Monday, 31 March 2008

5 favourites - quotes

What constitutes a quote? Something short, snappy and meaningful? Or can it be long and eloquent -- such as the soliloquy from Hamlet I recited at every ampitheatre I came across when travelling in Greece, France and Italy? Or maybe a quote from a favourite book -- or a quote that inspired a favourite book?

So many to choose from, and I keep thinking of more as I write!

I collect quotes, write them down frequently, which only makes this harder. Here are a few that have meaning for me:

1. From Hamlet Act2, Sceneii
I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

(This is the quote mentioned above, and resonates with me mainly because of the scene at the end of the movie, Withnail & I . . . An explanation of this quote can be found here.)

2. From A man rides through, by Stephen Donaldson (chapter 32: The benefit of sons)
The metal of Geraden's character had been tempered by bitterness, polished by dismay.

(From one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels, this quote appeals because of the imagery and its appropriateness to my chosen field of study . . . OMG I want to read it again now!)

3. From the Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce
Congratulation: The civility of envy.

(I had to have one from the Devil's Dictionary here, but they're all brilliant!)

4. Chinese proverb
A bit of perfume always clings to the hand that gives the rose.

5. Carl Jung (1875-1961)
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

(This one appeals to me for many reasons as a writer.)

So there you have it. Five very different quotes.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

5 favourites - snacks

Tracey has challenged all bloggers to list our 5 favourites in various categories. Rather than doing this all at once, I'm going to spread it out over a few posts. The categories are:
a. snacks
b. quotes
c. like about job
d. like to live
e. current TV shows

So here are my responses to the first category: snacks. However, it's hard to know whether this is supposed to be favourite as in "love the taste of" or as in "most habitually consume", because the two are a little different!
1. yoghurt or fruche (currently vaalia lemon creme - OMG yum) (fits both!)
2. Buns, as in custard scrolls from bakers delight -- or, more recently, hot cross buns! (love the taste of)
3. chocolate (love the taste of)
4. crumpets (most habitually consume)
5. WW cakes/snack bars/biscuits/cherry bakewell tarts (kind of both, especially the cherry bakewell tarts, which I am addicted to)

That's it. OK, so I squeezed some extras in there!

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Earth Hour

I almost didn't know about Earth Hour, which happened between 8-9pm this evening. I'm rather bad on current affairs at the best of times, and this past month has been crazy, so I've seen/heard little news. As a result, I hadn't a clue about Earth Hour until this morning.

But fortunately I did find out about it in time, and was able to participate in the great national blackout. In addition to applauding the cause, I felt it was a great opportunity to get out my long unused candles.

Keen to witness the effect first-hand, I decided to go for a walk, anticipating eery darkness because not even the moon was up yet. However, I was doomed to disappointment. My neighbours clearly did not know about Earth Hour either . . . nor did 3/4 the houses in my street . . . or any other street. And as for the main 'high' street, not one restaurant had switched its lights off. I confess I had also expected the council to have arranged for all the street lights to be out -- but no!

I don't know whether this is the result of bad publicity (I could certainly claim that in my case) or whether people simply don't care -- even if switching your lights off for an hour is only a symbol of caring.

I feel very sad that there appeared to be such poor participation, and very glad that I at least found out in time; because I would have hated to hear about it afterwards and suffer the realisation of knowing that I was one of those who stuffed it up!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

More on the writing retreat

See here for an alternative account of our writing weekend at the island, complete with picture of this writer hard at work . . .

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Being philosophical when confronted with a pea

The wait is over and I have learnt that I didn't make it into the writing workshop I applied for. It's impossible not to be disappointed by this, because the one thing most aspiring novelists yearn for is recognition that someone will want to read our manuscripts. My getting into this workshop would have been a sign that someone (other than people who know me) sees enough in my manuscript to want to read on.

