Tuesday, 11 February 2020

My version of the trolley problem

Reusing books is a trendy thing at the moment, but it makes me freak out a little; they are destroying a book! I know maybe nobody wants that book, it might be damaged or old, and the new product might be art, or something useful… but aaargh. It just feels wrong.
One of my book suppliers is the lifeline charity sale where they sell titles for one or two dollars each. I take along my wheeled shopping trolley like a proper book granny. The other source is the sale trolley at the library; three books for a dollar. Bargain. And already covered in plastic and labelled with the genre. Bonus.
I think of it as my own version of the trolley problem; it can be summarised as 'too many books, so few hands' to carry them.
Recently, I have understood that part of who I am is using those hands to make things. Often textile things: sew, knit, crochet, cross stitch, patchwork, quilt, weave, spin, and embroider ... you ask, I've probably given it a go.
When I lived in Indonesia it was a little harder to do that kind of work given the tropical weather. And who needs knitted jumpers when it’s 32C every single day?
So I side stepped into doing paperwork and scrapbooking. As a child I used to do calligraphy and water colour. I can remember being given a hardback copy of Edith Holden's Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. $$
And it was life changing. Her scrapbook filled with little sketches in the corner and twee little stories about going for a walk and seeing a robin or whatever. I desperately tried to replicate it, but to no avail. I'm blaming my childhood - what were my diary entries? I read a book, walked to the railway station to catch a train to school, fought with my brother - riveting stuff.
Ooh maybe I just wanted to BE an Edwardian lady of leisure? [looks at current life - huh]
But I digress, so not only do I have a pile of scissors and paper from scrapbooking, but I also have a store of paints, coloured inks and pen nibs, and a vague idea of how to use them. I used to write out book quotes I liked or poems on A3 sheets of art paper purloined from my mother's classroom, and I’d give them to my friends as gifts. [I was such a weird kid.]
I often say the internet is a journey of a thousand clicks and one of those clicks led me to a Pinterest page for re-using hardback books. There seems to be two options: as a common place book where you write on the original page after modge podging it to white death, or if you cut out all the actual print pages, as a folder to hold books you tie inside, or if you are really natty, you stitch your hand made pages into the empty book case with some simple book stitching methods. [stitching? NO, brain!]
And it just resurrected all that Edith Holden love.
So at my yoga class, instead of lying in my meditation pose and clearing my brain, I am planning how I could make one of these. And sorting through my paper stash, trying to remember what rubber stamps I have. Do I have some old green ink? Maybe... what stickers could go with it? Wait up; I used to order themed sets each month from some lady in Queensland, where did I put those?
I guess it was relaxing. I can hear Andy Puddicombe from Headspace reciting patiently, ‘if the brain wanders off just bring it back again.’]
*crash tackles brain, head locks it, drags it back to the yoga mat*
But this also sets my brain up for a WAR.
Books. I adore books. I hold them to my chest with love and adoration. In one of the Pinterest how to articles’, a woman used a copy of a hard back book titled Katherine. I noticed the Catherine wheels on the cover in a coat of arms. The coat of arms John of Gaunt had made for a common woman because he loved her so much. [Have I read it? oh yes... many times]
It's old, the woman in the post says, printed in 1954.
What??? I run off to Goodreads. The title was released in 1954. Dear God, is she chopping up a first edition of Anya Seton's Katherine???! Eeek!
Hyperventilates - oh no, that poor book, this is a tragedy. It could be worth a fortune.
Calm down, brain. One, it's done. You can't rescue it. Two, is it even worth anything? [No, do NOT go look that up] Seton probably had a huge first print run, she was such a popular author ... breathe...
So, if you can, imagine how I will react to cutting up an actual book with my own two hands? [It is not going to be pretty.]
The train of thought goes like this: I will get a book that nobody wants, from the charity store, or the library. ah ha?! I shall raid the sale trolley.
Quick walk to the library. I find a few hardcover options of a certain size, and for my one dollar I end up with a copy of Saladin Ahmed's Crescent Moon [to READ - as if I’d chop that up?], a Christopher Ondaatje novel The Last Colonial [I had a flashback to an English lady in Jakarta insulting me by calling me a colonial - hisses - it also has these creepy weird illustrations so it might be okay to cut up?] and a Time Life tome on Russian history in the time of War and Peace.
The colonial book is rare according to Goodreads... sighs... dammit.
But I feel quite at ease chopping up a Time Life book. I shall cover the eyes of all the Time Life art books on my shelves so they don't witness the murder.
Maybe I should just ask the library if they are throwing any reference books out. And then I could bury the book harm vibes more easily? I got it out of the trash.
But that would mean another walk to the library... oh no.
I shall try to stay away from the sale trolley.

