Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's 2009!

C'mon, slowcoaches, catch up! I'm already hung over and contemplating what to have for breakfast. Fried ham and eggs sounds good to me. This could be you tomorrow!

Hope you're all having a fantastic festive season, with all your favourite goodies and gifties from the fat bloke in the red suit, and that you occasionally recall whose birthday it really is. BTW, Soccer Boy says that only three people live forever: God, Jesus and Santa.

Nothing profound to offer you today (see para 1), but promise to get back to regular blogging some time in the next week.

And remember. Hogmanay is not a kind of sausage.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Rockin' around the eucalypt tree...

Have a happy holiday!

Love McKoala & clan

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And you thought finance was boring...

Robin's latest voice challenge: sexing up something dull. OK, I admit it was my idea - but is anyone surprised that she went for it?!

Here's mine - a little early, but I had some time today. Investment anyone?

From Weds night/Thursday, for more voices and links check out Robin's blog.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lives are meeting

I've often wrangled with whether or not to put this blog into my real name. Well, I'm not going to, nyah nyah.

I'm around and about under my real name - which I think most of you know, and if you're confused there's a whopping big clue on the book roast blog - but move fast, because I think I might delete that soon.

What's happening now is that, thanks to Facebook, you ethereal chums and my more earthly versions are meeting. Not a bad thing in itself, but while I'm perfectly content for you all to know my real name, I'd quite like to keep McKoala and this blog to my ethereal life. Very few people I see on a day-to-day basis know about my fiction writing, beyond the short stories and articles. I hate the thought of people asking me 'so how's the book going?' every day, possibly for forty years or more if I never get into print!

So I may try and blur the links between the names a little more.

Is anybody else having to think about this?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Random rules

When the right hand does not know what the left is doing, the left hand will take advantage and will shut the right hand in a closet door.

If a husband is entrusted with laundry over a period of a week or more, he will economise by running the machine less often. One morning your daughter will run out of school dresses and your son will run out of school shorts.

The zip on any dress that cost less than half price will break the first time you wear it.

If you save time by dropping off a prescription before going to the supermarket with the plan of picking it up afterwards, you will waste even more time by forgetting it and having to go back to the shopping centre specifically for that one item.

If you let your daughter have nail polish on the grounds that she is now old enough and sensible enough not to paint the white carpet in her bedroom, she will paint the white carpet in her bedroom.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

If I can't understand it, I won't read it

Apparently, I am not stupid. Apart from maths, but we don't need to talk about that now*. Specifically, I am not a stupid reader. I have a degree in English literature and language and I studied linguistics for a while and did OK there (but not as well as Paca). I can even spell, not that that is particularly relevant.

So here's the thing. As a reader, I don't think that a writer being deliberately opaque is a pleasant experience. And although I admit I read for pleasure nowadays I don't mind a bit of a challenge (apart from Russian names, which, as discussed before, I just cannot master - I like to see that as a quirk, rather than general stupidity...), if I do not have any idea what is going on after the first five to ten pages, I will put your book down.

This doesn't mean you can't intrigue me, I'm all over that. But I need to know something. For example, I don't necessarily need to know who the speaker is if I can vaguely follow what they are saying. If I understand who the speaker is, I may bear with difficult content. So tell me something, anything. Even knowing where an unnamed speaker spouting confusion is located may help me. For example, jail. No names needed, confusion expected. But don't hide everything from me or I will put your book down and recommend others skip it too.

I need to have something to hang my hat on before I start taking my coat off. (Whirl, feel free to make merry with that one).

* Never give me the bill to check. It will not work out.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rewrite Jane Austen, 2008-stylee

Following on from the previous post, choose any line from Jane Austen and rewrite it in contemporary English!

See comments for my attempt.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

International editions

In Australia we are in a kind of publishing black hole where we often receive British or US editions of books, rather than Australian editions. Fair enough, there aren't that many of us and it's probably cheaper.

This has enabled me to observe first hand the efforts that publishers do, or do not go to, to create American editions of British books, and vice versa. Here are a few examples:

  • The publishers that make no changes whatsoever, other than publisher details. As we shall see, this is a surprisingly sensible approach.