Of course, not getting into the workshop doesn't mean that the manuscript is completely worthless. It just means that it didn't appeal to the one person who was assessing it. But even that has the amazing power to seed major doubt. It's the stone in the shoe, the pea at the bottom of the princess's 16-mattress-high bed. We all want to write the novel that will appeal to everyone, no matter who they are!

Ah well, I am trying to be philosophical. While acceptance would have been an amazing endorsement of my direction and calling, rejection is not -- or should not be -- the antithesis.

And, in fact, a great part of me is relieved, for although I would have welcomed the affirmation that acceptance would have brought, in truth the manuscript is not ready. I still have a helluva lot of rewriting to do on the current draft, and I was starting to panic. Now I can calm down, take the time to clean the house, see friends and go shopping, and write without that oppressive deadline. And there's always next year . . .

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

The flavour of Easter

In truth, I have very little to add. "A picture tells . . ." and all that.
After the Lindt Bunny, there is no going back.
I have eaten a number of Lindt Bunnies this Easter (albeit some were miniature versions). Plus some carrots.
A chocolate orgy.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Easter at the island

I took advantage of the Easter long weekend to retreat down to the island to write. The weather was lovely and warm -- except for Friday, which was cool and led me to light the fire in the evening! But, aside from Friday, we were able to spend time writing out on the deck, overlooking the sea. This is seriously the best! I think I spent around four hours on Saturday afternoon out there. All I lacked was a gin and tonic.

In all, I made some good progress on my rewrite, nailing two complete chapters, which is very satisfying.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Page Turners: Northern Lights

Although I intended not to slip into the habit of calling this interesting book by Phillip Pullman The Golden Compass, I'm afraid I have failed. Nevertheless, I am trying to backtrack and keep the name, Northern Lights, alive.

This post is almost a fortnight late, because we read (or listened to) and discussed this book two weeks ago. But it has been a very busy period, with lots going on, so I've saved it up until now.

I first read Northern Lights a few years ago, when a friend lent me the trilogy. I enjoyed them without being "blown away", and of the three, Northern Lights was the most memorable. They are a fantasy trilogy, supposedly for children, set in various different worlds that are similar yet different from our own. In Northern Lights, we follow the story of Lyra, who takes a journey from Oxford to Northern Europe, in pursuit of her friend Roger and a horde of gypsy children who have been mysteriously stolen away by a beautiful yet cruel woman, Mrs Coulter. Lyra also seeks her father, Lord Azriel, in order to give him a precious instrument known as an "alethiometer" or truth reader. Lord Azriel is conducting research into the substance referred to as "Dust" and has tantalised Lyra with a photo of a city located in the Northern Lights.

Lyra's world is a very well set up, non-technological version of our own, with just enough 'other' to place it firmly as fantasy. Central to the plot is the fact that all humans in this world have a daemon, an animal familiar or soul, that is ever present as a companion. Other differences include the church (or magesterium) as ruler, the presence of "armoured bears" (polar bears who wear plate armour and can talk -- where did that idea come from, I wonder?), the presence of witch clans riding on cloudpine branches, plus many strange words for recognisable objects (such as "ambaric" for "electric", "Muscovy" for Russia" etc).

This time round, I listened to the audio book, which was narrated by the author, with a whole cast of actors doing the dialogue. This was my first experience at such a reading, and it was excellent! Audio books are certainly a completely different experience to reading. I think I enjoyed the book better this time round, although not necessarily for that reason. Most others in our group also enjoyed it, although not everyone intended to read on.

I don't remember much of what we discussed, although I do recall horror at scenes at the end of the book. Also, not everyone liked the concept of having a daemon, which I think is a marvellous idea. Most of us seemed to think the book was pitched at older readers (older than 12, which is the age of the protagonist). The most interesting thing I recall was the fact that the trilogy is evidently an allegory/subversion of Milton's Paradise Lost (war between heaven and hell). I wasn't aware this was the subject of Paradise Lost, and I now have a desire to read it.

