Thursday, 28 September 2006

cuddles

Goodness! Had a situation just now when I had three posts announcing my words of the week! This is because blogger seemed to be having problems yesterday, and I tried twice but thought neither worked. Then posted again just now and . . . three posts saying the same thing! Oops.

Anyway, visited my sister this evening and arrived to find my niece and nephew in delightfully cuddly moods. For about 10, maybe 15 minutes, I had an armful of 3.5 and 1.5 year-old. "Cuggle, cuggle," says Wesley with the most gorgeous grin on his face and little arms outstretched. "It's because we love you," says Hannah, plonked in my lap, arms tight around my neck, cheek next to my cheek.

I think I used up my annual quota of cuddles tonight. It's amazing how these things happen when you least expect it. One can beckon children for cuddles and kisses and they just look at you disdainfully. (You must be joking! they think) But tonight I did nothing but arrive and say hello. They swarmed out of the bedroom predisposed to dispense love. It was overwhelmingly wonderful.

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

words for the week - 1874

Good week this week. Words flowed on Sunday evening as I wrote a 'low pressure' scene. Must learn to let the words flow more often.

Monday, 25 September 2006

Recipe - Triple choc brownies

Occasionally I do get around to baking. Yesterday, the event was my nephew Wesley’s baptism. I was asked to contribute a plate for lunch/morning tea. I didn’t have time in the end to go shopping, so was forced to make do with whatever was available in the pantry. . . and I found . . . three blocks of cooking chocolate (one of them white)! As a result I made ‘triple choc brownies’, substituting the milk chocolate for dark. The result was (as you might imagine) deathly rich. However, I was asked for the recipe. Here it is:

Triple Choc Brownies

125g butter
200g dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup castor sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1¼ cups plain flour, sifted
150-300g milk chocolate, roughly chopped (amount depends on pigginess)
100-250g white or Top Deck chocolate, roughly chopped (ie leave lumpy bits)

Grease brownie pan. Combine butter and dark chocolate in a saucepan and melt over a low heat until smooth. Cool slightly. Stir in sugar, eggs and then sifted flour. Fold in chocolate and spread into pan. Bake in a moderate oven for 35 mins or until firm to touch. Cool in the pan, then turn onto a board and slice into chunks.

GRandMa funks . . .

. . . Richmond, is where I had dinner on Saturday night. Main meal was juicy steak on pea & parsley mash, with caramelized onions, red wine jus and sweet potato chips. Standout was the Tim Tam Cheesecake (OMG).

Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Words for the week - 1782

Had a much more successful week, writing a little bit in five separate sessions. I thought I might have cracked 2000, but got sleepy yesterday evening, went down for a nap and woke up over an hour later! (I guess I should have just gone to bed . . .)

I am still working through the problem patch, but it’s starting to resolve itself. Another week or so and I should be out of it.

Got some nice feedback from Ligia yesterday about Act 1 (chapters 1 to 5). It has helped keep me inspired tonight and hopefully I can maintain momentum for the next few weeks at least.

Highlight author - Lynn Flewelling

I thought I’d start a series on favourite authors, since reading is such an important part of my life. This will be in addition to miscellaneous books read and Page Turners reviews.

So today’s highlight author is Lynn Flewelling.

I first came across Flewelling a few years ago when I encountered her Night Runner books:
Luck in the Shadows
Stalking Darkness
Traitors Moon
[. . . more, oh god I hope so . . .]

These chronicle the adventures of Alec and Seregil, who are alternately minstrels, cat burglars, spies, Royal emissaries, lords, warriors, recluses . . . The books are set in a fairly conventional fantasy world, complete with the ‘elf equivalent’ race of Aurenfai, but for all that, it’s well drawn and vivid, with evidence of a rich history. Moreover, the culture of the Aurenfai, explored in detail within Traitors Moon, is compelling and unique. The central characters are well-drawn and absolutely lovable, making these books fabulous entertainment. There’s never a dull moment. A stand-out feature for me is Flewelling’s handling of the love story between the two male lead characters. It evolves so naturally, with such subtlety, that it’s quite beautiful.

