08.31.11

Less than 4 hours!

Posted in Journal at 9:23 pm by Natalie

In less than 4 hours it will be spring! I didn’t want to subject you to ‘spring has sprung’ or ‘spring into spring’ catch-phrases, so instead I will share my haiku;

Spring

About bloody time
Was going out of my mind
Winter wasn’t kind

Time for spring phlog, provided by a walk around the beautiful Mount Lofty Botanical Gardens last weekend;

Open Magnolia

White magnolia tree

Close-up of koala

Koala in a pine tree, getting ready to drop onto unsuspecting tourists

The truth about trees

Ever feel like you are being watched when you walk through the forest?

As with the last photo-blog, one of these photos has been a little… tweaked.
Happy Spring (to those in the Southern hemisphere)!

08.28.11

When I was your age television was called ‘books’

Posted in Journal, Writing at 5:55 pm by Natalie

Of course that is a quote from one of my favourite movies The Princess Bride, and I was lucky enough to have my own Grandpa/Grandson moment last night (but with a different gender and relationship). It reminded me again of the wonderful magic of books.

Little miss 6 had insisted she was grown up enough to watch the Harry Potter movies, so I struck a deal with her; after we read the first book, she could watch the first movie. She thought she had won the battle and eagerly agreed. A week later I presented her with her own copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

“There’s a lot of words in it,” she said sadly, thumbing through the pages.
“Yes, it’s a novel. It’s much longer than your school readers.”
She placed the book down on the coffee table, cover-side down. “I don’t think I really want to watch the movie anyway.”

I thought I was beaten, she showed no interest in the book, so last night I insisted that before she could watch her Saturday night movie we had to read the first chapter. Begrudgingly she agreed, if only to secure a little more adult attention for a while.

By page two she was acting out scenes to ensure she was picturing them right. She pulled the book from my hand several times and read out a paragraph or two of her own. She asked questions about magic, and owls and Muggles, wondering (with hope in her voice) if the tales were true!

It brought a lump to my throat.

The moment that you realise a book does not just have to be an educational ‘reader’ but can be a key to unlock the magic of your imagination is a magnificent moment indeed. And while little Miss 6 might not remember her captivation with this first non-school book when she grows up, I certainly will.

Thank you J.K. Rowling!

08.24.11

Dog poo kind of day

Posted in Journal at 10:42 pm by Natalie

For some reason we seem to be programmed to look only at the negatives when bad things happen instead of finding the positive in the experience. This morning when I stepped into a fresh dog turd hidden in the autumn leaves turned winter mulch, I initially thought bad things, mainly toward the dog’s owner. Then my glass half full brain kicked in and I decided to look for the positive.

Being my new rolling shoes, and not my usual flex deep-grooved shoes, the squidge was more of a smear than putty job. I simply found an obliging piece of grass and a conveniently left over puddle and was quickly relieved of my stinky burden and back on my way.

Then my bus was late. Normally this means it fills up and I have to stand. But I put on my positive thinking hat and was grateful to find seats enough that everyone could safely navigate the ride down the hill on our bums instead of dangling like human bunting from the plastic yellow hand-holds.

The knock-on effect was I was late for work. Positive plus kicked in again, and no-one seemed to notice my late arrival, my computer further helping me by booting up in record time. I even had time to get my cup of tea before my first meeting.

Oddly enough I ended up thinking of the morning as one of good fortune, instead of being convinced that I had got out of the wrong side of the bed. It would have been so easy to focus on the stinky side of the problems, branding it a bad day, instead of seeing the fortuitous outcomes I had been offered.   

Now if only I can manifest this attitude every day, I might just save myself a tonne of chocolate.

08.21.11

Dreams

Posted in Journal, Writing at 9:34 am by Natalie

I have dreams every night, sometimes they are really crazy ones (like the man-eating guitars that were chasing me earlier in the week), but what is common to all of them is that I have absolutely no control over what happens next. So why is it that when we talk of our hopes and aspirations for the future we call them dreams?

Is the reason because we think these things are just as ephemeral and intangible as the dreams that entertain (or horrify) us each night? Am I naive to think that with a plan, a goal list and a lot of hard work I can attain my dreams? Have I read one too many self-help books?

The other phrase I hear a lot is ‘dare to dream’ –like there is something inherently dangerous about doing it. Again this could be the self-help books talking, but I think it would be much more daring not to dream. Without dreams what on earth would motivate you to get up each day? If you are not working toward something, what are you doing?

Apologies for the existential post, but I have been letting my dreams slide a little over the past couple of months, but it doesn’t mean that I have let them go. I just took a little lazy break and now it is time to get back to the dream grindstone.

I can’t imagine living life any other way.

Happy writing,

Nat

08.17.11

Pillars of the earth

Posted in Journal at 9:14 pm by Natalie

I’m reading ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ by Ken Follett at the moment. It has been recommended to me by countless people, some as their ‘favourite book ever’. I have to admit, I am struggling with it. Sometimes.

None of us want to read a book where everything goes perfectly for the lead character all the time, that would be boring. Equally (as this book has taught me) we do not want to read a book where everything goes wrong all the time. This story covers a span of some 30+ years (and over 1,000 pages) and our band of ‘good guys’ constantly face struggles to overcome various adversities, then they come out victorious, only to have it all taken away from them by something unforeseen.