$$ Edith Holden's country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Imposter syndrome

A while ago, I was listening to Adrienne Bell and Eliza Peake chatting on the Misfit’s guide to writing Indie romance podcast. %%
Honestly, podcasts are my new drug. So many to listen to, so little time…
But at any rate, Adrienne was talking about how she had set herself a large goal for 2020. She aimed to write half a million words, and she was really nervous about hitting that target. And she thought some other people might have the same issue.
In the spirit of supporting each other, and accountability and all those kind of phrases, she set up a group for it. Pick your own target. Pick your own method: plot/pantser, daily writing/weekends only … whatever works for you.
The symbol is a cute tortoise – slow and steady – and you join by invitation only.
It’s called Write Hella Words^^ and is a slack channel. [Not Facebook – thank GOD. I hate FB with the passion of a thousand suns.]
Before I had time to talk myself out of it, I sent her an email and asked to join.
And she said yes’.
What on earth was wrong with me? I’m in a writing group with people and I buy their books! Rachael Herron, Sophie Littlefield and Adrienne Bell… and my brain keeps shouting at me:
So I’ve got a massive dose of imposter syndrome.
Imposter is one of those words that confuses me: is it impostor OR imposter? I get it wrong, every time. Wait… is it both?]
But I digress… now the thing with half a million words is that it’s not only a lot of words; it is a lot of books. A romance novel is anything from 40k – 100k according to all the definitions. A thriller about 55-80k. So – if you do the math – 500k is 10-12 small books or five biggish ones.
It’s a LOT, okay? Like a whole series of books.
So I spent some time working out which stories to write and setting up a system which hopefully works to write them all.
I’m shooting for six books, so I guess that gives me two months to complete each one.
And it’s already February.
Wails: “I’m a fake; I shouldn’t be in this group.”
Excellent, thanks brain. Good to know its situation normal.