Flewelling has just completed the Tamir Triad, set in the same world but thousands(?) of years before the events in the Night Runner series. The books here are:
The Bone Doll’s Twin
Hidden Warrior
Oracle’s Queen

The rather eerie premise of these books is the use of special magic to conceal the identity of a baby princess, by killing her twin brother at birth and casting her in the male form. Thus does young ‘Prince Tobin’ grow up as a boy, hidden from the eyes of his uncle, the King, who has had all female claimants to the throne murdered. His murdered twin brother is present as a demon ghost. The first book deals with Tobin as a child, oblivious to the truth, growing up as one of his cousin’s ‘Companions’; in the second book Tobin knows that he is actually a girl, but stays concealed in male form; and finally in the third book Tobin sheds male form to become Tamir, 16-year old queen, who has to confront her beloved cousin and win the right to lead her people.

The Tamir Triad is more original that the Night Runner premise, but I don’t find them as compelling. In the first place, the story is a bit light-on, so not as much happens. I also feel that the characters are not nearly as engaging or as multi-dimensional. Perhaps it’s because Tobin/Tamir and her squire, Ki, are still quite young? But the supporting characters are far less convincing than the supporting cast in the earlier books. I enjoyed the read, but can’t see myself bothering to re-read; whereas I have already read the Night Runner books at least twice and am contemplating reading them again!

Despite the slight disappointment of the Tamir Triad, I continue to recommend the Night Runner books to everyone. And I really hope Flewelling returns to those characters and writes them another adventure!

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Words for the week - 464

Oh dear! Will try for a better effort this week. Was hamstrung by various social engagements. It’s time to focus again and become a social hermit.

Sunday, 10 September 2006

Page Turners: Orlando


Author: Virginia Woolf
Leader: N
Host: Astrid
Food theme: ‘Afternoon Tea’
Date: Thursday 7 September

I must start by confessing that I personally put in a poor effort on this one. Orlando is a rich tapestry of images and ideas, woven together using very long sentences, extraordinarily long paragraphs, and . . . well, the entire novel is just 5 chapters. It is undeniably an intellectual book, using intellectual language and themes. In my opinion it is something to be savoured in small morsels, with plenty of time for reflection between. It is not a book to be read at speed, late at night after a really hard ‘intellectual’ day in the office.

I have already said I was extremely tired (and busy) all month. I frittered away three weeks before making a start, and then struggled to concentrate in the evenings as I tried to read it. It doesn’t really have a narrative drive; it’s all ideas and anecdotes. I made it half way through, but even then I was frustrated by my inability to really focus on it properly.

However, others had finished and enjoyed it very much. Here is a brief synopsis (from Wikipedia): It is the story of a young man named Orlando, born in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, who decides not to grow old. He does not, and he passes through the ages as a young man ... until he wakes up one morning to find that he has metamorphosed into a woman — the same person, with the same personality and intellect, but in a woman's body. The remaining centuries up to the time the book was written (1928) are seen through a woman's eyes.

We talked a bit about Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, and about how much of Orlando might have been autobiographical, rather than solely based on Vita’s life. We talked about the passing of time, and speculated on N’s epiphany that perhaps the whole story had gone on in Orlando’s head; that in fact Orlando was a (fictitious) woman of 1928, who was a little mad with a lively imagination.

We also talked a bit about Virginia’s other works, in particular Mrs Dalloway, and the experimental techniques Virginia used in writing — such as stream of consciousness. Her ability to write in a way that presages modern film-making was also discussed (the example was given of a particular ‘great hall’ scene, described in the manner of movies).

The discussion left me wanting to read more of Virginia Woolf’s work, but I will need to find a time when I am relaxed and fresh. I plan also to give Orlando on audiobook a go.

Next book is The Sound of One Hand Clapping, by Richard Flanagan.

[FOOTNOTE] More on N’s epiphany. She says: “I actually think it's a biography of orlando's internal & external life. Her external life spans 1908 to 1928, from the physical age of 16 to 36, while her internal life (that of her imagination) spans from the mid 1500s to 1928.”