  • The publishers that change everything. Now, this might seem a sensible approach, but unless you are very careful, this can go horribly wrong and result in an unnatural hybrid. Changing spelling isn't necessarily a big deal, but when you get to vocab and grammar, you are on dangerous ground. Let's assume that our book is set in the UK - as, let's face it, many British novels are. It may be fair enough in narrative to say: 'The child sat on the stoop eating candy'. Not in dialogue. A British child would not say: 'I'm sitting on the stoop eating candy'. A British child would say: 'I'm sitting on the step eating sweets.' There's a huge distinction there between adding an American perspective and creating a monster that doesn't work in either country.
  • The publishers that change a few things here and there to add 'a flavour'. Again, an example and this is my absolute favourite. A book set in Wales, featuring a Welsh family who'd been there for generations and throughout the novel a little boy called his mother 'Mom'. No, no, no. I've seen this a couple of times in US editions of UK novels, but interestingly I've never seen it the other way. Perhaps publishers have the sensitivity to realise that if a novel is set in the US they can keep 'mom', because British readers will understand that this is 'American' for 'mum'. But do they really have the insensitivity to believe that this is not true in the opposite direction? That an American adult would not realise that a British kid using the word 'mum' is not merely making a repeated mistake?
American adults speak out!

And if anybody has noticed anything similar in their reading, I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I long to delight my followers

But how, my precious ones?

Maybe a little giggle and a schoolyard yarn.

Soccer Boy's ball got stuck in a tree yesterday after school. We couldn't quite reach the lower branches to shake it loose and chucking sticks didn't help. 'I can do it,' says one of the mums and spear throws her daughter's hobby horse into the tree. Yes, that got stuck too.

So now we have a cricket ball and a disembodied horse's head hanging from the branches. 'Leave it to me,' says Mum number two and lobs her daughter's schoolbag at the ball and horse. Guess what. That got stuck too. So now we have a howling toddler and a schoolchild who doesn't know to be happy or sad. (My homework's in there, yippee! Oh hang on, so's my lunch bag...) Soccer Boy in the meantime is perfectly happy, because his ball has come down.

I'm feeling the need for sacrifice, because this is all down to my child, so I'm weighing Soccer Boy's bag in my hand, thinking that it should at least join the crowd in the tree when the one sensible mum among us arrives with a long-handled mop from the janitor's office. And no, she didn't throw it.

It took three mums and said mop to get the horse and the schoolbag down.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Revealed: The Face of McKoala

I'm in love with this new following feature, which enables me to keep up with everybody's new posts without browsing for hours (I still may or may not reply, heh, heh...). By the way, am I missing anybody? Is anybody lacking a recent visit from a marsupial with attitude? Tell me and I'll start stalking, sorry, following you.

A side effect of this wondrous new gadget is that my profile pic is popping up everywhere as a grey-headed Mr Nobody. Could this be any less appropriate?

And so...I reveal...the true face of McKoala. Am I as cute as you thought I was? No, I'm cuter, right?!

Koala family health update: I'm almost back in full action, but won't be allowed to lift anything heavy for three months, therefore Mr Koala is now delegated to supermarket shopping and laundry baskets, yippee! Grandma Koala still in hospital, but now I have been released from house arrest I will go and visit her this weekend. Recent phone calls and demands indicate increasing return of vigour in Grandma although release date remains changeable.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Say it like it is

Princess loved our holiday in Scotland so much that she says she wants to go and live there and play with the little McHaggi every day. Soccer Boy says, no thanks, Scotland is too cold for him. Dilemma? No!

'OK,' says Soccer Boy. 'Next time we go we can just leave her there.'

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Joys of Freelancing

In my real life, as far as I have one, I am a freelance copywriter. This means that I am lucky enough to make my living by writing. 'Lucky' is a tricky kind of a word, though. A slippery, dippery, wippery kind of a word. The reason for this is simple. Clients

There are many breeds of client. Most are nice, normal people with perfectly good manners, who lack the ability to write and recognise that, hence their need for me. Others are nice, normal people with perfectly good manners, who lack the ability to write and do not recognise that, hence the tinge of grumpiness when they call and say "the designer said I'd better call you before we printed any of this". I can usually pleasantly prove that I can write better than they can, while remaining friends, and these relationships usually end with professions of gratitude and a loving promise to call me next time they need a brochure. Others are pus-oozing monsters with no manners whatsoever who lack the ability to write, but deny that, and make my life a total misery to the point where I wonder why they even employ me. Silly me. It's to torture me, of course! And in one case, make me abandon my chosen career for six months while I recovered from his pus-oozing awfulness.

While I know you long to learn more about the monsters, today we have a short post about The I-Did-It-Myselfers. I-Did-It-Myselfers are always the loveliest people, often with a slightly frail quiver to their voice, which makes me be extra polite to them on the phone, in case I should accidentally break them. I-Did-It-Myselfers really, really want to help, which is, believe it or not, not always a good thing.