Friday, 31 January 2020

Staying alive… ha… ha… ha… ha…

On my Todoist list this week it says ‘apply cpr to website’. It’s my fault it is not alive. I know that. My last post was like March 2019. *makes a face*
But that reminder came up today – thanks, past self - and I am determined to post something. Even if it is a ramble about how unreliable I am.
It’s always hard to get things going again; so much easier to keep them going once they are rolling along. Insert flywheel analogy or stone, moss… you know the rest.
In 2019 I had a tech disaster. My hard drive died, and in a series of miscalculations including reliance on tech friends, rather than professionals… no, that’s not quite right. He IS a pro, he’s just the friend of one of my kids and I did not make it very high up his priority list. I understand that. He put his business first – like I should have, eh?
It took weeks to even get him to check it out.
And in the weeks that stretched into months while I was waiting for everything to be repaired, I kind of let things slide, getting more and more stressed all the time, which is not conducive to being creative.
And given the tech pro did not want to impart bad news to me, I thought the disk was recoverable. Miscommunications all round.
It was not able to be saved.
By the time *I* worked that out, [can you imagine how stressed I was by this time?] I just gave up on the pro and purchased a new solid state hard drive large enough to handle those enormous Scrivener files. [Scrivener I love you but jeez those files can be huge.] Kid extra installed it for me. [We went solid state because Australia is only going to be getting hotter and heat isn’t good for tech.]
And I happily went to plug in my external hard drive to copy all my data across… and nope.
My external hard drive was dead; unrecoverably dead, wouldn’t even turn on kind of dead. What are the odds? I mean, I know I have an issue with tech, but … really? [Seagate, I do NOT like you.]
Sighs heavily.
I had made a backup onto one of the kid’s external hard drive, so I didn’t lose everything. If I had lost the last 25 years of digital photos I may have burnt something down.
I’ve just lost the last two years. Finance records, databases of dvds, music and books, words written, books purchased, email addresses, contact details for friends, permission from people to use their images for book covers, etc. All gone.
I sobbed.
So far as my writing goes, sure, there are docs in Google, scrivener backups to zip files, and docs in Evernote and more stuff here there and everywhere. The cloud is pretty good when something like this happens.
Half the issue is the sheer amount of hours it takes to work out what is even missing. I am seriously going to have to go through my Goodreads list to work out what books I have lost. I get a lot of copies through ARC teams, or promotions, or direct from authors. I am trying to message people in Kickstarter to get new download links to things I purchased.
It takes longer to start fixing it all when my inner critical voice is telling me what an idiot I am.
So here I am.
I am an idiot. That’s done; we’ve got that out of the way.
I can hear J Thorn saying ‘if your backups are not in THREE different places, your data does not exist.’ I read Joanna Penn’s daily back up regime and thought ‘that’s a bit over the top’. She lists it in her latest title: Productivity for Authors. [https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48561019-productivity-for-authors]
I write in Scrivener but every single day I write, I compile a MSWord document of my work in progress (WIP). I save it with a date and time stamp and keep all the iterations, so I end up with a Draft folder with 50+ documents in.
This is called version control. If you haven’t worked in the corporate or tech world, you might not know about version control, but basically, even if I lose one of these versions, I've got so many others over time that I will never lose everything. I don’t go back and look at those older drafts but if something happens, I won’t lose the whole project. I also email the file to myself every day on Gmail so I always have another backup and I save the Draft to a Dropbox folder in the cloud which syncs between workstations. Even if my MacBook Pro gets stolen or blows up, everything is in Dropbox.
I do this for every writing session, whether it’s first draft or editing. Every time I touch the manuscript, I compile it, save it to Dropbox, and email it to myself. Sometimes that is two or three times a day during my intensive writing phases.
I also keep backups on physical external hard drives and save some important files to Amazon S3 cloud hosting, so I back up pretty much everything multiple times to build in redundancy. I worked in the tech industry for 13 years, so I know these things are necessary and saving too much is better than losing it all.

Penn, Joanna. Productivity For Authors: Find Time to Write, Organize your Author Life, and Decide what Really Matters (Books for Writers Book 10) (pp. 69-70). Curl Up Press. Kindle Edition.
No, no it isn’t over the top. It seems like there might be less sobbing with this method.
I’m off to buy the largest USB stick I can afford, and maybe a new external hard drive.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Not lost, just misplaced books

I saw some Twitter people get upset with Marie Kondo when she recommended people give away books. Most people just over reacted. She’s about keeping what brings you joy, and for me, it’s books.
I am definitely in the 'keep them forever' camp. I have dragged them to fifty different addresses and even to other countries. If I’ve read them, they stay; I may want to read them again.
So my house is a little bit crowded with bookcases. I have six in my bedroom alone. Kid Extra caught me measuring in the hallway to just squeeze one more in. If I had a design style it would maximal rather than minimal && but every item has a memory or a story attached to it, and they bring me joy. Moving house? Not so much.
But I digress. I have been trying to catch up on Tim Clare's podcasts. [So many podcasts, so little time] I was up to the episode where he talks to Lauren Groff.
Tim was utterly fangirling; it was kind of adorable. I looked her up to see if my local library have any of her works, and they do. She was on the Obama reading list and those books often make it to Australian shelves. And then I realised that *I* had one of her titles. The Monsters of Templeton. Ooh nice - but where is it? Buggered if I know.
I made an extra bookshelf on my Goodreads page for ebooks. My shelf names are pretty boring: did not finish, borrowed, ebook etc. Other members get far more imaginative. So if it isn't an ebook, then it's a physical book and it must be in my house somewhere but I have no recollection of where.
I buy a lot of books at the charity store sales where they are sold at one or two dollars each, so it's easy to lose track when you are shelving a few at a time.
The cover on Goodreads does NOT look familiar, I don't even remember the cover - it could be an odd Aussie cover change. For some reason we often get different cover treatments.
Maybe it's time to reorder them all? I shelve by size - trade paperbacks are the bane of my life - they're so big. I can squeeze two extra shelves into an Ikea Billy bookcase with mass market paperbacks. Should I go Dewey? Alphabetical? I do try to put one author’s work together but that gets hard with people like Neil Gaiman with everything from trade paperback, to children’s books, to huge coffee table book size comics.
Sighs again. It looks like I’m going to need more shelves.
Woot! Found it.
&& yes, there is a maximalism design style. It kind of looks like Howl’s bedroom from Howl’s moving Castle.
Death Of 1000 Cuts - Season 2 Episode 31 - Chatting with Lauren Groff.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019


