Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Last word

I could mean many things by this, but I'll tell you what I don't mean. I don't mean that this is the final post (far from it!); nor do I mean that I have finished the novel (more's the pity). It merely means that I am indeed no longer going to post the number of words written in a week.

For the record, I haven't written anything this past week. I am stuck in time, locked in the middle of the major climax, frozen with fear. I am overwhelmed by the need to tie up loose ends, keep it exciting, ensure the entire novel has meaning and that the characters end up where they're supposed to (in preparation for the sequel).

This is the first time I have been near the end of a novel. I feel as though I need a week's complete focus to make it happen. It's not enough to snatch a couple of hours here and there, after work when I'm tired. It's too hard for that.

As a result, I languish in a mire of helpless thought. Every so often, a wave of inspiration overtakes me, and my heart expands with excitement. But at such times I am invariably nowhere near my computer and the midst of something completely different. By the time I'm able to devote time to the WIP, inspiration has been booted out by weariness.

I really hope I'll be able to reactivate myself this coming weekend. I need to get through the climax and I need to find that last word.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Mysterious discission

Purely by accident, I learned a new word today.

Discission n.
1. The incision of or cutting through a part.
2. An operation for soft cataracts in which the crystalline capsule is opened and the substance of the crystalline lens is broken up to allow it to be absorbed.
3. an incision of the lens of the eye, as for removal of cataract.

Somehow it had found its way (in lieu of 'decision') into an article I was editing. Very mysterious.

Monday, 28 May 2007

The writer in me

As I approach the one-year anniversary of having started a blog, I have been thinking about future directions. Not knowing precisely who is reading Forge & Brew, I have no idea whether it’s hitting the mark.

Harking all the way back to my first post, this blog was originally conceived as a mode of communication to friends I see and speak to less often than I would like. It was also conceived to record milestones of my life -- as much for me, as anyone else. In reflection of the latter, I find myself regularly reading back over various posts, remembering events as they happened. Moreover, now that some of my friends have started blogging, I find that I am checking their blogs regularly as well.

Reading friends’ blogs, however, is making me question the content of my own. As a writer, I cannot help but write with my audience in mind. It’s all about communication, and one cannot communicate in isolation. Audience is everything.

If asked to describe the content of this blog, I would say it’s fairly eclectic. Intermingled with personal experiences are ‘general interest’ posts (albeit with a personal take) on books, movies, recipes, celestial phenomena, sporting events and the odd rant about whatever takes my fancy. Basically, I am covering anything I personally happen to find interesting; anything I happen to feel strongly about.

Ironically, there’s a lot less on writing than I thought there would be. Aside from posting my words each week (an indulgence that may soon cease) there’s little on the process, the agonies of the written word. Again, this comes back to audience. My impression has been that a whole lot more non-writers read Forge & Brew than writers, and I didn’t want to bore you to death!

However, in reading the recently activated blogs of two fellow writers, I have decided that maybe it is OK to share writing experiences with non-writers. After all, it is invariably my non-writing friends who typically ask, “How’s the novel coming along?”. I think non-writers have an intense curiosity about the act of writing: What makes you spend all that time telling stories? How do you come up with ideas? And (my favourite) when are you going to finish your novel?

Forge & Brew is my blog about ‘life and writing’. So far, I think I’ve managed the ‘life’ part of it pretty well, and I plan to continue this direction. But perhaps I can provide more insight into the writer within me.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Movie - Pirates of the Caribbean: At world's end

On Friday I saw the third of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies -- At world's end. It was a lot of fun -- at times farcical -- but fun. The plot got difficult to follow at times (sooo much double-crossing) but the ships were beautiful, the costumes wonderful, and the adventure uplifting.

It reminded me, in fact, of the Robin Hobb Liveship Traders series -- one of my all time fantasy favourites -- which features ships and pirates and spunk-filled women who gad about as sailors. Marvellous.

Orlando was lovely to look at. And Keira Knightly as the pirate king was cool.

Oh, and if you go and see it, make sure you stay until the end of the credits!!

Netball: Phoenix stomp on Swifts

Phoenix had another mighty win today. Fabulously (and possibly miraculously) they stomped on the Swifts 68 to 39.

It all seemed too good to be true when Phoenix came out looking as slick and well-oiled as I've ever seen them. I had butterflies in my stomach. A 6 goal margin at quarter-time could potentially be overhauled; even a 16 goal margin at half-time seemed fragile. When, at 3/4 time, the coach put the bench on court, we panicked, because a margin of a mere 23 goals seemed assailable.

It wasn't of course, and Phoenix won by 29 goals, which is some sort of record margin -- over the Swifts, I assume.

They really played a remarkable game, with amazing fluidity, few errors and great goaling. By contrast, the Swifts looked flat-footed and completely out of sorts. Kind of disappointing, when you consider that 5 Swifts players line up for Australia, 4 of them in the starting 7.

