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.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Crimson Peak is Bluebeard

I’ve been trying to rewrite Bluebeard for years. I tentatively titled my work in progress ‘Bluebeard’s last wife’. It was my Nanowrimo project back in 2013.
I have read every version of the fairy tale I could find: the original, the Anatole France one, Caroline Wesson’s play, Henry Curwen’s Lady Bluebeard, and Bluebeard's Keys by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie, and more. I was annoyed by the moral of the story; a wife’s curiosity is enough to cause her death. It grated at my feminist principles.
I recently read Angela Carter’s two versions and that nearly derailed me but I wanted the last wife to save herself, and in no version I found does she do that. In most she hides on the roof and screams for help. Her brothers kill him, or her mother does, or he lets her off and goes into a monastery.
I wanted her to realise she loved him but know that he was still a monster and if she didn’t kill him first, she would be the next victim.
I saw Crimson Peak in 2015 and loved it. I bought a Funko Edith. She is my desk figurine as she was the only Funko writer I could find. [Fix that, Funko. Also spoilers for the movie, obviously.]
This morning I was doing some Bluebeard freewrites. I was riffing on moving it to a different time period. Carters’ is 20th century Paris, Ritchie’s 19th century Rome, mine was medieval. Could I move it to a Gothic house and meld it with my love of Gothic Romances? I thought about getting him to beg her for forgiveness. I thought about him realising what he has become and asking her to end his life.
Wait… this seems familiar.
Del Toro’s Crimson Peak is Bluebeard.
Sir Thomas Sharpe has multiple wives. He married them for their money and doesn’t love them. He ignored them and did not have sex with them. It is his sister who kills them but he is aware of their fate. Their bodies are buried in or near the scary house. [So maybe it’s Bluebeard plus Flowers in the Attic?]
But his last wife is different. He genuinely falls in love with Edith. He loves her and she saves herself, killing him AND his sister in the process, and bringing peace and eternal rest to the ghosts of the dead wives. The ghosts she sees weren’t haunting her, they were trying to warn her. The ghosts were not the real monsters. This is a common Del Toro theme.
She stabs him with a pen which is the most awesome weapon of choice for a writer and it’s a gift from her father so that ticks the retribution box.
She loves him and she kills him, anyway.
Crimson is even red; the opposite of blue. HOW did I miss it? *face palms*
And it’s so well done. I can’t compete with that.
I have to trunk another project.
Sighs heavily.
*thinks for a day or so while the Internet is down*
Or maybe, I can just leave it medieval and hope nobody notices? Yeah, that might work.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Tracking your Reading with a Spreadsheet

I do love a good stats sheet
I was reading Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and they had a 2019 update for a spreadsheet to track your reading. Now I use Goodreads to record my reviews and keep track of stuff I own or want to read. I also keep my reviews in a Scrivener file I recently amended to include meta-data for male or female authors but it doesn’t have the extras that this one does. So, I downloaded it and gave it a go.
After a month’s worth of entries I have a better idea of whether it will work.
Specifically, I wanted to record diverse authors and book characters; this sheet has it in a pie chart. *squees*
Look at that, isn’t it pretty?

I have assumed that having goblins and giants in your story doesn’t technically count as ‘diverse’ characters. I mean if they are goblins of colour [wait… what colour are goblins? never mind…] If they are gay or queer or trans then I count them. And they have to be more than just a token character. That’s how I intend to use it, your usage may differ.
Download it at the link below if you are interested.
Happy reading.