When I ask for 'a few bullet points', I-Did-It-Myselfers provide pages of close-typed text, which take hours of reading to pick out the three things I actually need to know. When I ask for 'a brief bio', I get an entire life story. When I ask for 'any existing literature', I get a postman's-back-breaking package consisting of every piece of paper the company has produced in the past fifty years; including copies of their order forms and invoice layout. Not really necessary for a DL flyer about their new widget.

I-Did-It-Myselfers are so lovely, and so fragile, however, that it's impossible to explain to them how to be more helpful, because all they want to do is be helpful, and if they tried to be any more helpful they would actually frazzle themselves into a tiny pile of ashes. All I can do is say 'thank you' and grit my teeth as I plough through the forest-slaying piles of info (these people always send paper), using hours of non-quoted working time, all so that I don't hurt their feelings.

Because, however troublesome I may find their efforts, they have gone to an effort. They have tried to make my life easier. They are nice people, who, any time I need anything, will always answer their phone and do their best to find it for me.

They are, at the end of the day, My Client.

*McKoala Family Health Update*

Considerable improvement in everybody's condition over the weekend. I can now walk almost normally, rather than shuffle, although I still can't sit for long. Grandma Koala is much stronger and may even be released from hospital in a day or so (although they've said that several times before).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What's in a name? #3

I just read a book in which one of the characters was called 'Jem Stone'. And nobody seemed to notice.

Any recommendations for my convalescent reading? I'm going through a book a day at the moment so Mr Koala will be sent to the library again very soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still not quite firing on all cylinders here. Thinking about doing lots of things. Not actually doing any of them.

Grandma still in hospital with massive headache. Nobody knows how many stitches she has, because the consultant says he lost count half way. Hoping she'll get out later this week.

Mostly I'm reading. I have many intelligent things to say about my reading. Not actually saying any of them.

I'm popping up randomly here and there on the blogosphere, but this is not the time to look out for me. I think Paca's Teddies will lynch me for a woeful performance in the quiz this month.

Well, if I've been up for two hours, it must be time to go back to bed now...

Friday, November 14, 2008


Here, but owie. Post surgery not quite as awful as I had thought, but a bit tired and sore now and mostly located in bed/on sofa. Got home from hospital yesterday; within a few hours mother-in-law had a fall and is now occupying my vacancy in the hospital. As my nephew put it, 'as soon as one comes out, another one goes in'. She's had many stitches in her head, but apparently no concussion and should get out later today. Her accident happened at the kids school where, bless them, an off duty ambulance officer and nurse (both parents) were on the scene. They worked hard, but they couldn't stop the bleeding that has traumatised half of the infants department; we're still getting calls from parents of freaked-out kids who want to ensure that Soccer Boy's Grandma didn't bleed to death. No, and she is issuing orders from her hospital bed about where her cane should be positioned, who to call and where her car should be parked etc., so we're hoping for a quick recovery.

It never rains but know the one.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Poor me

I have to go into hospital later this week to have an operation. Nothing serious, no need to panic, just something that needs to be done and now is apparently the golden moment to do it.

I'm not looking forward to it. I seem to have a very low pain threshold. There will be moaning. I'm hoping I get some of the good-quality painkillers I got after I had Princess via the stomach slicing method. They made me very happy for an hour or so and then I fell asleep and woke up again just in time for my next dose.

Apparently I'm going to be largely out of action for two weeks. I've set up a complex play date schedule for the baby koalas that I hope all my friends remember, because I'm pretty sure Mr Koala won't. Visions of abandoned children in the schoolyard.

Kind of hoping I'll be able to stagger to my computer chair, but nothing is guaranteed.

Yeah, yeah, any excuse to avoid Paca's rainbows and teddies quiz. It might be different if I were winning....

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Name Thieves

I'm sure you all know about the Baby Name Thieves. You know, the friends, old and new, who are pregnant around the same time as you and who, in the middle of discussions about stroller brands, stretch marks and Braxton Hicks contractions, steer the conversation around to baby names.

'Caspian-Romeo if it's a boy and Amaryllis-Francine if it's a girl,' you confide. 'How about you?'

'Oh, we haven't decided yet,' she says. Then when baby pops out around two weeks before yours (these people are always slightly more pregnant than you) and you get a flowery message announcing that their angel has landed, funnily enough the name is Caspian-Romeo or Amaryllis-Francine. And if ever taken to task, they will airily deny any memory of the name conversation and avow that Caspian-Romeo or Amaryllis-Francine has been their favourite name since they could lisp around the teat of their own baby bottle.