Anyway, I am now listening to the audio book of the sequel, The Subtle Knife. It's enjoyable, although it suffers from 'book 2' syndrome -- it sits sandwiched between the wonder of the opener, and the drama of the closer (in so far as I can recall). Nevertheless, I am enjoying the broadening of the scope (new worlds, new characters, new information) -- we find out, for example, more about the mysterious "Dust", which is considered by the magesterium as the source/symbol of original sin. We also travel through cuts in the fabric of the universe into other worlds . . .

Monday, 17 March 2008

From bed

The thing is, it's very hot this evening. Over 30 degrees outside, and almost that inside. So, in an atempt to make like a shark and actually write instead of melt, I have migrated to my bed.

Why my bed? Because I have air con in my bedroom, that's why. And my lovely wireless internet has followed me in here!

So away I go to make like a shark for at least an hour.

(If you are confused by my shark references, see the side bar about Neil Gaiman's pep talk. Also see this post.)

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Another therapy session for writers

Yesterday I met with my writing group buddies for 'brunch' again. It was another therapy session for writers, at least that's how it feels to me. I can't recall everything we talked about for the six hours (yep, we moved into afternoon tea), but I do remember discussions regarding how to best get the words onto the page.

This is something I think about a lot: should we aim to get all the words out there quickly and imperfectly, then come back and revise? There are many arguments for this. I'm sure it makes you feel like you are making excellent progress, at least with the 'story' aspects. But so many of us agonise instead over each word deployment. And (as so often happens to me) we end up ripping out the scene anyway because it's become superfluous or has been superseded. So all that time perfecting the prose is effectively wasted.

During my rewrite, I have been allowing myself to write more 'perfectly' in the (possibly deluded) belief that this time round will not become superfluous or superseded, and will instead very closely reflect the finished novel, leaving space only for a few tweaks here and there. Yeah right. I am slowly coming to the realisation that maybe there'll be another draft after this one. But, seriously, I have to stop 'rewriting' and move into 'editing' and 'fine-tuning' eventually, don't I?!

This weekend has been better from a writing point of view. I have had two sessions today, between which was crammed a six-hour stint at work. Just think what I could have done with that as writing time! (This work-hell crap is seriously starting to make me grumpy!)

The other Boleyn girl

Saw this movie on Friday night and enjoyed it. Supposedly based on truth, it tells the story of the infamous Anne Boleyn (Henry VIII's second wife) and her lesser known sister, Mary, who, although married, also had a liaison with the king and bore his bastard son. The film (based on a novel by Philippa Gregory) depicts the two girls as victims of a scheming uncle (the notorious Duke of Norfolk) and pathetically weak father, who wanted to gain power and position through 'keeping Henry entertained'. Absoutely disgraceful -- particularly in the end, when the uncle/duke betrayed them anyway, resulting in the beheading of Anne and her brother, George.

Being rather partial to costume dramas, I was prepared to be entertained and I wasn't let down. Definitely a fine way to spend a Friday evening after a mad week. I was particularly impressed with Natalie Portman as Anne, and Kristin Scott Thomas as the girls' mother, poor Lady Elizabeth Boleyn, whose evil brother caused all the drama.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

wits' end

And now for a rant . . . So far this month I have written less than 500 words. This is majorly frustrating, considering my ambitious rewrite goals for end-March! I did take the computer away with me to Port Fairy, but it wasn't so easy to get into the zone. There was so much going on! This week, I have meetings every evening -- including an unexpected one this evening so that I wasn't home until 10pm. Tomorrow I have a meeting at 6pm and then another at 11pm. Excellent (not). I'm not getting up early in the mornings at present because with work this busy I end up too tired and I can't function. Like now. Eyes drooping. Time for bed. (This blog is a form of therapy.)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Last day of the folkie - Day 4

To cap the festival off, we saw Kavisha and Martha again on Monday morning. This time I purchased one of Kavisha's CDs - the one with the fig song on it. Both ladies had good gigs and this was a great way to end things. We closed off singing Martha's "Good World", which is about how we need to feel positive about turning things around and saving the environment, rather than thinking it's doomed. (In fact I'm currently listening to this exact song as I write this!)

