Category Archives: Journal

Digital holiday

Reading between the lines you might be able to tell from more recent posts that I’m getting a bit fed up with the online world. Recent events have only heightened my frustration with the different apps that I feel obliged to be a part of. Recently I’ve slackened off on my social media, and I haven’t missed it at all.

The whole reason I have so many accounts is because at writing conventions and talks everyone stresses how important it is to have an online presence. But if you stop and think about it, until you have a book to promote, what is the point in working on accruing so many followers when there is nothing much for them to actually read?

To me, social media accounts feel like an insecure and needy friend. When you get caught up in other things (you know, silly stuff like writing new stories) then your followers leave you in droves as if you have done something wrong. It seems that months of nurturing these accounts can come undone by a single busy week.

Well I’m going to test it out. I think I’m a more productive writer when I’m not spending so much time on all the online things. So, I’m giving myself a month off of all my digital obligations, and that includes this blog.

I have a project I want to throw myself into, so I’ll focus all my attention on that and keep my internet turned off. I suspect I’m going to feel happier and more relaxed, so if that is the case, I may look at doing something more permanent.

Either way, I will report back in at the end of May and let you know how I go. Try not to forget me! 😊

Too late?

I studied astronomy at Uni. It was only a single semester subject, and it was more of an overview rather than getting too deep into the physics side of things, but I got a distinction for it.  Something that really strikes you when you learn about other planets, as well as your own, is how incredibly unlikely it is that you’ll get the neat  balance on a planet that lets life not only survive, but thrive.

Yeah, I know, given only advanced life can contemplate such things, statistically those who do so must exist on those lucky few planets, so there is nothing special about me thinking about this. The point I want to focus on is the incredible BALANCE the planet must have.

I am worried that we have irreparably stuffed up that balance. In Australia it is autumn (fall) at the moment. In fact, we are into our second month of autumn. On Wednesday it was 36°C and we had bushfires. Yes, I had our bags packed and the pet pack out ready to grab the cat and go. We are normally all complaining about the cold about now. Until Saturday we had not had any significant rain this year. THIS YEAR!!!! I don’t live in a desert. Not yet anyway.

I hear many people say that this is all part of a natural cycle, but the thing people seem to be missing is that all the historical natural cycles (and we can track them back a very long way) were gradual. What is happening now is happening at a rate we have never seen on the planet before. The best scientists have no real idea what will happen next.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much. I’ve been putting the above fears into my writing for the last ten years, and I don’t think that’s made a scrap of difference. I think I need to change tack. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging, because I think it is important that none of us ever think it is too late to make a difference.

Follow your passion

Many times I have read and heard people say that if you follow your passion you will be successful. Most of the people who say such things are already successful, and that’s why they are in a position to say it so that we can hear them, which does skew the dataset somewhat. Those who follow their passion but get nowhere don’t get that many opportunities to be quoted.

But the truth of that statement is not what I’m here to talk about. For many of us, identifying what our passion is can be really difficult. For me you would think it would be a no-brainer; writing. But the truth is I’m not passionate about writing. I’m passionate about imagining and communicating stories. Writing is simply the medium through which I do that.

On Friday night I attended a quiz night. We played true or false and the topic was animals, or for those of us with science degrees, zoology. In a room of over 100 people I won. I didn’t study for it, I just naturally absorb information about animals because I’m passionate about them, so it sticks. On Friday night it won me two bottles of wine and three points for our table. I’d call that a success.

If I could come up with a way to marry animals and storytelling I would be a pretty happy camper. I can’t help but think those who tell us to follow our passion are onto something, because success can be defined in so many different ways. Even if you aren’t a big financial success, if you are doing something you are passionate about then that must bring you a lot of joy and satisfaction.

Something to ponder methinks.

Inspiration

For various different reasons I’ve struggled to get to the computer this week. I was also unable to do my regular morning walks, which left the creative juices a bit bottled up.

So I visited Cleland Conservation Park to get some animal inspiration, and I think it was just what I needed.

Tawny Frogmouth - not an owl but looks just as wise.
Tawny Frogmouth – not an owl but looks just as wise.

 

Mother and Joey – Kangaroo Island kangaroos
Mother and Joey – Kangaroo Island kangaroos

 

Wombat - the colour is a bit off because he was under red lights.
Wombat – the colour is a bit off because he was under red lights.

 

Echidna – One of only two species of monotremes (egg-laying mammals) on earth.
Echidna – One of only two species of monotremes (egg-laying mammals) on earth.

Merry Christmas

The end of year is always a crazy rush, and this year has been no exception. But now I have 4 days off before the final run at work, and then it is time for JanNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month). I’ve never done JanNoWriMo before, but I am very mindful of the fact that it is only one week away, so I hope the anticipation is waking up my writing daemon and I’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat a bit too much food, and have a couple of wines and then settle down to read (from cover to cover) my novel for which I hope to write the sequel in January. That is my only writing requirement for this long weekend. Everything else is going to be friends, family and more food – because that is what the end of December is all about.