I've been doing the Mel Robbins #mindsetReset challenge. I watched all the videos and I've continued to use her guide to journal at the start of the day. One of the things you are to think about each morning is 'what are you grateful for'. Now, there's a lot of science behind this. Simply put, positive people are happier and attract more happiness. They don't see a setback or a bad thing as an issue, and they don't get caught in that downward spiral of negative thoughts. I have such a tendency to beat myself up, after being trained to do so by a bad relationship. I’m out of that but the thoughts remain. I’m trying to fix that.
She encourages you to pick a word for the year. Mine is gumption. I made a cute sign out of my old scrapbooking supplies and used my Quickutz hand cutter for the first time in ages. And it looks very cute. See. I like the way the word feels meaty in my mouth, you know?
A person with gumption is shrewd, resourceful and full of initiative. They have courage and common sense. As a bonus it implies not only that you stick it out and get stuff done but that you know what the next thing to do is.
Cambridge Definition: the ability to decide what is the best thing to do in a particular situation, and to do it with energy and determination.
I posted it on Twitter and the Mel liked it. [squees. sempai noticed me. lmao]
Gratitude has to be really specific to work like this. It won't work if you say you are grateful for your family, or your health, or something that's too big to see clearly.
The other day I wrote that I was grateful for the young girl who chased me down in the mall to hand me the book I had dropped. It was a library book, too, Imagine? The cost of replacement alone would have been too much for me that week. Libraries do not pay the RRP for titles. I have never lost a library book in my life; the shame might kill me.
I'm thankful for CHOICE, a consumer product testing group whose advice I took purchasing my coffee machine, which is still going strong after ten years.
I subscribe to a lot of author newsletters and recently it seems like everyone has a death in the family. There's been at least six; some unexpected, some long and dragging and in each case it has really derailed the author's life, as it would, but they are often the executors, or the eldest child. The one who is perceived to have the time to sort it out for everyone else. They don't have a full time job, right?
I don't believe anyone is lying about it. It's not a 'death delayed my book release' kind of homework excuse. And because I read their posts, follow them on Twitter, and watch their videos. I know their voice and they feel like my friend. I trust them. They know that, and those kind of dumb lies get found out pretty fast in this world of zero privacy.
Today I wrote 'nobody close to me is dying'.
And as I keep filling in the daily table, it gets easier to find things to be grateful for.
I've also challenged myself to do four exercise classes a week. My local Police Community Youth Centre has been rebuilt. It's really close to my house, so there goes one way to weasel out of classes. You derail a habit if it's too hard to do. So proximity matters most. It doesn't cost a fortune to join, has a bargain weekly fee, and doesn't have any of those crazy 'lock-in' contracts. [man, an awful lot of consumer law arguments are with gyms over bad contracts] I don't need a women only one, or one that supplies breakfast or free products in the showers, or whatever. PCYC is close and cheap. That's a win for me.
And as an extra bonus everyone over 18 is a 'senior'. You should have seen kid 3's face. Why am *I* a senior? That tickled me. We attend Pilates classes together.
I recently read the Upward Spiral. It was a library book - I am so grateful for my local library.
The full title is: The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb
Whoa; that's a mouthful. But it was full of advice and science!
Quote: Everything is interconnected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, which improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives you more to be grateful for, which keeps that loop of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you’ll exercise and be social, which in turn, will make you happier. P.194
And the thing he said that was the best bang for your exercise buck was Yoga; it had breath training, exercise, mindfulness, and if you went to a class, social interaction. I had forgotten how much that is true until this week after a month of attending classes, the instructor noted that I looked tired and asked if I was okay. I fetched an extra block for the person next to me. We all laughed at each other's attempts to balance on one leg in the flamingo pose. We applauded when one person managed another pose standing with their back against the wall.
And in the yoga mindfulness section, the cute gym guy fell asleep and snored. That made me smile, too.
Tiny steps up the upward spiral but steps worth taking given I spend so much time at my desk. I don't want it to be my kids suffering a death close to them.
OMG I wrote this days ago, and this morning when I go to post it, the news is all about the deaths of actor Luke Perry and Prodigy frontman Keith Flint. Sighs.
My GoodReads review of Upward Spiral.
Mel Robbins mindset reset YouTube
Cambridge Dictionary 