To sum up, I bought five CDs: Alesa Lajana, Coco's Lunch, Kavisha Mazella and Martha Tilston (X2). All women this year!! Now I get to enjoy listening to them.

Folk festival - Day 3

Sunday was a lovely - HOT - day at the festival. In the name of pacing ourselves we indulged in brunch at Rebecca's, which is a cafe worthy of the city. We basked in the sunshine for a couple of hours, devouring eggs and nursing cafe lattes. Finally we roused ourself to go to the festival, where we saw

The Nightingales: Comprising Maria Forde, Tracey Roberts and Janette Gery, the Nightingales sang the individual songs of one of these ladies in turn.

Wheelers and Dealers: A traditional folk band, complete with reels and jigs. Surprisingly, we didn't see too many of these types of bands, for once. Definitely good to see at least one per festival, and this was a good one.

After all this we nearly melted in the 39-degree heat, so went back to the air-conditioned house for a breather. We needed to gather our strength for the evening gig, which I was really looking forward to. This was

Martha Tilston: As mentioned already, Martha was my find for the festival. The Sunday night gig was absolutely awsome. Her voice is amazing - it can range from huskily soft to commanding and penetrating, plus she can get so much expression. Her songs are brilliant as well, fairly contemporary with a splash of traditional thrown in at times. Her trad interpretations are wonderful, but she's not limited to folk, and I think would definitely appeal to a much wider audience. Having bought her latest album "Of milkmaids and architects" on Saturday, I purchased her earlier release, "Bimbling". Just as well too, because she sold out of CDs! Tonight I have checked out her web site to discover that she has another album, "Ropeswing", which is available for FREE download for a limited time at pondlife studios. Consequently, I am downloading now. Martha rocks. Enough said, really.

Monday, 10 March 2008

More folk festival (2)

The past two days of the folk festival have been great. I made the decision to pace myself this year (owing to work hell) so we've been mixing some great music with some great coffee drinking, eating and relaxing with our friends in Port Fairy.

On Saturday we saw the following acts

Suzannah Espie & The last word: This was in one my favourite venues, the Lighthouse Cafe. Or at least it used to be one of my favourite venues. This year (or maybe last year) they have made it bigger and it has lost some of its intimacy. Nevetherless, it's still one of the smaller venues. Suzannah Espie is a big-voiced country/blues singer, so not our ideal. Nevertheless she had a great sound.

Coco's Lunch: These five women have amazing voices and sing amazing harmonies. Their original music is inspired by both Australia and other countries they've visited on their travels. Although I have one of their CDs, this was the first time I'd seen them live. Needless to say, I bought another of their CDs!

A time for songs: This was a theme concert, during which a number of performers sing in round robin style. Over the years we've found this to be a great way of seeing a number of acts all at once . . . and you can then go back and see the ones you like at their own gigs later. The singers in this concert were
Kristina Olsen - A popular PFFF visitor. I bought one of her CDs a few years ago. She sings her own modern folk songs.
Kavisha Mazella - An interesting new find this year. She has a mixed Italian/gypsy/Burmese background, so her songs are an interesting mix. She has one song that I absolutely love. It's an anicent Italian serenader's love song.
Hans Theessink - A folk singer from the Netherlands.
Martha Tilston - My find of the festival!! She opened with an amazing song called Winter Flowers, and halfway though the song I knew I was buying her CD. More on her later!
Bob Fox - Same guy we saw the other night.
Danny Spooner - A festival regular, he sings traditional songs, accompanied by a concertina.

Kavisha Mazella Trio: Kavisha (who we saw in the theme concert) was playing down the road at St Pat's at 8pm, so we wandered down there to see her again. As I said, she has an interesting mix of songs, some of which I absolutely love - especially the seranader's "fig song".