And you have to call your baby John.

It is now my painful task to announce to you that the Baby Name Thieves have cousins. The Novel Name Thieves.

It turns out that my perfectly wonderful first novel (yes, yes, the one in the bottom drawer, no need to remind me) shares its title with the name of a rock band. My second (yes, yes, it's still unsold, no update, again...) shares the name of a blogger. My third I think is as yet unstolen (perhaps because it is very long). The fourth, half finished novel, shares the name of a song. The fifth, well OK, the idea in my head that may or may not ever be written, but which already has a title with which I am very pleased, I discovered in the library today shares the name of...another novel.

Who are these evil people, the Novel Name Thieves? How do they find me? Is this an alien probe situation?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Use 'em - or kill 'em

I've just read a book - rather a good one, I thought initially - that boasts a useless character.

This elderly man appeared at one meal, at which he had to be helped with his food. Occasionally the writer mentioned the number of chairs or people at other meals, which a quick tot-up showed meant he had to be present. Although he was never fed again, not that she mentioned anyway. Once she referred to 'the old man' being helped into another room.

That was it. He had nothing to say, nothing to do, except hang out at the dinner table and not be mentioned.

So why was he there at all? I've thought my way around the symbolic stuff - nothing. Family balance, that kind of stuff - nope, nothing. His presence, as far as I could tell, was completely unnecessary. I wondered if he had had more of a role in an earlier draft, which was then cut, leaving him voiceless, faceless, needing only a chair for the head count.

He was a problem though, when I thought about the book afterwards. This man, who needed help to feed and walk, what was he doing the rest of the time while the family were out and about? Who was looking after him? Rather than just being a presence without consequence, he became a problem in my mind; a loose end that undermined the realism and credibility of the whole story. So what had been rather a good book slid down my mental ratings chart to slumber somewhere at the bottom of the 'well, I won't read that one again, or probably anything else by this author' pile.

If you don't really need a character, if a character has no character, please, please get out your sharp red pen and kill 'em off.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Choose your superpower!

I could write a long and tedious post on 'My holiday', but I'll just say it was great. Chris mentioned photos, and I did think about it, but I'm a scaredy cat about too much personal stuff online. If I find anything suitably anonymous, I might post it later. I think I have a nice one of a deer...

So let's get back to the cool stuff.

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

I'm going for the ability to contract and expand time. Imagine. A little kitty under the wheels of a car. Superkoala expands time so that everything effectively stands still and strolls across to save the poor fluffball. Imagine. A root canal. Superkoala contracts time so it's over in the blink of an eye. Imagine. The doorbell rings. Eek! Mother-in-law! The koala babies are covered in Vegemite, the house is covered in dust and the dog's so dirty it's taking a voluntary bath in the toilet bowl. Superkoala expands time and by the time she answers the door the kids are in their best, the house is sparkling and a perfumed dog is trying to get the pink ribbon out of its hair.

Oh yes, and that whole finding time to write a novel thing. No longer a problem.

Choose your superpower here!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A missing boy - appeal

The meme is below, but first some sad news from Chumplet (Sandra Cormier), who many of you know. I discovered on Chris's blog that Chumplet's teenage nephew is missing. I know I'm a long way away, but thought I would post this and urge you to read the story at her blog. If you know anybody in the area where he has gone missing, please could you make contact with them and see if they have any information or can help in the hunt. Let's see if the blogosphere can help with this.

Who was right?

Feeling much more normal today, whatever normal means. Have ploughed through half of the holiday washing and am considering letting my clients know I'm back - a bit like letting the wild dogs out of the corral when there's a bit of raw meat in the middle of the yard. So before that, let's do the meme...

1. What do you do before bedtime?

Brush my teeth. To brush away the wine (Aerin). While thinking up ways to get other people to write my blog content for me (PJD).

2. What is your favorite sound?

Peace and quiet. But not silence.

3. What were your childhood fears?

The monsters in my wardrobe and the chest of drawers in the spare room – that was a monster in disguise and I was the only one that knew it.
(Aerin, Madonna didn't have to make a come back, she didn't go away! She is scary now, though. Those ropy muscles. Shudder.)

4. What place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back?

I leave everywhere wishing I didn't have to.

5. What has made you unhappy these days?

Leaving my friends and family in Scotland.

6. What websites do you visit daily?

Too many. Evil Editor is one of them (FH). Janet Reid. Sydney Morning Herald. The Scotsman. Paca's quiz. Book Roast. Koalas r us etc (Aerin). Your blogs. More blogs. Although I don't always comment. That's my concession to spending too much time on the internet!

7. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

A melanin-challenged Celt. (Janey, it's as if you knew her...)

8. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?

Well, now I've got 'Can't get you out of my head' stuck in my head, so thanks for that.

9. What’s your favorite item of clothing?

My fur. And if I ever have to cover it up, whatever I've bought most recently.

10. What is your dream for the future?

To introduce a new generation of koalets to the joys of writing....because of my prize-winning novels (Aerin)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm back

I'm fatigued. I'm tagged.

That naughty little minx, Janey, tsk tsk. However it does save me taxing my brain immediately by writing a well-thought out and intelligent blog post. (What do you mean, when have I ever posted one of those? Quiet at the back! I see you Paca. And you, BT.)

I'll answer when my brain catches up with my body. In the meantime, how about making up some answers for me? Let's see how accurate they are...

1. What do you do before bedtime?

2. What is your favorite sound?

3. What were your childhood fears?

4. What place have you visited that you can't forget and want to go back?

5. What has made you unhappy these days?

6. What websites do you visit daily?

7. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?

8. What’s the last song that got stuck in your head?

9. What’s your favorite item of clothing?

10. What is your dream for the future?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The sun has got his hat on

The sun has got his hat on
Hip hip hip hooray
The sun has got his hat on
But it's freezing out today.

Soccer boy has been inspired by the ancestral home of the McKoala Dynasty to turn his attention from soccer to golf. I'm sure it will last a whole day. Princess rapturously happy hanging on to Gran's apron strings and refusing to go out unless Gran goes too. I'm full to the brim with curry and wine. Fish and chips tonight; it seems almost healthy.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ah, the sweet rain of Scotland

Falleth almost every day. Baby McKoalas having a ball with the baby McHaggi and I myself am reliving old times with old mates. Cheers - more wine over here!

No writing, although much inspiration. More wine over here!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hooray, hooray, it's a holi- holi-day

I'm packing up the baby koalas for a visit to the Ancestral Homeland this month, followed by five days in Singapore to warm us up afterwards (October - season of mists and freezing cold winds). So some dust may gather on the blog over the next few weeks, although I'll look in if I can.

I'll miss you!

Koala kisses.

Over and out.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Ranting Returns

As promised, double-barreled names. Or, to put it more accurately, names that should not be double barreled.

Reminder: all rants are personal and utterly biased. If you have a double-barreled name, read on at your own risk.

Some poor folks are ancestrally burdened with names that will never fit on an application form. Take one of Scotland's old families, the Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpes. Triple-barreled. Mmm. You'd feel sorry for them if they weren't so rich. Interestingly, they inherited the Gough-Calthorpe part of their name along with a pile of money in the 1800s. Gough-Calthorpe on its own is an application form challenge, however, so I think we must forgive the current generation their outstandingly pretentious name on the grounds that they had no choice in the matter. And respect the daughter of the family, who while trying to make it as an actress, has dropped two of the three names. Sensible lass.

Clever readers, as you all are, will, I'm sure have noticed the use of the word 'pretentious' in the above paragraph. Yes, that is the emotion double-barreled names evoke in the Furbrain. Within the wondrous shores of that land known as Britain, a great many double-barreled names belong to the upper class. That doesn't greatly bother me. Their names are ancient and have often been created as part of marriage deals or financial settlements many centuries ago. Sometimes it indicated that a woman had married beneath her. Now they're stuck with them.

Times have changed, however. What sets my pretensionometer blaring is when people choose to double barrel their names. None of the reasons often cited work for me:

1. 'Well my husband has a very common surname, so we thought if we used both our names it might make it more distinctive.'

The Koala solution: use your name, let him use your name, better yet, don't marry him at all.

2. 'I wanted to keep my maiden name.'

Go right ahead. Keep it. Don't use his nasty patriarchal name at all. In fact, don't marry him.

3. 'I wanted to keep my maiden name and use his name too.'

Go right ahead. We have these handy slots known as 'middle names'. Or, don't marry him.

4. 'I wanted my kids to share my maiden name.'

See answers to 1, 2 and 3 above. Look, just don't marry him. End of problem.

I will, graciously, make one exception. If a child wants to use his/her family name, as well as that of a step-parent, then that's the child's decision and it's a good way to honour all parents. Only if it's the child's decision, though and said child has been thoroughly warned about the pitfalls of application forms.

And so, on to the connection with writing (yes, there is one!). Had you noticed how many writers, particularly female writers, use double-barreled names either with or without hyphen?