It was the second match for the Swifts in the weekend, although I would have thought their team would have dealt with that much better. Bottom line: the Phoenix just didn't allow them into the game and ran away with it.

It was brilliant! (Match report)

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Monday, 21 May 2007

Vale: Miss Snark

I was going to leave it at two posts today, but I've just heard the sad news that Miss Snark has closed off her fabulous blog.

For two years, we have been soaking up her insights into the world of writing and publishing fiction, with many a laugh along the way. We'll remember the legendary crapometer, where Miss Snark tore to pieces the works of aspiring writers, plus all her advice on how to approach agents, how not to approach editors, and how to be generally savvy in the literary world.

Judging from the 450+ comments posted to her "I'm leaving" post, she will be sorely missed by an enormous writing community.

Thank goodness, the two years of her blog will stay up as a writing reference. I'm quite sure I'll be back from time to time.

RIP Miss Snark, NY literary agent

Recipe - Mixed Berry Muffins

I made these WW muffins recently to much acclaim. Enjoy!

Servings: 12
Preparation Time: 15 min
Cooking Time: 20 min
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
WW POINTS: 2 per muffin

Ingredients200 g plain white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
75 g caster sugar
75 g Weight Watchers Canola Spread, melted
100 g skim plain yoghurt
100 ml skim milk
1 whole egg
200 g mixed frozen berries

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 12 hole muffin tray with paper cases.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl with a pinch of salt. In another bowl mix the spread, yoghurt, milk and egg together.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients together and fold gently so you don't over-work the mixture. Over working the mixture will cause the muffins to be heavy.

Gently fold through the berries, again keeping the beating to a minimum. Spoon mixture into the muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or until risen and golden brown.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool or eat warm.

Notes
These muffins can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days and are suitable to freeze. Whilst we have used mixed frozen berries, try using individual berries like raspberries or blueberries.

© 2007 Weight Watchers International, Inc. © 2007 WeightWatchers.com, Inc. All rights reserved.WEIGHT WATCHERS and POINTS are the registered trademarks of Weight Watchers International, Inc. and are used under license by WeightWatchers.com.au Pty Ltd.

Olivia Joules and the overactive imagination


This is the latest novel by Helen Fielding of Bridget Jones fame, and I must say I liked it a whole lot more!

Olivia Joules is a freelance journalist who is an odd mix of street-smart, intuitive, clever and ditzy. Early in the novel, she attends a face cream launch in Miami, ends up exchanging smouldering looks (and more) with a goodlooking 'frenchman', only to return to her hotel suite to call up her best friend (in the wee hours of a London morning). "I've just met Osama Bin Laden!" she breathes down the phone line. He's wearing different colour contact lenses and has had 'some length taken out of each leg', but it's definitely him!

This book is seriously funny. Olivia will stop at nothing to get a good story and it takes her from Miami to LA to Honduras to the Sudan. She has endless charm and wit and an extremely positive outlook on life -- not to mention a set of 'rules for living' which she recites like a mantra whenever she gets into a fix. Her adventures lead her ultimately into a spot of espionage with al-Qaeda and a spot of romance with a very capable CIA operative. It's froth and bubble and extremely far-fetched -- but oh so entertaining!

I should probably point out that I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was extremely well read. Whether this added to my favourable impression, I don't know. I do know that I intend to buy the book and read it the old-fashioned way!

PS The Amazon reviews are ordinary and I disagree with most of them. Some people take things too seriously! This is not a book to be taken seriously. Indeed - at one stage I was laughing so hard I could barely walk (while listening)!

Friday, 18 May 2007

Brocco-flower soup

Here's a great soup recipe (vegetarian).

Chop:
1 large head of cauliflower
2 heads broccoli

Bring to boil in 2 litres vegetable stock. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked.

Once cooked, stir through until dissolved:
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon vegemite

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then puree with bamix or similar.

Seriously yummy. [Makes about 8 serves]

The temptation of Tupperware

I think you either get it, or you don't. Tupperware, I mean. There are definitely two camps.

The office conversation about my impending Tupperware party was part derogatory (the boys) and part guilty intrigue (the girls --- who kind of like it but don't really believe it's worth all that money).

Fortunately for me, most of my friends fall in the 'get it' camp. It probably helps that they all have good jobs and can afford the stuff. But I had two people attend tonight who didn't have ANY Tupperware!! It was delightful watching them fall under the thrall of Tupperware: how it can revolutionise your pantry, your fridge, your kitchen, your life in general. By the end of the evening they were a fair way to being converted and are both having their own parties. (This is a bonus for me, since it gave me $100 worth of free Tupperware!)

I am certainly not the Tupperware junkie some of my friends are. I always buy something when I go to a party, but I'm a slow accumulator, rather than a splurger. Except for now, of course, since having a party tends to result in a splurge (all for far less cost than you would spend otherwise).