Friday, 7 March 2008

Port Fairy folkie - Day 1

It's lovely to be back at the Port Fairy folk festival after a year off. Tonight was the first night, and we went to the Tim Wheelan welcome concert, featuring:

Kate Burke and Ruth Hazelton -- favourites of ours for a few years now. They are two young Aus women with guitars and sublime vocal harmonies. Many of the songs are Australian traditional songs, although tonight they sang a different range, including one penned by Kate that was inspired by Brokeback Mountain, plus a rendition of the Dylan song, "Boots of Spanish leather".

Alesa Lajana -- We hadn't heard of her before. She turned out to be a guitar virtuoso, with more instrumental tracks than songs. Normally this would disappoint me, but I actually loved the instrumental tracks. On the last two songs, she added her viola-playing fiance from Fourplay. Her stage craft reflected her inexperience at performing, but I surprised myself and bought her CD.

Bob Fox -- A veteran of the folkie stage, Bob Fox is from England and has a really deep, velvet, haunting voice. I first saw him a few years ago, and bought one of his CDs back then. Many of the songs he played tonight I had already heard, but it was a great set nonetheless.

Tonight was in St Pat's hall. Tomorrow we get geared up for "poffles" (poffertjes) at the main folkie venue.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

From the couch

Tonight I migrate from my desk to the couch. Yes, it's true. Here I blog while lying on the couch. In front of the TV. All this means of course that I now have a wireless internet connection -- woo hoo!

Obviously I'm not doing what I should be (writing), but this evening I was so tired that I dawdled home and it took almost twice as long as normal. So I thought I'd test out my new connectivity and see how it works. And I must say that the connectivity here on the couch is a little dodgy -- it keeps on cutting out . . . which is kind of annoying since I was assured that coverage would be fine all over the house.

Anyway, only one day to go this week, since I'm taking a four-day weekend starting Friday. And I can't wait.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Someone I know?

By the way, take a look at the book cover for Shadows Return by Lynn Flewelling I posted a few days ago. The character depicted looks a lot like someone I've created . . . (except for the lack of scars). My ideal hero.

Get it?

First snippet (an indulgence)

Work has taken over my life at the moment. It seems I am either going in early, staying late, or catching up on weekends. This past weekend I wrote an entire story for one client. February hell-month has morphed into March with no signs of hell abating.

As a result I barely wrote anything (on the novel) last week, and this week is not looking terribly good either. I suppose I have frittered this evening away, but after a busy weekend and a crazy day I felt I needed a "chill out" evening. (I didn't get home from work until 9pm.)

I have been searching for something to post as a "snippet" (being rather taken with this idea). It turns out that I don't have that much that I've completely trashed -- it's either been reworked or trashed for a reason! So I have decided to post the very last thing I wrote. The thing is, I just read it over and was rather taken with these two paragraphs, but I can't actually remember where I was headed with them! (Other than in the broad sense.) It's been about 5 days since I wrote this. Consequently, there's a good chance the second of these paragraphs will disappear and that would be a shame. Now it will be recorded here!

So here is my first snippet (from chapter 8):

The road dived into a tunnel of gold and green and orange woodland. Wing had maintained a strong canter, the rhythmic thud of his gait finally settling Valan’s mood. She slowed him now to walk and rest among the trees. He paused to drink from a puddle in the bowl of a fallen log, then tore at tufts of grass at the edge of the track, while Valan, keeping a slack rein, enjoyed the birdsong and gentle clatter of the breeze through dried leaves. Each gust tore some leaves away, and the air seemed filled with gold.

She really didn’t know Adehl at all, Valan reflected. Not from an adult perspective. She remembered the mother of her childhood, commanding and infused with laughter—but now? All they had in common now were a few shared memories of Valan’s father and the sharp edges of fractured secrets from three nights ago. Both of them had become different people in the last ten years and they had to start again, forge a new relationship from the shards of the old one.

OK, so it's a very short snippet, but it makes me feel good to have it here. Please forgive the indulgence.