Ladies, it is unnecessary. What's more, it is one of the many, admittedly personal and largely senseless reasons, why I will not take your book off the shelf. Georgette Tingle Bingle, you would be unique under either name. Portia Piffleton Prune, likewise. Jane Smith, I have some sympathy for you, but with everybody else fancying up their names like Christmas trees, why not keep it simple? You might find you are the only one. And I might buy your book.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We take a break from our now-regular ranting... pose a question.

Are you a heavy or a light user of the comma?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Here's another thing I hate...

I'm having such fun ranting! I think we will call this The Ranting Series. I'm sure I can keep it going for quite some time.

This is a writing-related one again, luckily, what with this being a writing-related blog and all. I think.

I cannot stand...when the title of a novel is followed by the words 'A Novel'. As in 'The Story of Pluhjibberycasket. A Novel.' Also 'A Novel by...'. As in 'The Leap Over Frisquagibbet Canyon. A Novel by Persephone Plasket Hughes'.

Usually when I pick up a novel I find most of the clues pointing to it being a novel are obvious enough for me not to need to be told. Often, novels are found in the fiction department, because they are, wait for it, fictional novels (heh heh). In most cases a quick scan of the blurb at the back provides more handy clues that the story within is unlikely to reflect reality (normally particularly obvious in the fantasy genre). Some authors helpfully point out that events and persons in the book are in no way related to real events or people (although am I alone in reading that as a clue that they just might be? Whoops, do you think Aunty Meg will spot that Mrs Jones is based on her, complete with hairy mole, six fingers on her left hand and nasty scratching habit? Hm, better put in that handy disclaimer.)

As for 'A Novel by...'. You are not Jane Austen or any of the Brontes. Really, you're not. This is archaic, unnecessary and, to me, the height of pretension. OK, I might let some elite authors get away with it, but it doesn't mean I'm going to like it. As for the rest of us. No. Don't do it.

The next episode of The Ranting Series will feature double barrelled names. Oooh, don't get me started on double barrelled names...

Feel free to rant on this or any other topic in the comments.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Beverley Hills 9021lessthan0

It was an attempt to relive the good times. The days when we'd huddle around the tv early on Saturday night and attempt to decide whether we fancied Dylan or Brandon the most. (Dylan for me, every time).

So when the new 90210 started, despite the knowledge that it was probably a crime for me to ogle the boys, I thought I'd give it a look. In fact, I hardly noticed the boys. It was the incredible thinness of the girls that caught my eye - after I'd missed their appearance on screen a couple of times, because of their incredible physical absence. Thank goodness they talked, that's all I have to say.

Now I'm a skinny one. When I was at school my nickname was 'matchstick legs' (witty, weren't they?). But even I never achieved such verge-of-death, skeletal skinniness. And this is attractive? Not when I was a teenager (unfortunately for me - I'd have been hot in 90210-land).

Yes, some people are naturally thin, I'm proof (although not as much as I used to be - childbirth, people, childbirth). A magazine here showed photos of two of the girls before they started the series. Slim, yes, but healthy-looking. Now they look like starved ex-show ponies. And, I'd say, they've been made to do this for the series. The justification was that 'well, that's what everyone in LA wants to look like' . Well, that's no justification to me.

It's both sad and dangerous that girls watching might aspire to this look.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Another unsatisfying read

I'm not having much luck with my random reading list at the moment.

My latest disappointment was a horror story, of sorts. It was reasonably chilling, most characters showed some kind of character and it had absurd moments of hilarity to counterpoint the horror - so on that level it kind of worked. just went on and on for 350 pages at the same level of tension. The creepy things that happened in the first creepy scene, hinting at something more, just continued to happen. Creepy scene after creepy scene, all well written, but all essentially repeating the same thing. Spooky noise, check, spooky sensation, check, spooky shadow, check...and on to the intervening 'scene of normality'...then on to the next creepy scene: spooky noise, check, spooky sensation, check, spooky shadow, check.

What was lacking completely was the story arc. There was no build up. There was a climax, of sorts, but the eighteen or so creepy scenes prior to that all did the same thing. Spooky noise, check, spooky sensation, check, spooky shadow, check.

For some reason I read to the end. I guess it was because the other elements were all in place and all well handled, so I did keep going - I did have some sense of being in the hands of a capable writer - but in the end it all fell flat.

What are you reading now? Should I read it?