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Blackouts and apocalypses

This week we had an electricity blackout.%% A big one. I was at the mall when alarms started going off; most people ignored them. The local mall has a water leakage issue that constantly sets off the fire alarms and we’ve all heard it before. They should just make a fire engine parking space at the back entrance, but this time seemed different. The supermarket was on quarter lighting, alarms were going off out the back, and the staff rushed about shutting all the fridges and putting away all the deli goods.
This was serious. An announcement said there would be further information but I grabbed my purchases and walked home.
At home, the power shut off as I came in the door.
Then it remained off.
The entire region was out. An estimated 26,000 homes, the traffic lights, the railway station, the local hospital… everything. All we could hear in our front street was ambulance sirens. Later, a friend in the police force said they had all available ambulances ferrying patients to other hospitals.
We have a gas stove, so with the aid of a good old box of matches we could heat water and cook.
But the internet was also affected; all the nodes were down and our phones were useless.
The cause was a fire in a substation basement and the problem was that such fires release toxic chemicals so no one could go in there until it cleared. Plus, no power for fans to clear the mess and no windows to open. It seems like an obvious design fault, but still…
At about 5:30pm we got power back. Kid 3 got a craving for a halal snack pack so we headed off to walk to the local. Amazingly, it was open but it only takes cash and we had none. Trust the ex-refugees to have a cash economy and a generator. All the first responders know this and eat there.
Everything else was dead; the pub, the petrol station, all the ATM machines. A highway patrol officer was directing traffic and had probably been doing it for hours. On our walk, we noticed that none of our neighbours had lights on. Just us and our street. We are close to the hospital and have formed a theory that we are inside its service loop. [at my exercise class everyone else got the power back at 6:30 am the next day]
‘This is how the apocalypse starts’, I said to Kid 3. ‘First the internet goes, then the power, and no-one has any cash. We’ll be reduced to a barter economy.’ We went home and cooked burgers.
I cannot imagine how much food had to be thrown away by the supermarkets.
The electricity supplier is begging people not to turn on high energy using appliances, but of course, it’s on their webpage and nobody can read it. People with power won't bother and people without can't. It’s almost like they don’t understand their own business.

%% this was written on 15th February but when the power DID come back on it fried all the internet nodes. We had no internet for six days, no TV, no games, and no ability to post the blogpost I had written. And then forgotten about. Honestly, my house nearly went feral. I had to go to the library to keep up my 4theWords streak.
So swings and roundabouts I guess. We got power back early but lost the Internet.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Thinky thoughts

I sat down yesterday to answer my fanfic reviews, as I always do. And one just totally derailed me.
It was a bit garbled, but I asked kid 3 to read it and check if I was misinterpreting it.
The reviewer berated me for not adding another single word to the completed one shot they were reviewing. They suggested that other authors gave me enough of an idea to write a one shot; an idea that those authors then didn’t write for fear of being accused of plagiarism.
They suggested that I had lost the trust of authors who no longer used me as a sounding board and that was why I no longer wrote anything. They accused me of having no ideas of my own.
And they finished with ‘just a thought’ which will usually enrage me. [what is it about that phrase that is such a trigger?]
It took me ages to craft a response. I wasn’t rude, or abusive.
But looking at their message again today, they meant to be that rude. They say they are a fan of mine, but I really doubt it. And I don’t need fans like that.