Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Goodreads reading challenge

I set a target of a book a day. That seemed reasonable. Last year I ended up reading 425 for the year, so I still have *checks notes* 105 days of the year left. [as IF I’m not going to read any more books?!]
They are a number of genres and a mixture of formats. Shorts stories, long novels, radio plays, audiobooks, library borrows of all types, and physical books. I am a sucker for the Lifeline charity books sales. Heck at $1 a book, I’ll try anything that catches my eye.
And my ratings are spread, too.
5 stars:
4 stars:
3 stars:
2 stars:
1 star:

This is the first year that I’ve been keeping records of my ratings as I go, so I can’t compare it with last year’s percentages. I won’t give everything five stars, that’d be a pointless waste of time, but I’m pretty generous with 40% getting 4 stars.
But how am I going with the boxed sets, I hear you ask. I’ve read 60 boxes of… mumbles… 263.
I know one thing: I’m going to be way more ruthless in the future. If I’ve tried two books and they’re both bad, I’m deleting any other titles I have from the same author.
So many books, so little time.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

I’m listening to a podcast.

It’s a bonus episode of writing class radio**
The theme is love, for February and Valentine’s Day, but they’re talking about all kinds of love.
A woman is reading her work about how she’s in an emotional state at a pharmacy. She has just heard her friend is dying. She collects her purchases but when she gets to the counter, with tear filled eyes, she just hands her wallet to the cashier.
‘She handled it like we were sisters,’ she reads.
The cashier takes out her cash, puts the change back in, and says to her, “Whatever news you just received… I’m sorry.”
Her breath catches, she can’t speak for a moment. And I’m crying with her.
I’m back in a memory of my own from ten years ago. My mother is dying. She is in a hospital that’s a six hour drive away and I am mid divorce, and mid house sale. I have three small children and no one to leave them with. No one to hold the open house for me. No one to hold my hand.
Our father is useless. My sister is there so I know Mum isn’t alone. She says Mum doesn’t know who anyone is. She’s lost in her own past; a combination of the morphine and her Alzheimer’s. We don’t know how long it will take for her to die. It could be days or weeks. Weeks I don’t have. I don’t even have days.
If I make the trip, she won’t know that I am there.
It’s taken two years of fighting in the divorce courts to reach this stage. Two years in which the children and I have been waiting for a resolution. We can’t pause the process now. $$
I don’t go. And when my sister phones me with the news that our mother is dead, I absorb it and I don’t react. I have things to do. We need milk.
I get in my car and I drive to the store and I buy groceries. I pay for them and then walk away. The cashier calls me back. I have forgotten the groceries.
The man behind me in the queue laughs at me.
I look at him.
I am unable to say anything to him.
I want to cry, but I can’t.
I want to say, “My mother just died, but we needed milk,” but it all seems so absurd. I don’t know how to express the multitude of what I am feeling. How will he understand? I don’t think he can. He’s just laughed at a person who is clearly lost.
I feel guilty I wasn’t there at her bedside.
I feel guilty that I didn’t say goodbye.
I made a choice between my past and my present and at that moment, I’m not sure it was the right decision.
It’s June and my mother is dead.
** https://soundcloud.com/writing-class-radio/valentinesspecial-final
$$ my elder brother just said ‘you’re supposed to do one of the three most stressful things, not all three at once.’
I’m writing this in September, the month of her birth.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018