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

I watched ALL the Poirot

Early in 2018 I bought a complete DVD boxset of Agatha Christie’s Poirot with David Suchet.
It’s a beast. There are multiple disks on each spike.
See that? 5050 minutes… almost 85 hours.
And it has taken me a little while to watch them all. It revelatory to see how the production values changed over the series; and as always it’s a game of ‘spot the awesome English actor’.
It is singularly amazing that all the main character actors stuck it out for the entire series. It would not be the same if it wasn’t the right Hastings or Chief Inspector Japp or Miss Lemon in the last episodes. Expertly played by Hugh Fraser, Philip Jackson and Pauline Moran respectively.
But more and more I see just how clever Christie was. They are amazing stories. An absolute master class in mystery writing.
It’s as if she challenged herself. I’ll make the murderer the narrator. I’ll make the murderer one of the victims. I’ll make the murderer the doctor. I’ll make the murderer all the suspects. I’ll make the murderer the investigating police officer. And so on. I’m reading ‘Talking About Detective Fiction’ by P.D. James and she laughed that all you had to do with a Christie story was pick the person most unlikely to be the murderer and you had a good chance to get it right.
Some Christie expert will no doubt swear she repeated herself, but I’m struggling to think of an example.
They focus more on the story than the method. And the thing Christie was so good at was writing these utterly appalling but somehow so English families. Decades of building anger, resentment and guilt. Adult married children still living with their parents or step-parents and waiting patiently (or not) for the old tyrant to die and leave them the estate.
Personally, I want to be Ariadne Oliver, the self insert Christie character who hates her own fictional detective. ‘Why did I make him Norwegian?’ she moans in the same way I expect Christie did about making Poirot from Belgium.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Small moments of joy

When the world is horrible we have to find small moments of joy. Read a great book, notice a pretty flower, leave a nice comment… whatever floats your boat, or better and better, someone else’s boat.
Last month I bought a stationery set at Kmart. Yes, I shop in the children’s section. It was a Llama pack and it cost me seven bucks. I mean LOOK at this pen!
How cute is that? It is also ridiculous. And it brings me joy. I am NOT going to apologise for that.

Friday, 4 January 2019

My reading in 2018

500 titles - total of 97,333 pages with an average length of 194 pages.
Bear in mind that doesn’t include pages for audiobooks. A few people don’t put in the number of pages when they post a title to Goodreads so often they show up as a zero, too. It can only use the data it was given.
I keep my own count of my star ratings as I post the reviews. I am not overgenerous. I can’t see the point of giving every book five stars, but it looks like I give 40% 4 stars. I will mark up for diversity; call it positive discrimination if you will. We need to push the balance until it comes naturally.
5 stars: 87
4 stars: 203
3 stars: 89
2 stars: 61
1 star: 21
dnf: 39
total: 500
I think I need to read less male authors, and more diverse authors but I don’t know the stats for that. Maybe I can count that, too? It is easier to do it as I go so I’ll try that and see. I went off and added those to my Scrivener keywords. I write and store GR reviews in Scrivener and it has meta data functions that I still underuse. That’s the issue with Scrivener; I always feel as if I am paddling in the shallow end with everything it can do. And yes, I’ve done courses. [sheesh as IF I’d miss an opportunity to do a course. *laughs at self*]
And I’ve hit my first snag with book one for 2019. Ilona Andrews is a husband and wife writing team that uses her name. *shrugs* close enough. Sorry, Gordon you now have a pink tag.
I also use a keyword to remind myself where the book is. Is it a physical book? On Kindle? Kobo? A pdf from the author? A free online read? This saves me time when I’m looking for it later. There’s no point looking for a book on my shelf if it was a library borrow. A super quick summary or note that reminds me what it’s about and if it is part of a series.
So my corkboard view with the colour-coded meta data looks like this:
In 2018 I tried to put things in my ‘currently reading’ file to make me read them. It didn’t work. I have things in there that have been there all year so I am taking them out again. There’s no point guilting myself into more guilt, if that makes sense. Things change. Moods change. I’m reading for pleasure and education, not work, so nothing has a deadline unless it’s a library book. Maybe at another time I’ll get into them. That’s fairer on the books, too.
So task one is clean up my ‘currently reading’ list.
Done… woot that was easy.
If I have another aim for 2019 reading it’s read the books I paid for. I keep buying Humble Bundles and forgetting I own them. They also show up on my Kindle App on my PC but not on my phone where I often read them. This is probably a knowledge issue of mine and may be fixed by simply buying a Kindle reader and learning how to import files. I don’t think I can use the app on a tablet or laptop as it relies on things imported into it on here. To explain, I save a mobi file from a book bundle onto my hard drive, click open and it automatically puts it into the Amazon App. It also doesn’t show up as bought by me in Amazon. Another reason to check Goodreads before I buy anything.
To the research, she shouts.
For 2019 I set my goal at 365.