Monday, October 31, 2011

Extra-extra long weekend

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is Melbourne Cup Day -- the 'race that stops a nation'. I used to be a fan of the Spring Racing Carnival, but I haven't been to anything for a few years now. A group of friends and I used to dress up -- hats and all -- and make a special day of it. Usually Oaks Day. Now, though? It's too crowded and too expensive and I just can't be bothered.

Oh, old and grinchy am I!

Given Tuesday is a public holiday in Melbourne, many people take Monday off as well. Which means that good old Melbourne town begins to wind down on Friday afternoon and doesn't really rev back up again until Wednesday morning. This little window of unofficial 'holiday' means I don't get very many emails, or phone calls, or other work demands. And for the past few years, I've taken advantage of that fact by having a little writing spree.

A few years ago, I did NaNoWriMo, but after that one time, I haven't done it again. It's a great exercise, and really great for getting into the habit of writing every day. But I already have those habits and didn't need the extra pressure!

This year's writing spree has come at a perfect time. I'm facing down my first-ever deadline as a published author and my book was misbehaving on me -- characters not doing the right thing, story arcs not cooperating. So I sat down on Saturday morning and started writing. I spent most of Sunday doing it too. Today I've done another good chunk and by tomorrow, I'm hoping I'll be getting close to 90% done with this one. Well, maybe 75%, now that I think about it, but I'll be close -- and I always find that last little bit moves reasonably easy.

The trick, I've found, is to find a balance between a solid effort and an 'overdose'. Doing too much is like driving a car too fast -- my brain overheats and there's nothing to be done except stop and let it cool down. Which is frustrating and feels like wasted time. So here I am, blogging instead of writing and about to head out and run a few errands. Hopefully, when I get back to the computer, there'll be a few more puffs of energy left in me to finish the scene I started writing this morning. And then another fresh start awaiting me tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In the mood for a fun, sexy story?

...Then don't miss Robin Covington's "The Fourth Date's The Charm" on the Waterworld Mermaids blog. Robin is my wonderful CP and friend and she has a knack for writing amazing, sexy, funny stories that leave you smiling and just a little bit hot under the collar, if you know what I mean. ;)

Robin has been an absolute guardian angel for me -- she's always ready with just the right amount of praise and constructive criticism to help make my writing better. I've also been fortunate to be able to read some of her brilliant stories that will, very soon, be published by Blaze -- I'm absolutely positive of that.

I think I will write a blog post soon about the importance of critique partners. I know not everyone works the same way, and not every writers finds having a CP an essential part of their process, but I do. I've learned a great deal from the wonderful people I've worked with over the years to help improve my writing.

Cassie's Grand Plan now available for pre-order

Well, if there was any doubt that this whole 'published author' thing was just in my head, I got concrete proof yesterday that it's not all a dream! Cassie's Grand Plan is now available for pre-order from Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and all your usual places.

There's still no cover art as yet (don't worry, I'll be sharing that as soon as I can!) and no description. But the whole point is, it's a real book and you can buy it. Squee!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday Favourites - Playing dress-ups

I am a huge fan of costume parties. I just love the creative thought that goes into coming up with a fun idea, the search for the costume itself, and then all the preparation on the night getting ready. I think it makes a difference to the "vibe" at the event itself too -- everyone turns up with their 'extrovert' side on show and you instantly have a conversation starter with strangers.

Last night I went to a fantastic party held by my friends Kate and Antony. It was a combined birthday/engagement party and the theme was 'A journey on the Orient Express'. The invitations included a train ticket and a tag with the character you were required to dress up as. I was very excited to be asked to appear as Agatha Christie. Here's me with Kate, who did a gorgeous and very glam Coco Chanel:

Kate did an awesome job with the table decorations too. There was a train set running down the middle of the table which began in Paris (tiny Eiffel Tower, maps, etc) and ran through several destinations down the table to Constantinople. Each place setting was beautifully set as well:

Earlier this year, I had a costume party for my birthday. My theme was Marie Antoinette's court, and I mostly chose that idea because I was desperate to wear one of those gowns! It was a fantastic party and I was so thrilled that my friends really took it to heart and went all out with their costumes. Here's me and a photo of the room:

It was an absolutely gorgeous evening and totally managed to distract me from the nasty business of turning another year older.

Something I recently discovered is that there are some people in the world who do this dress-up thing not just for parties, but as a kind of hobby or lifestyle thing. It's called 'cosplay' and it started in Japan with manga, but it's evolved much more broadly since. The idea is to accurately represent a fictional character and people go to a lot of trouble to create amazing costumes. I really enjoyed watching this video clip that shows some of the fun people have getting wrapped up in their fandoms. Watching this clip makes me want to go hire some outrageous costume and wander around the city, just for the hell of it. :) Let me know, do you like dressing up? Or do you groan if an invitation for 'fancy dress' arrives in the mail?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Favourites - Looking at pictures of cake

I fancy myself as a bit of a baker, but when it comes down to it, most of the baking I do is in my head, rather than in the actual kitchen. I have a large collection of something a friend of mine refers to as "food porn" -- stacks and stacks of food magazines and recipe books that I really do enjoy reading. I love reading recipes and thinking about cooking. And let's face it, thinking about cooking, rather than actual cooking, is way easier from a clean-up perspective and has far fewer calories. Especially when what I love reading about most is cake.

I don't quite know why it is that I have such a fascination for reading about cake making, because I'm actually not that much of a fan in real life. I don't have an extreme sweet-tooth, and often the things I dream about baking are more than likely things I probably wouldn't overly enjoy eating. Doesn't stop me.