I saw someone comment on Goodreads on the number of unread books they held. It was under a thousand. My number is 3,093. Snort. Chuckles to self. They’re not even in the game.
In my attempt to manage my recent diagnosis of ADHD I saw a recommendation for Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD: Tips and Tools to Help You Take Charge of Your Life and Get Organized by Susan C. Pinsky.
Wonder of wonders, the local library had a physical copy. It was a bit of an adventure to get it: first off I had to work out how to make a branch transfer request (cue my anxiety); then it kept saying it was still being read and hadn’t been returned; then it said it was at my library, but when I went to collect it, it was not on the reservation shelf. Not on the normal shelf either. It was gone.
‘I was just trying to get organised,’ I wailed at the librarian. She patted my hand and promised she’d find it. It had taken weeks to get to this point. Weeks in which I had to keep reminding myself to check on its progress.
With two librarians searching, it was eventually located.
Finally, I could read it.
The author said that she ran a professional organisation business and wondered at intelligent, creative clients who would backslide from one week to the next. What was wrong with them? Then her own child was diagnosed with ADHD and she realised the strategies she used with her, worked with clients, too. Weigh, adopt, reject or modify. Some of it was slapdash but if it worked, it stayed.
It certainly wasn’t Pinterest or Instagram pretty. She also recommended against solutions that increased your work burden, like recipe databases or complex filing methods. Rainbow sorted bookshelves give me hives just looking at them.
I also read an interesting Tumblr post (that I now can’t find… tumblr is like that) saying that the whole minimal stuff movement assumes you have money. Let’s choose a pen as the example. You can allow yourself to only keep one pen if you know at any time if that pen runs out or breaks, you can just go buy another one. You have to have the money and the spoons to do it. You have to have a car with fuel in it to get to the mall/newsagent. You have to have a pain-free day or whatever… that’s not easy for everyone.
My hoarding ties into that and also into FOMO [fear of missing out]. I will grab a book when it’s free knowing I can’t afford it when it’s back at full price.
As another example, I bought a couch from Ikea ten years ago. The cover is white. It’s been washed multiple times but it’s not easy to do. It’s enormous - one of those corner ones with five seats - and if the washing machine copes, the clothesline nearly bends with the weight of it. Plus, last time it took two whole days to dry. Let’s not add in the number of litres of water used when 100% of my state is in drought.
Ikea usually makes covers for their products but for a number of years this particular couch wasn’t one of them. To get another cover custom-made would have cost more than the price of a new couch. But recently, they were in stock so I grabbed one. It cost $160. Now I have a huge pile of white canvas in the middle of the living room floor. It’s in pretty good condition; a couple of stains but no holes, and its super soft after a decade of butts sitting on it.
Kid 1 stubbed a toe on it and complained so I know I have to do something with it. The dressmaker in me looks at the huge amount of material and zippers and imagines what could be made out of it. Am *I* ever going to make those things? Nope. It would just add to my unfinished project list, but I can imagine it. It kills me to throw it away.
So it doesn’t move while my brain fights with itself over it. I’ve written this as I sort it out for myself.
Today I will put it in a box with the Ikea diagram of the couch and chuck it in the back of the car. Next time I go past the charity shop I’ll give it to them. Maybe somebody else will use it or make something out of it? If they don’t, it’s out of my hands.
Mostly, it’s out of my brain. And that’ll work.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Best-selling authors

I was as shocked and saddened as the rest of the world by the death of Anthony Bourdain. Recently I contributed one of my sourdough loaves to a friend’s luncheon and he regaled me with imitations of the ‘feed the bitch’ line from a Bourdain episode on feeding your sourdough starter. A couple of weeks later Bourdain was gone.
I was surprised to read his estate was valued at just over a million. He was a television personality with a number of shows. He was a traditionally published author, and I assume his sales will increase with his death, as they perversely always do. Nothing sells like death, eh?
In Australia the news has been full of a legal battle between author Colleen McCullough’s estate and her husband. Her most recent will had left her estate to a library in the US but her husband contested it and won. He was awarded the total of two million dollars.
Wait… McCullough?! You mean ‘The Thorn birds’, the Masters of Rome series… the movies, the film rights… everything?!? The Thorn Birds alone sold 33 million copies. It has pretty much never been out of best seller lists and was recently voted Australia’s favourite beach read.
And her estate was only worth two million?
That’s enough to buy a nice apartment in Sydney. &&
Omg. But then again, The Guardian reported recently that wages for English authors were an average of £10,500.
Average. Per ANNUM.
Just as well I can make sourdough…

&& Or a NOT as nice one in my area if you want to bank the other half.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Cooper and Jones and fantasy ideas

Today I woke and it was 4 degrees. That’s cold for Australia so I made the rational decision not to get out of bed, after running through my timetable for the day. Did I have time to huddle under the covers for another hour? Yes, yes I did.
I put one hand out far enough to read on my phone. I downloaded a sample of Reflections, a compilation of the writings of Dianna Wynn Jones on her creative process. She wrote Howl’s Moving castle (and forty other books.) **
Later, while I ate lunch I watched a YouTube lecture from Susan Cooper; a contemporary of Jones. $$
She wrote the Dark is Rising sequence (and thirty other books). She described growing up in WWII and she said the bombs that brought the war to an end were dropped by the Light, not the Dark.
Besides me being interested in how each writer got their ideas, both women are linked by their attendance at Oxford where their world collided with both CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien.
Cooper remembers that Tolkien mumbled; mumbled in English but spoke clearly in Norse. He declaimed Beowulf; shouted it, and made all the students in the lecture sit up straighter.
The idea for this famous fantasy started when she saw a thousand pound prize was offered for a family adventure story. It was more than she earnt in a year as a reporter. Once Uncle Merriman had made an appearance, she forgot about the competition and just wrote the story.
It took her ten years to understand there were more books she hadn’t written yet in the series.
She laughed as she recounted how readers always told her that they saw themselves as Will in the second book.
At the 41:29 mark of the lecture she finished with this:
Whatever may be going on in the real world, fantasy takes you back to the universal, the things that don’t change; the things that are at heart. The mystery. It’s a window onto truth as beautiful as that moon; as bright as that sun.
And it will always be there no matter what. All you have to do is look and read.
My copy of the Dark is Rising is a combined paperback and is falling apart. I read it aloud to my children. The first book is Over Sea, Under Stone and features the three Drew children.
Maybe it’s time for a re-read.