At this point in time, I'm going for storage systems: modular mates (for pantry) and fridgesmart (for fridge - doh!). By the end of this exercise I'll probably have more of the stuff than I can use (or fit) in the pantry, but I honestly believe this is one of the areas where Tupperware really differentiates. I don't subscribe to the camp that the $3 decor container is just as good as Tupperware. It just isn't.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Monday, 14 May 2007

Give Tara Moss a miss

After recently listening to books 2 and 4 in Tara Moss's Makedde Vanderwall crime series, I have decided I am not a fan.

Split was frustrating because Mak (supposedly the protagonist) did very little other than try to decide between two men. The entire crime and investigation took place outside her purview -- until she was quite conveniently captured as the latest almost-victim.

In Hit, Mak actually investigated the case as a PI, so therefore was far more active. However, all the evil doers were completely stupid (including the highly paid "cleaner") and the final climax not very climactic (zero suspense). Mak herself didn't seem too intelligent either. And the end was very unsatisfactory.

Finally, the writing is pedestrian. In all, I would recommend giving Moss a miss.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

words for the week - 0

This week I don't think I seriously considered writing at all. First I was trying to finish the last Page Turners book; then I became obsessed with Veronica Mars Season 2. I watched all 22 episodes in four nights. I have just spent the last hour trawling a fan web site to see what happens in season 3. My brain has been completely distracted.

But VM is all over now. I am going to the island this weekend to get back on track with the words. It's been fun, but it cannot last! Back to the grindstone . . .

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Page Turners: A short history of tractors in Ukrainian

A short history of tractors in Ukrainian is by Marina Lewycka, and was our Page Turners book for May discussion (3 May). Here's a brief review from Amazon, which I think describes it quite well:

The premise of Lewycka's debut novel is classic Viagra comedy: a middle-aged professor's aging and widowed father announces he intends to marry a blonde, big-breasted 30-something woman he has met at the local Ukrainian Social Club in the English town where he lives, north of London. It is clear to Nadezhda and her sister, Vera, that the femme fatale Valentina is only after Western luxuries—certainly not genuine love of any kind. Smitten with the ambitious hussy, their father forges ahead to help Valentina settle in England, spending what little pension he has buying her cars and household appliances and even financing her cosmetic surgery. In the meantime, Nadezhda, a socialist, and Vera, a proud capitalist, confront the longstanding ill will between them as they try to save their father from his folly. Predictable and sometimes repetitive hilarity ensues. But then Lewycka's comic narrative changes tone. Nadezhda, who has never known much about her parents' history, pieces it together with her sister and learns that there is more to her cartoonish father than she once believed. "I had thought this story was going to be a knockabout farce, but now I see it is developing into a knockabout tragedy," Nadezhda says at one point, and though she is referring to Valentina, she might also be describing this unusual and poignant novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

The book certainly inspired an animated discussion among the seven of us present. None of us seemed to find the book funny -- I think the writing style is probably the reason it's classed as such. The author repeatedly uses comedic phrases (e.g. 'crap car' to describe the rover pronounced crap by Valantina, and 'Mrs Divorce Expert' when referring to Vera on the rampage) which certainly have the effect of lightening the tone. However, the subjects dealt with are not funny: wartime labour camps, a lonely old widower being taken advantage of, sisters bickering over their mother's will.

For many of us, the novel touched on some aspect of our own lives, which made it all the poignant.

We talked about the expectation so many people have when it comes to inheritance, and we talked about the perception of 'westerners' all having so much money. Essentially, Valentina expected Nikolai to be wealthy, and spent his meagre pension as though that was the case. Sure, she was taking advantage of him, but the financial difficulties were the result of failed expectation.

This led us to discuss other cases of 'mail order brides' and the like that we've encountered in our own lives.

As far as construction goes, the writing style was breezy and easy to read, and in an odd mix of present and past tense that strangely wasn't jarring. The story is largely focused on the events surrounding Valentina, but flashes back into the past to describe what happened to the family during the war -- as much to illustrate Vera's character as Nikolai's -- and also includes excerpts from Nikolai's great masterpiece -- a book he is writing about the history of tractors (in his native language, Ukrainian). The story moved along nicely, although I thought it was all resolved too easily in the end.

All in all, a good choice for the group -- and at least I finished it this time!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Veronica Mars

So I finished watching the entire first season of Veronica Mars (22 episodes in 8 days). It's a great show, with a very resourceful & sassy heroine. Reminds me a lot of Buffy.

The basic premise of the first season is late-teenage girl with PI (former Sheriff) father, sleuths away for classmates by day and night, while trying to get to the bottom of who murdered her best friend a year earlier. The range and extent of her sleuthing is quite remarkable -- full credit to the writers for coming up with such diverse challenges. There's also the obligatory teen relationship stuff, with some unexpected twists and turns.

Bring on Season 2!

words for the week - 1566

Well, I guess it's a good thing I didn't cheat last week! Hopefully I'm coming out of the rut. Yesterday felt better.