Blogger is bursting with fun new features at the moment. I'm going to mooch through the 'blogs I'm following' thing later. It might be an easy way to relink to you all! Not sure if I can promise PJD his deserved pole position, though, seeing as I have no idea how it works. It might not even be a linky thing at all.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


We've been hearing on News for the Eucalypt Dwellers about Hurricane Ike and the mandatory evacuation of parts of Texas. No doubt we are not hearing as much about it as our American blogging friends - I'm sure we get the most dramatic pictures - which are pretty horrific - and the headline stories - likewise. It looks to me like half the state of Texas has been blasted away.

I think that had I been asked to evacuate, I would have done so instantly. I'm chicken. I also have kids. A house is a house, a eucalypt is a eucalypt, but it's nothing compared to their lives. I see that most of the people asked to evacuate did so. But some didn't. They chose to stay, despite multiple warnings that fatalities and injuries would result. The post-hurricane photos seem to make it pretty clear that the warnings were not exaggerated. Now rescuers are going in to try and rescue some of the people who chose not to evacuate.

Does that seem right? Yes, in that people are in pain and difficult situations, and they need rescue. There is no reason why their needs should be neglected. Some may have had good reason for staying - for example, perhaps illness meant that some people couldn't leave and family chose to stay with them etc.. But some of these people at least chose not to leave a danger zone. They're on the news here - declaring confidently pre-hurricane 'well a hurricane hasn't carried me away yet, so why should this one'.

So now, there's a little streak in me that is muttering 'well, I hope they rescued all the people that didn't deliberately choose not to evacuate first; the people that either had no choice or weren't expecting the hurricane to veer their way'; I hope no rescuer is putting their life in danger for somebody who made a deliberate decision to stay without good reason'. Is that wrong? Am I bitter, twisted and hateful?!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

When an ending isn't an ending

Thank you, patient readers, for faithfully checking in every now and again, even when there was nothing to read. Here I am again, slightly tattered, but nothing a glass of wine and a big bag of chips won't fix. Video is safely edited and all twelve minutes of it will soon be unveiled, hopefully to the accolade of much corporate success for my client.

So, let's talk for a while about endings.

I read a book recently that didn't have one.

I'll sketch the plot - a woman is kept prisoner by her family in a suburban home, while three strangers who have cottoned on to this try to rescue her. At the end of it, they succeeded. But, you know, it wasn't an ending.

I'm sure that sounds strange, but let me explain that the members of the family and the rescuers all had sub plots. That made the book multi-layered, because every character was detailed, had their own motivation and their own reason for being there.

Not a single one of those sub plots was tied up. Not one. I put the book down feeling utterly discontented and frustrated.

If anyone read Crusie Mayer's workshops last year, they talked about the introduction of plot and sub plots as a formula that had a specific order. I'll probably mess this up, but basically plots come into play like this, in order of importance: ABCDE. In an ideal world they should be tied up in reverse order - least important first: EDCBA. So the overall plot structure of your story looks something like this: ABCDEEDCBA. That's a simple version. But it helps me to understand why the book I read was so frustrating. Its structure was ABCDEA.

It freaked me out. In addition to the discontent and frustration I actually felt slightly disorientated when I put the book down. The loose ends in my head were aching. It took me a few days of thinking and remembering the Crusie Mayer formula to figure out exactly why. There's a dissatisfaction to a half-finished job; and equations without all their elements will never work out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A rare roast

I'm stoked about this upcoming week on the Book Roast. Agents and editors, people, agents and editors! Starting with the wit and cynicism of Evil Editor on Monday, and finishing with the wit and cynicism of Janet Reid on Friday. Hmm. Is there a theme there?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Koala Reads Ril

Thank you for your patience, and taran tara, here is the McKoala version of Ril's beautiful extract.

A Koala Apologises

Mostly to Ril and Robin. For my voicelessness. Have been editing all day (mini movie almost finished!) and haven't had a chance to speak or listen to a word. Must sleep now. Tomorrow, tomorrow...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Koala Back at Keyboard

Filming went great. In that we teetered on the edge of catastrophe on multiple occasions, but every time we managed to think on our feet and make things work. Not the teleprompter though. That didn't work at all. On the day when one of our filmees was depending on it. It turns out that dodgy cables cannot be fixed with a combination of determination and ingenuity; it takes somebody to drive down to Sydney and back overnight to fetch a new one.

What else happened... It rained on a day when we were supposed to be filming outside. The girl who we were filming on Tuesday went away and didn't come back until Wednesday. The guy who we planned on filming from 6pm to 10pm declared that he had to leave at 5pm. The main presenter had the flu and had pretty much lost his voice, plus he had some of his stuff stolen on the train on the way up and arrived in a deeply grim frame of mind. One of our sets turned out to be a dubious old industrial plant with strange-looking folk wandering about who liked to turn on loud compressors whenever we started filming.