**Note to self: buy ALL those books
$$ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4Qf7NnL2h8&t=0s&index=36&list=WL

Wednesday, 18 July 2018


Last month I helped my friend move house.
I went over on the last day to pack boxes, provide moral support, egg her on to keep going, and to run stuff up and down the stairs to its various destinations; pack, trash, or give away. I loaded up my car and dropped bags off at the local charity shop.
And lucky for me I was the recipient of a few things put aside for me. She paid me in sheet sets, hair clips and books.
Yes, she knows me well.
It’s pretty much on brand.
Now to catalogue and shelve all the books *rubs hands*

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Counting books

I like counting. I always have. ##
So I like keeping track of my books. But that’s kind of hard when buying ebooks is so easy and you don’t have a physical cover to remind you that the book exists, and yes, you have a copy in your ebook library reader of choice but it’s kind of not the same. I hate accidentally buying a book I already own in a different format. I had a Book database but the software went cloud based and started charging monthly fees so I started looking for some other way to record my titles.
I messed about with Calibre this year and it works well to load in titles IF you have a file copy in your computer. I hear, also that it’s good for making and editing ebooks. I haven’t got to that stage yet. But so far, it’s working.
But… a lot of my books are on Amazon. I like the one click buy thing. My bank account really doesn’t. I have avoided Kobo for a long time because I have endless issues with getting their Windows app reader to function. It just… doesn’t. And their phone app is buggy, too.** I do not yet own a Kobo reader and maybe those problems are less obvious with one? Idk.
And the app cannot synch across all platforms so my phone doesn’t know what I’m reading and I have to download and upload titles into the PC app. It’s annoying.
Compared to Amazon? Where the app and the PC ereader synch up, AND it also synchs audiobooks with ebooks via a trademarked process, whispersynch; Kobo looks pretty bad. But it does have a wishlist. Take that, Amazon.
Plus, when you buy a title on Kobo it takes six steps to buy it, not one. Amazon actually copyrighted the one button buy thingie. And in Australia, Kobo is often way more expensive. Up to double the price. Wails… why?!
Amazon works on a Mobi file format and I own a few of those, too. I’ve downloaded them as giveaways from Author websites, or purchased them in Kickstarters or Humble Bundles or things like that. Calibre can load those files as well… but.
And it’s here we come to the eternal problem of Digital Rights Management or DRM. I don’t like it. I find it truly annoying that I do not actually OWN a title I bought on Amazon. What I own is a license to read that title in, and on, their format. [That’s probably how whispersynch works, right?] So 2,656 of my purchased books are not really mine. *jaw clenches* what if it all goes wrong? ^^
I also hate the idea that I don’t know what that DRM does. I’ve given the example before but imagine you buy a chair that lets you sit on it … say 25 times and then it breaks into pieces and cannot be reassembled and used as a chair. That chair has DRM.
I am also pretty law abiding. Yes, I could load some software and strip the DRM from those files… but that would be illegal. *cue hand flapping panic*
So I am attempting to match my Kobo and Kindle libraries using a spreadsheet and then going to check if the amazon title is still available on Kobo and replicating it there. So my Kobo library is mushrooming.
This makes me happy. &&

## how did I NOT know I had ADHD?
**it keeps incorrectly saving my last read position. No, god dammit, I am NOT at ch 3. I’m up to ch18! For the third time… you get the idea. I want to read a book, not search for the last bit I read.
^^ I’m a writer; my entire existence is asking ‘what if’…
&& You didn’t really think any of solution I came up with was going to involve LESS books, did you? *grins*
Oh my god… I broke Kindle again. While I was downloading and making a list of all my Amazon titles, I noticed there were a few updates listed. Somehow when I’ve clicked that upload box, it has given me TWO copies. But which ONE do I delete? Aaagh