Friday, 3 April 2020


I passed a milestone recently…
I use a writing app called 4thewords. It gamifies writing. Setting your little avatar on a road to adventure where you travel from one area to another, fighting battles with creatures, completing challenges and earning reward and inventory items. To any gamer, it is a familiar situation.
And that is why it works.
I’m not writing, I’m winning a battle, completing a quest where I have to defeat five of a particular monster type, or collect seven of these items that monsters drop, or whatever. It totally works for the gamer mind.
You can also earn wardrobe items and ‘dress’ your avatar in various items you have won or bought with your hard-earned crystals. There is a forum where you can interact with other players, and vote on best dressed avatars.
You also get rewards for not breaking your streak. 434 words a day is the word count required. My streak is 459 days.
At the moment, my avatar looks like this.
How cute am I? And look at my cool grey hair. As an older lady it was important to me to represent. [That’s the closest I can get to it and I DO own red reading glasses.]
Last month I was male, so that is cool. You can have three saved avatars of either body form.
But at any rate, my big milestone was this one:

Over One million words written in this program since I joined it in May 2016. I use it to do my morning pages, to take notes in a podcast, or course. The documents are stored in the cloud but you can download them and save back-ups to Word or in other formats.
You do need to purchase crystals to spend on some items, or to trade for subscription time, but it’s not very expensive; $4 a month at the most.
If you want to try it out use my referral code: SPYKA97002

Friday, 27 March 2020

Live through this

I certainly don’t feel like making a blog post right now… but it seems kind of important to stick to the things I planned to do if I can at all do them.
Does that make sense?
This virus will take long weeks or months to beat, and if I let it get to me now, I will freeze in place. And that’s not good for anyone. For me, it feels like the perfect storm of my fears, and I am sure other people feel like that, too. I’ve blogged before about my fears about losing people close to me, or having my kids lose me. And money is always a fear trigger for me.
Our house contact in the CSIRO tells us this pandemic will be over in May if we handle it well. Note: Australia is not handling this well. Our current Prime Minister has demonstrated little leadership in previous crises, and he remains true to form; garbled ad slogan statements that end up confusing everyone. 'Slow up the spread, you free up the bed.' ??? What on earth? Especially when in the next sentence he told us to maintain social distance of 1.5-2m apart but that going for a haircut was okay as long as it was under thirty minutes. How long does he think hair scissors are?
Schools are open, but you can only have five people at a wedding and ten at a funeral. So if a teacher dies, their whole class can’t come to their funeral? It’s dumb and confusing. And when people are confused and panicky they do stupid things. Like hoard toilet paper.
Other countries have just paid money into your bank account. The Australian government made the recently jobless queue in the street to register with an underfunded and understaffed government department to get a handout that they won’t see in their account before the second week of April. What are people going to live on? How will they buy food? Or pay their rent or their bills? And winter is coming. Never mind the stupidity of breaking the social distancing to queue for hours. Especially if people are ill. They had to call the police in to make them go home when one office closed.
There isn’t a competent person to replace him if he stood down. His whole party is mired in bad behaviour and corruption cases. Part of the PM’s issue is that he is a Prosperity Christian; you know, the ones who think God hates you if you’re poor. [I don’t think that is Christian.] It seeps into his rhetoric. He described the recently laid off as unemployed ‘through no fault of their own’ which pretty much says that all the other unemployed people are to blame for their situation. Half the country just burnt down. Do you think those people deserved that? The government toyed with a tiered unemployment payment in this crisis. Can you imagine? There would be riots.
And then they closed parliament until August. AUGUST!
This fool will kill us all.
Tragically, this has already meant suicides in my kid’s circle of friends and raised concerns about some others who are in the risk group. Honestly, we have just shafted young people; with no money, no job and with debts and no hope… sometimes people make fatal choices. I want to open my home and my heart to all of them, but I can’t. Kid 2 is immune-compromised these days.
And sadly, the US president is, if anything, worse. I wrote back in November 2016 that people will die ^^ but I had no idea it would be this many people. He just gave himself oversight on a two trillion dollar package. The same man who cannot imagine that soldiers could hand cash out to people without taking a few notes for themselves. I always think people out their own thoughts in what they accuse others of doing.
On the shiny side, and believe me I am desperate to find anything, I make bread and I stocked up on flour before lockdown, so last night we had minestrone with herbs from the garden and hot fresh bread from the breadmaker. Today there is a sourdough loaf in the oven. I got out my sewing machine and made face masks. 
I have always meant to get to the cans in the back of the pantry and now I can do that. Beans and rice is a balanced protein.
And look at that loaf, she’s a beauty.

We’ll get through this. Feel free to message me here or on twitter @mtr_amg if you want to chat.


Thursday, 12 March 2020

Reading challenge 2019

I think I forgot to tell you guys about my Goodreads reading challenge for last year, 2019.

A small sample is shown here. And in reverse order. [^^] But it gives you nothing more than the basics.
In previous years, I wanted a bit more information about what I was reading, and I found a spreadsheet from the Smart Bitches trashy Books website. [%%]

My total is really 403 titles. Goodreads has deleted something off and I cannot for the life of me work out what it was; not without going through all the records. Ain't nobody got time for that.
So 81,110 pages read. A lot of smaller titles. I was making my way through a pile of Agatha Christie stories but still managed one title over 800 pages and I read at a rate of 220 pages per day.
Being a romance centric website, the sheet is very well… romance centric. These are the categories.
This surprises me; I did not know I read that much fantasy and sci-fi.
I am parsimonious with my five star ratings. I do not give them to everything, clearly that would be for the fourth star – lol. But that is a pretty decent bell curve. I also tend to dnf rather than one star something.
This is interesting, because as is often the case, what gets measured gets noticed. I thought I would do better than this at picking diverse books and marginalized authors. I will try harder in 2020.
This year I have also split fantasy and sci-fi into two categories – once I’d worked out how to edit the spreadsheet. There are instructions on how to do that in this year’s sheet update. Dammit – I did it on my own, and added in a missing line and changing the 2019 sheet to 2020. I was super proud of myself for that.
I have set this year’s target at the same, one book per day. So far I am up to 67.

^^ My goodreads challenge for 2019
%% smart bitches reading spreadsheet

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Unexpected item in baggage area

My garage floods, so everything in it has to be kept up off the floor to avoid water damage. This week Sydney got some absolutely absurd amounts of rainfall and even the things off the floor were not safe. It took me some days to get brave enough to open the door to check on the damage. But yesterday, I got around to it and amassed a pile of stuff that needs to be thrown out.
A lot of the things are electrical and should not be put out in the standard garbage collection.
So, to cut a long story short, I filled the station wagon with old electrical items and various other things, rusted aerosol cans, fire extinguishers and a lone gas bottle - the barbeque went in the trash long ago – and a collection of soft plastics that also can’t go in the normal recycling bin.
Today, I headed off to my local E-waste depot. I drove in, opened the door and the guy came to help me unload. I made some small talk about how I had a few things to get done today.
What I did not know was that as I drove one of the fire extinguishers rolled and the pin fell out of it. He reached in to pick it up by the handles and compressed the firing mechanism.
A cloud of white dust floofed voluminously out the open door of my car.
We stood there. We looked at each other.
He gave me a nervous smile. “Well,” he said, “There’s another job for you.”
I laughed; you’ve gotta laugh. I mean, it was an accident. I will not freak out over it. And I’m lucky it didn’t go off while I was driving.
But the entire car interior is coated in the stuff. And me, once I got back in the car to drive home.

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. []
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.