I hope you all find yourself in the company of good friends and family this Christmas long weekend. And if the family aren’t so good, then I hope that they are at least entertaining, or (for the writers reading this) inspirational.

Please take care, don’t drink and drive, or text and drive, or drive off after Aunt Mary said that particularly offensive thing. And if the chance presents itself, show kindness to a stranger. We shouldn’t wait for Christmas to do that, but it is a good excuse.

Merry Christmas!

Wants and needs

I want to publish novels that people read and enjoy. I need to earn money to pay my bills. Wants are born of passions and desires, needs are forced upon us. Isn’t it funny how easily we find the motivation to meet our needs but often only the inspiration to meet our wants?

I get up each day and go to work, not with joy and excitement, but acceptance. And I DO get up each day and go to work. So why don’t I use the joy and excitement of writing a novel to get me to the desk each night to write? I think it’s because it is a want not a need. So when I’m tired, or run down, writing gets jettisoned along with all the other optional wants (fitness, healthy eating, enough sleep, a proper cleansing and moisturising regime).

I’m a very pig-headed and motivated person, so I tend to make time to chase my wants, but even with that, I am amazed at how often I let them slip. I never let my needs not go un-met. It got me thinking about my personal needs and how I can change my wants into needs.

Food and bills are pretty frontline on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, so let’s ignore them, but let’s look at other ‘needs’ in my life. I’m over 40 now (sometimes) so I’ve seen some of my wants make the transition into needs already. I want to keep my teeth, so now I actually floss every night. Yes, every night. In my 20’s I’d be surprised if I did it once a month. The fluorescence lights in the bathrooms at work have made colouring my hair a need that I used to be able to let slip. Saying no to chocolate and wine has also become the norm for me in recent years, that was unheard of in my early 30s.

I think there is a bit of shaming in ‘wanting it all’, like we should just be grateful for what we have. Don’t get me wrong, I know that anyone who counts colouring her hair as a need is a very lucky person indeed, and I AM grateful, but I also think there is nothing wrong with wanting more. Or should I say needing more.

Imagine what I would achieve if publishing a novel became a need? There are so many silly little wants I could sacrifice to get it done. Think; if we could turn the desire to make this world a better place into a need to get it done, what might we achieve? Yes, I’m very grateful for my health, and home, and loving family, but I am also grateful to be able to want more. I think I need to publish another novel. It’s time to get this done!

Travel Journal – 1998 – True love lost

I read a lot of Bill Bryson when I was travelling, as a result I was inspired to make my own travel journal a bit more colourful. So while I rarely commented on the weather, or exactly where I was, the stupid things I did featured large. I’ve transferred some of my hand-written travel diaries (complete with ticket stubs and other holiday paraphernalia) into digital format so I don’t lose them. This snippet is cut from my US holiday diary, from the day my sister and I visited Six Flags Magic Mountain (the setting for Wally World in the movie ‘Vacation’). It made me laugh, so I thought I would share:

 

We were told the Batman Ride was terrifying. Strapped in, your feet were left dangling as it spun you through loops and barrels at breakneck speed. Naturally that put it at the top of our must do list.

It was while we were in the line-up to the ride that I spotted the guy. He looked like Val Kilmer from Top Gun, with cropped blond hair and a cheeky sparkle in his eye (okay, he might have been too far away for me to really make out the sparkle, but I’m sure it was there). Thanks to the back and forward snaking of the line I kept getting to glance at him from different angles. Then it happened; our eyes met and he smiled! Swoon! As we snaked further along the line we kept catching each other’s eyes. Suddenly I loved America.

The dark side of this tale came from the snippets of other people’s conversations I kept hearing. They talked about how this was the scariest of all the rides at the park. Some were even saying that they didn’t know if they would go through with it. The screams coming from the patrons who had made their way onto the ride definitely had more of a note of terror about then than fun.

Then I saw the first sign: No bag storage. It’s like when you spot the first cat hair on your pants and then suddenly you can see hairs everywhere; there were signs at every turn warning us there was nowhere to store our bags. I had a bag! As we drew closer to the ride I could hear a pre-recorded message telling us that whatever you had on you, you had to carry on the ride. I looked around, NO ONE ELSE HAD BAGS! Why didn’t anyone tell me this sooner!?! My whole world was in my bag.

It was at this moment I missed perhaps my one chance at true love. Lost in that vague world in which only I seem to reside, the snaking line brought the boy who I thought was beautiful within touching distance. He walked past me and asked ‘How you going?’

I  DIDN’T  REALISE  HE  WAS  TALKING  TO  ME  BECAUSE  I  WAS  PANICKING  ABOUT  MY  BAG!!!!!!!

My sister looked back at me and said, ‘What did that guy say to you?’ at which point I finally broke out of my lonely weird world (where I’m apparently forever destined to live) and asked ‘Who? What guy?” She pointed to him. It was THE GUY!