There are a collection of baking blogs that I particularly like visiting. First is Bakingdom. This blog is awesome, because not only are the cakes delicious-sounding, they look spectacular. Just take a look at this very pretty cake that was designed to celebrate the release of the last Harry Potter movie:
It looks pretty good just like that, but what really blew me away was what it looked like when you cut a slice to eat, revealing all the Hogwarts house colours:

This is just the sort of thing the baking goddess at Bakingdom does all the time and quite frankly, I'm in awe. One of these days, one of these days, I'd love to have a go at making something like this, all the fuss and fiddle and everything.

Another baking blog I really enjoy looking at is i am baker. This baking goddess is also responsible for making some totally gorgeous, amazing, stunning-looking cakes. Look at this one to get you started:
Aren't those colors gorgeous? And I think what gets me most is that it looks deceptively simple. Yes, I think to myself, it's just a nice cake and lots of buttercream icing and a star tip on an icing bag. And a hell of a lot of patience. Maybe it's that last ingredient that I'm missing.

I love this one too:

On the inside, it's a cherry-flavored cake. Genius! And, I will admit, beyond my skill level, I am sure.

Perhaps one of the reasons that holds me back from taking all this dreaming into reality is that I'm afraid of what the outcome might look like in comparison to the beautiful pictures. Or perhaps that might end up on one of my other favourite sites: Cake Wrecks.

It's not exactly a baking blog, but still lots of fun and their "Sunday Sweets" always feature some very beautiful cakes. The Sunday Sweets kind of cakes are cakes that are beyond the dreams of mere mortals such as myself, one must be a professional cake decorator to even begin to think about how to make them happen, but I still like to look.

One of these days I will find the will, time and necessary patience to actually have a go at creating one of the works of edible art that I lust over in my food porn. And when I do, I promise to post pictures, even if they're of the wrecky kind.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New SuperAuthors post

Rabbiting on over on the Super Authors blog again. There are pictures of cake. Yummy cake. And you can win a Kindle if you comment!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday Favourites - Things that make you go... WTF?

Dontcha just love the internet? For me, I sometimes feel like Alice following the white rabbit down the rabbit hole. You click on a link which takes you somewhere where you click on a link which takes you somewhere else and suddenly an hour has passed and you can't quite remember the journey you took to get where you've currently found yourself...

But the one thing I love about the internet is all the fun stuff that it brings to my fingertips. Of course, there are all those interminable email tropes with "send this on to all the women you know who'd like a laugh" and crap like that, but there is genuine, wonderful funny to be had out there too.

I used another Friday Favourite to talk about The Bloggess, who is still regularly providing me with my recommended daily allowance of giggles. But there are plenty of other places I go to for laughs, smiles and just plain WTF-ness (which is sometimes just as amusing).

The web comic xkcd (apparently the name doesn't mean anything) combines high-concept maths, physics and technology with knowing winks at what it means to be part of the online world. It's also occasionally very heartfelt.

A recent comic that made me laugh was this one:

Because I think that is, quite seriously, what most of us are thinking when someone offers up the "best You Tube clip you've ever seen!!"

But in that spirit, I offer up one of my perennial favourites. I think I first found this clip (and I don't remember how) five or six years ago because I remember I was at a particularly workplace at the time (no comments on my productivity please) and shared it with the whole office.

It never fails to make me laugh because of its complete WTFness. And, it appears from the stats at You Tube, 13 million other users think the same. Enjoy your Fridays and feel free to share your favourite piece of internet WTFery with me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fond of short stories?

Check out Waterworld Mermaids -- my brilliant CP, Robin Ray Coll is a member of this group of talented writers who, in October, are hosting a "Come Inside My Garden" short stories festival. Today's steampunk offering by Avery Flynn is lots of fun.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Not so favourite Monday

Okay, so I missed my last week's "Friday Favourite" -- and I was all determined that I was going to keep on top of this blogging thing! But that was before my back had other ideas. Early last week, it decided it had pretty much had enough of carting my ungrateful body around and so it stopped. Well, it didn't exactly stop, but it only did so with a great deal of complaining. Very ouchy and nasty complaining.

Source (And handy hint - don't do a Google image search on the word "ouch". Ew.)

So I then took myself off to the doctor, as you do, and got this awesome cocktail of drugs that, as my osteopath so wisely said: "Don't make it hurt any less, but do make you care less about it hurting." Amen.

I spent most of last week off with the pixies, reliant on friends and family to drive me around (seriously, you did not want me behind the wheel), make me dinner and even do my washing. Very glamorous indeed, being my friend, I assure you.

As a result, no work, no writing and in fact, not much else has been done at all. When I did have the brain space I did some reading. I'm sure the drugs were not entirely responsible for the tears I shed reading Sarah Mayberry's "One Good Reason" and "Home for the Holidays". Or the giggling I did reading Victoria Dahl's "Good Girls Don't" and the green-eyed writer's jealousy I felt over the astonishingly glorious sentences in Susan Elizabeth Phillips' "Call Me Irresistible". Seriously. Check this out from page 10:

"He strode down the centre aisle with a long, easy gait, his dark brown hair kissed with copper. Jeweled light from the stained-glass windows flung precious gems in his path, as if a simple red carpet weren't good enough for such a man to walk upon."

I mean, really. Come on, SEP, leave some hope for us mere mortal writers... :)

Today, though, along with some sunshine (thank you, Melbourne) my back seems a little better able to cope with sitting at the computer for about half an hour at a time. And my brain is slowly getting less fuzzy as I work off the pixie dust. With any luck, tomorrow I'll be able to tackle some actual writing. Blogging is easing me into it...