This has happened time and time again in the novel, to the point where every time things are going well I get frustrated because I know something out of left field is about to come and destroy it all again, usually somehow involving the ‘bad guys’.

Sometimes I find myself really enjoying the story, putting off going to bed so I can stay up to see what happens next. Sometimes I want to throw it across the room because the conspiracy of coincidences which have once again undone all of the good guy’s work just annoys me.

I will not say it is a bad book, it is well written, fantastically researched and the characterisation is good. But for someone who doesn’t get a lot of joy from the misery of others, it can be a bit exasperating at times. I can see what others love, but the constant feeling of frustration is dampening the enjoyable parts too much for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for it to be Hollywood, but even reality is not that peppered with bad fortune.

Perhaps if it was cut up into a few different books, where the victories for the good guys were the ends of the books, and the coming undone was the start of the next, perhaps then I would be more forgiving. If for no other reason than you would have longer to enjoy the victories.

It has really opened my eyes to what I do and don’t enjoy in a story, and the ongoing rollercoaster ride just gets a bit same-same after a while. The sudden plunge when you are not expecting it can pull your heart into your throat the first time, but when you have been there six or seven times before, it just starts to feel like a bumpy ride.

08.14.11

Unreal real

Posted in Writing at 8:22 pm by Natalie

Next time you are on a bus or train, listen in on a conversation near you. Really listen. Besides learning that the girl behind you was too drunk on Saturday night to realise there was a cigarette butt in her champagne, so she skulled the whole lot, you’ll also notice that our speech is really messy.

People use phrases like “Yeah, no” and they’ll insert “um” or “like” into every second sentence, but you will rarely see those written in a book. The “hello’s”, “how’s your mother”, and “give my best to the boys” are all usually missing from the written page as well, because the fact is real speech is boring to read.

So how do you learn to write good ‘realistic’ speech if you can’t base your study on real people saying real things? The answer is simple; read books.

Writing is a craft as surely as any other artistic pursuit. You do not want all paintings to look like photographs. Likewise a book can present a story within the manipulated structure of the novel, showing us beautiful or awful things with enough reality to touch us, but enough craft to enthral us.

So now that you know that listening in on public transport conversations won’t help you write better speech, you will just have to keep an ear out so you can pluck out interesting stories instead. Everything is material.

08.10.11

#NotWriting

Posted in Writing at 10:12 pm by Natalie

Sometimes you get a cold, or you have a busy day at work, or you have some kind of emotional turmoil, so you don’t feel like writing. And sometimes you just don’t feel like writing.

So what is it with all this guilt?

I’ve never heard a knitter lamenting that they haven’t picked up the sticks for a few weeks now, or a balsa aircraft maker embarrassingly whispering under their breath that they haven’t cut out the struts for their bi-plane, even though they started it over two months ago. Why do writers feel like we are failing if we let a week (or four) slip by with no new words being written?

Just look at the Twitter #NotWriting string to see how many excuses people come up with for neglecting the page. But don’t look for my tweet, it’s not that I haven’t written one, it’s just that it is now buried so deeply under the sediment of writer guilt from across the globe that it has probably fallen off the Twitter memory banks.

This is at risk of becoming a pandemic!

I don’t believe you are going to forget the craft of writing, or that you are not dedicated if you don’t force yourself to the notebook each day. A week is also not worth worrying about, and a month is just buying your subconscious some time to work without stress. Get to three months without a tickle of the muse and you might be in trouble, but even then I use the word might.

So for all those out there #NotWriting –chillax, you’ll be writing again before you know it.

08.07.11

Suburban Cowboys

Posted in Writing at 6:27 pm by Natalie

Suburban Cowboys by Natalie J E Potts
Well I pulled my finger out and finally loaded up Suburban Cowboys, my short horror story which was originally printed in Midnight Echo #1 (the Australian Horror Writers Association magazine) in 2008.

This story was inspired by all my drives between Hawthorn and Hampton where my poor little Lancer had to rough it with all the Toorak tractors. One day the fighting with the four-wheel drives just got to me so much that this story spilled out in its entirety the moment I got home.

I do need to warn you there is adult content insomuch as there are graphic concepts, but there is not really any guts and gore (but don’t let the absence turn you off).

At the moment (due to the way the sites are set up) you can only get it for free on Smashwords, but it is available at Amazon for the princely sum of $0.99, or you can wait about a month and then they will (hopefully) move it over to the free catalogue.

Thank you very much to those who gave me feedback about the cover, it was almost a fifty/fifty split, so I went with the all blue, but I might re-vamp it to dual-tone when it gets onto the free list.

Happy reading,

Nat

08.03.11

End of winter phlog

Posted in Journal at 10:50 pm by Natalie

Yes, the weather warmed up a bit this week, and it felt like Spring! I don’t know if it is a coincidence, but I wrote some new words this week, and I should have my next eBook out by the weekend. I know this break from the cold is probably just a tease, but I’m making the most of it with a celebration of the end of winter with a photo log…

Goodbye winter colours…
Autumnal trees at Bright Victoria 
Hello spring workers…
Bee landing on flower

And let’s not forget the dragons…
Castle and dragon

There may have been some photo manipulation in one of these pictures…