Words for the week - 1095

After a three week break, I came back with a solid effort of 1095 words this week (to Wed 6 Sept). The downside is that these were put together in a mere two sessions of writing. A great effort for the individual sessions, but I need to write more regularly!

To write myself back in, I elected to go over some material written over the past few months and rework a few scenes/events that weren’t working.

Unfortunately, this week is not looking good, since I’ve not written anything yet. I’ve had a lot on in the evenings (which is why it’s taken me so long to post on last week’s words). Moreover, today I’m feeling lethargic and lazy. I wonder if I can make myself write something this evening. Maybe target 300 words and see how I go?

Sunday, 3 September 2006

Phoenix: something to be glad about

The mighty Melbourne Phoenix, alas, did not make it into the Commonwealth Bank Trophy netball grand final. They lost in the preliminary final to the Thunderbirds by 7 goals (60-53) and although it was a great game (much better from the Phoenix than past performances this season) they never really looked like winning.

Oh well. At least they didn't have the mortification of losing to the Swifts by 29 goals in the grand final (65-36) this Friday night past. I haven't yet seen the game, and I'm not sure whether I'll watch it (assuming the tape worked). The Swifts have been unbeatable this year and fully deserve the win (no matter how galling to admit it). I think I'll instead go watch a replay of the 2005 grand final, in which the mighty Melbourne Phoenix whomped the Swifts (although not, I think, by 29 goals!).

Hopefully next year will be a better one for the Phoenix. This year, they never quite compensated for the loss of Eloise S-H, whose playmaking in the attack end was sorely missed. Click here for all Commonwealth Bank Trophy details. GO PHOENIX!

Update: a little bit of everything

I'm very aware that it's been over a week (about 11 days in fact) since I've posted. It was not my intention to start a blog and then ignore it, so thought I'd check in.

The thing is that I've been incredibly tired for the past two weeks. It's almost as though, with the wedding over, I fell into the proverbial heap. (And it wasn't even my wedding!) I've spent the time reading and watching TV predominantly, with some socialising thrown in. But I've been so tired.

I gave myself almost three weeks' break from writing. Until today, the last time I wrote was Monday 14 August. It was probably evident from my previous post on writing that I had struck a snag and was struggling in a variety of areas. So it seemed logical to take short, guilt-free, break. It has been good, but somewhat predictably it's now a struggle to get back into it. However, I have spent a relatively successful (albeit painstakingly slow) day of inserting myself back into the story. It has taken the form of rewriting a particular scene, but that doesn't matter. It's all words and hopefully it will help solve the dilemma confronted a couple of thousand words downstream.

Last weekend I had a "my weekend" where I indulged in some shopping, visited the Home Show, and met a friend for a spontaneous "I need to get out of the house" lunch. I could do with some more of that, but (to risk rehashing an old theme) my weekends are never long enough! This weekend, aside from today's writing effort, I met a writing friend for dinner on Friday night, where I helped her with some suggestions on the first 3 chapters she's hoping to submit to a publisher (good luck, Ligia!).

Saturday was a gorgeous 24 degrees and so I spent the day in the garden - pulled out a few ugly plants, moved and planted others, plus trimmed the carnivors back in preparation for repotting. These are shooting flowers all over the place - always an exciting time of year! I think I should have repotted a few weeks ago. It was so nice to wander about in the garden in short sleeves, make plans and just sit with a coffee on the deck. I love my garden! Having it "renovated" early this year was the best thing I ever did.

Last night, we had our semi-regular Battlestar Gallactica evening. We are currently watching season 2, about 8 episodes in, and now determined to make it to the end before season 3 starts in the USA. This means we have to go weekly for the next couple of weeks, in order to get three more evenings in before the end of September! Poor N&J will be sick of the sight of us soon (if they're not already). For we are now threatening to appear weekly to watch season 3 as they are downloaded from i-tunes! It is certainly a great series.

I think that'll do for an update. This isn't supposed to be a diary as such, although I rather like documenting my life (the more interesting bits). Even if nobody reads it. Hopefully I'll have some more energy soon and will be able to do some more philosophising on various subjects.