rank above absolute beginner, but I’m still excited.

And at the beginning of the month, I went to my first ever sf convention – the World Science Fiction Convention. It’s usually held somewhere in the US, but this year it was in Melbourne, so I dragged the whole family along for a long weekend. The long-suffering Carnivore carted the younger two around to all the Melbourne attractions through bucketing rain and arctic gales, while Drama Duck and I skipped around the convention centre in airconditioned comfort, having so much fun it should have been illegal.

One of our first panels on the Saturday was on pitching your novel, where I was pleased to discover I knew everything the panellists were advising. The big excitement at this session, though, was meeting up with bloggy friend Jaye Patrick. Jaye and I have “known” each other ever since I did Nano for the first time in 2007, and it was great to finally meet in real life. She put me on the spot though. One of the first things she said to me was “how is Verity going?” and of course I had to admit Verity has been sadly neglected.

After lunch Drama Duck and I lined up for half an hour to make sure of a spot at Glenda Larke’s kaffeeklatsch the following day – a chance to sit around a table drinking coffee and chatting with an author for an hour about whatever you like, limited to only eight people. We were the first two people to sign up and very excited at the opportunity.

Glenda is lovely, with a great sense of humour. We attended several of her panels over the three days we were there, and she was very entertaining as well as insightful. The kaffeeklatsch was great. Drama Duck even worked up the courage to ask her a question and now has a serious case of hero worship going on. She demanded a Glenda Larke book to read after meeting her. The only one I had with me was the second book of the Watergivers trilogy and she got stuck into it straight away. Every time she came up for air she’d say “this is a really good book, Mum!”. She’d finished it before we got back to Sydney.

Other highlights included meeting George RR Martin – he’s such a Big Name in the fantasy world it’s like meeting God – and some other writers whose blogs (and work) I follow. John Scalzi is just as funny in person as on his Whatever blog. Peter V Brett made a big impression in the panel on promoting yourself and your work. He’s an introvert, like many writers, and finds self-promotion difficult. He pointed out that an introvert is not a person who can’t manage social interactions, but someone who is drained by the effort, whereas an extrovert is energised by social interaction.

I also discovered some new writers to try, like Catherynne M Valente, scarily intelligent and fiercely feminist on all the panels we saw her on. She had a rant about Shrek 4 at one stage which was very amusing but also thought-provoking. Her beef was that Shrek makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to change the past so he doesn’t rescue Fiona from the tower. In this new world Fiona rescues herself, and is brave, resourceful, a leader and freedom fighter – but the world is absolute crap. The message being that women must never dare to take action but must wait to be rescued by some man. Strong independent women destroy the world. I knew there was a reason I didn’t like that movie!

Russell Kirkpatrick and David Cornish gave me a new appreciation for maps in fantasy novels. I’ve always been pretty anti-map. I gave up looking at the things once I realised they were like having spoilers. Oh, there’s a huge city on the map up there? Must be important then. And there’s only one pass through the inhospitable mountains? Guess we know which way the characters are going then. But their maps are works of art, and there was much discussion of the things you could map apart from geographical features. Interesting stuff.

In fact, there was so much interesting stuff on offer it was hard to choose where to go. Every hour there were at least three panels I wanted to attend. Unable to split myself, I had to miss some that sounded awesome, but most of the ones I attended were good. Probably my favourite of the whole weekend was “Anatomy for Writers, Fighters and Tavern Brawlers”. Run by Sean McMullen, a martial arts expert as well as an author, it was not only educational but extremely funny. His poor assistant got drawn all over to show his muscles, stabbed with an umbrella masquerading as a sword and manhandled in various painful-looking ways as Russell demonstrated disarming and attacking opponents. Russell also snapped a thick board with his bare hand, which Drama Duck and I were hugely and geekily impressed with, seeing as how we’re budding martial artists ourselves. I’ve never seen anyone do that in real life.

All in all, it was a great experience, and very inspiring. I’ve started working on Verity again, after procrastinating as long as humanly possible. Yes, there have certainly been some unusual and stressful times lately, but basically I was just scared to get back on the horse after so long. Now that I have, my enthusiasm for the story is back.

In one of those serendipitous coincidences, I also found this post today by John Scalzi about making time to write: in essence, it’s really not that hard. “Do you want to write or don’t you?” he asks. “If your answer is ‘yes, but,’ then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say ‘no.’ ”

In other words, “Butt, this is Chair; Chair, meet Butt”. Time to get those two old friends reacquainted.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

My secret weapon against chocolate cravings

Are you ready? I’m about to reveal my secret weapon against chocolate cravings. Please note, this is not for the fainthearted. Are you sure you want to know? I’m telling you, this is scary stuff.

Okay then. Here it is. When I have desperate chocolate cravings, I know it’s time to bring out the big guns. Nothing stops those cravings like this baby …

Dark chocolate!!

I promise you, one mouthful of this will turn you off chocolate for life (or in my case, at least for the rest of the day).

I hear rumours that some people actually like dark chocolate, and all I can say is: diversity is a good thing and the world is full of wonders and isn’t it lovely that we’re all different but – Good God! What is wrong with you?? This stuff tastes indescribably bad. It is an affront to the very name of chocolate.

Not that I’m picking on this particular chocolate bar. I’m sure it’s no more vile than any other dark chocolate. I knew when I bought it it was a long shot, but I was hoping my love for all things peppermint might overcome my dislike of dark chocolate. No such luck, alas. This abomination has been living in my fridge for over two weeks. In chocolate bar years that’s a lifetime, since the lifespan of most chocolate that enters this house can be measured in moments.

So why am I eating it if it tastes so bad? It’s all part of my fiendish plan to defeat the Demon Sugar. I’m finding chocolate the hardest thing to give up, so I’m trying to recondition my automatic response to it. Like Pavlov’s dog – you know, every time he served the dog dinner he rang a bell, till eventually the dog would salivate at the sound of the bell even if there was no dinner with it?

This should work the same way. If every time I crave chocolate I have this disgusting travesty of a chocolate bar, eventually I should skip straight to the part where I want to wash my mouth out just at the thought of eating chocolate. Right? Right??


I promise to stop obsessing about food soon. Next post I’ll tell you all about my adventures in the arctic wasteland otherwise known as Melbourne at the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.