He didn’t look at me again and the line did not bring us closer as he was swallowed by the ride that was sure to rob me of my bag and all my worldly possessions. I wanted to scream out to him that I was sorry, that I didn’t realise he was talking to me because I was too busy worrying about where to put my bag, but I never got my chance.

So if someone ever reads this who knows a guy who looked a bit like a young Val Kilmer and rode the Batman Ride on November 21st 1998 please let him know that I’m not a snob, just stupid!

 

Funnily enough I wrote that last paragraph as you read it. So no idea how I thought anyone else would be able to read my diary. Maybe he’ll get the chance now? 🙂

 

Most basic communication

Anyone who follows my Twitter account will know that I’m nearly a crazy cat lady. I spend a lot of time talking to my cat. In the past 12 months she has started talking back to me a lot (in meows, not words – this isn’t one of my stories). We have had many very satisfying, nonsensical conversations.

This has really got me thinking about the non-words side of communication. We all know how important body language and facial expressions are when it comes to talking to people, but when it comes to animals that all stops having meaning.

My cat is a rescue cat, and for some reason I can’t explain, it seems morally wrong to me to change her name. The problem is I don’t really like her name. As a result I can call her one of up to about twenty different names; Puss, Pussums, Baby-Doll, Snookums, Honey-Cakes, Baby-Cakes, Babe, Bubalicious etc. (apologies to any ex’s who recognise their own Monika’s in there, I didn’t steal them from you, they were bestowed upon my high-school cat long before they made it to partner level). The funny thing is, she always seems to respond as if I am saying her name.

I can only conclude that it all comes down to my tone when I speak. Interestingly, tone of voice is one of the few things I don’t comment on when writing dialogue. It can be hard to write tone into text without sounding like author intrusion, but when done well it can lend your story more depth and emotion. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to add it in future.

Just an aside; I often trip over the cat because she likes to smooch around my feet. Shocked, I can’t help by yelp ‘Sorry!’ each time I do it. Only recently have I realised that because of the loud and urgent nature of my apology there is every chance the tone sounds more like ‘Got ya!’ to my poor cat. Now I give her and apologetic pat instead.

My cat looking wistfully at the birds outside.
My cat looking wistfully at the birds outside.

Signs or super brain?

The other night I made a very healthy vegetable stir-fry for dinner and, while feeling pretty pleased that my gut flora would eat well in the morning, I was still a bit peckish. Suddenly I remembered I had an unopened box of BBQ Shapes in the pantry. I never eat BBQ Shapes, I don’t really know why I bought them, but they became my sole focus for the next two or three minutes.

Knowing they were not an ideal post-dinner snack, I decided just to have a look to see what the best before date was (I knew they had been in there a long time). It was the next day. Not the next week, or month, but best before the very next day. Clearly it was a sign that I should eat them.

I see signs all the time. I make decisions on signs, some a little more important than if I should allow myself to snack after dinner. I have to confess, I’m pretty happy with where those decisions have got me so far. While I’m not exactly where I’d like to be, I’m also not worried that ignoring the signs would have got me any closer at this point in my life.

But something about the BBQ Shapes ‘sign’ worried me.

The brain is a much more powerful thing than we ever give it credit for. I’m always setting it tasks which it consistently delivers on after spending a bit of time off in mysterious-brain-world. I can’t help but wonder if nearly a year ago when I bought those BBQ shapes, my brain took note of the best before date? Maybe there was a reminder set at that point, and when it did exactly what brains do best, I interpreted it as a sign?

How many of my other signs are actually super brain? And should I be worried? I’m a ridiculously logical person, so my normal brain always gets the last say over signs or super brain (for example, I didn’t eat the whole packet of BBQ shapes). But for me a little bit of magic disappeared from the world when I thought that my amazing sign was actually just amazing biology.

I guess that means the best thing to do would be the other thing my brain is really good at; forget about it. However the rest of the BBQ shapes might just find their way into the compost bin instead of me. I’m sure my microbiome will thank me.

Cats or Coincidences?

cat twins

There is something odd about my street. More specifically: about the cats in my street. They are all duplicates of cats I have lived with at some point in my life.

I worked out very quickly that this feline doppelganger thing was going on. It also wasn’t lost on me that the most common visitor to my backyard looks EXACTLY like my current cat (see photo above –btw I had to work very hard to get the photo of the outdoor cat to look un-friendly, she is actually a lot more sociable and smiley than my cat).

At first I chose to ignore this coincidence, because it was weird and unnerved me a bit… But recently something odd happened. A cat has moved in who is not a past cat clone. I don’t know this cat, I’ve never known a cat like this cat, and I don’t know anyone who has a cat like this.

Is this cat a glimpse into my future?

I have to confess; the non-clone has weirded me out more than the clones. I don’t have a name for this cat and I’ve been giving it a wide berth. But what will seriously freak me out is if I meet someone who has the clone of this cat. If that happened then I wouldn’t even try to fight the universe, we’d just have to move in together.

Then again, maybe they are just cats?