And was great. I'd forgotten how much fun filming was. As for directing...mostly I just told people how fabulous they were, to keep them in a good mood, and let them get on with it, occasionally asking them to try a line slightly differently. It seemed to work. The presenter left gushing about how professional we were, and how he looked forward to working with us again. Which begs the question, who has he worked with before?!

Paca quizzers: it took me an hour of wandering around my hotel room with my laptop to find the best position to log on to a very shonky wifi. Eventually, crammed into a corner between the wardrobe and the door I managed to get sufficient signal to log on and...beat you! Such is my devotion.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

No furry friend this week

Much rejoicing among Paca's Quiz set, because I'll be on set daaaahlings, and probably in an internet-free zone.

In the meantime there will be fun and chit chat over at the grill...

Get the gossip for me, would ya? Thanks.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How little time do I have...

...I have so little time that I haven't hung up washing for three days.
...I have so little time that I haven't cut the kids' fingernails this week. (Slasher koalies.)
...I have so little time that the nail varnish I put on for a party two weeks ago is peeling off my fingernails all by itself.

For those following the sandwich vs lunch story, guess what? It was more sandwiches. Although one guy did eat them with a knife and fork, so perhaps that counts as 'proper' lunch.

Back to the grindstone...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First day of filming

Went really, really well!

Clad in my beret and knickers (thanks BT) I lounged in my director's chair, chewing a fat cigar and bellowing instructions through a megaphone.

OK, so clad in jeans and a vaguely funky top...oh, all right, it was cold, so I kept my jacket on for most of the time so nobody even saw the funky top. Anyway, I drifted around artily...trying not to get into anybody's way...

What made it easy was that we were filming a semi-documentary section and our principal interviewee had done this a thousand times before, so he was brimming with useful suggestions and approaches, almost all of which we used. He also added in some off-script information I hadn't had access to and that worked incredibly well.

Once I had made sure that we had all the props we needed, which was a momentary crisis, as the person who was supposed to bring Top Secret Prop A, the only essential prop we need throughout the film, hadn't done it... However, my first lesson in directing was that sometimes you need to fudge things and we fudged it so well that at one point our interviewee forgot he wasn't handling the real thing and while off-camera was discussing the behaviour of Prop A, under the belief that is was the real thing! Fudged Top Secret Prop A is now nestled in a camera bag, ready for to continue its heroic role through the entire movie.

Then it was just a case of making sure I liked the set ups and helping the interviewees with their semi-scripted words - and letting the very experienced cameraman and technical director get on with it.

I think we have a week off filming next week, but I need to do some script adjustments, then we're back on set (that still makes me laugh!) for two or three days the week after.

Oh, and while I didn't have to do any make-up, WO will be gratified to learn that I did purchase coffee and sandwiches. Not because I was the only girl, but because I was the first one there. Note to self: waft in late next time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Welcome to Hollywood

I'll be a bit thin around the blogs over the next couple of weeks, because my involvement in this corporate video is expanding.

First I was the writer. By Tuesday I was 'executive producer'. By Wednesday morning, I'd added make up girl to my duties (was that a demotion?). Now, on Wednesday afternoon, I'm the director. That's more like it. I think.

So, when I'm not updating the script, organising people and locations, I'm quivering with fear. Sometimes all three at once.

Filming starts tomorrow...

Friday, August 08, 2008


I've coined this fabulous new word to use when people ask what I've been doing. 'Working on my work in progress' is what it means.

Now, I don't want this blog to be a catalogue of excuses for lack of effort, but along with womwip (22,000 and counting!) Dull But Paying Work has been putting the pressure on. In a reasonably exciting way, because I've written a script for a short corporate film and the company loves it. Spent yesterday with the client and film crew in a production meeting and doing a photo shoot, plus some background footage. They want me to be involved in the filming process, not something that always happens when you're just the writer. Often the director disappears with the script and returns with something unrecognisable. 'Oh, we just changed a few things.' Gee, thanks. This time I will get to support the creation of my vision, yippee.

The interesting thing from a writing perspective was that during the meeting yesterday, I noticed some things in the script that I hadn't noticed when I was writing. Good things. For example, the way that my use of negative stock footage at the beginning was balanced out by positive stock footage at the end. It reinforces the message of the script in a fairly subtle way, plus the two sections also work as a fantastic structural device - great idea, wish I'd thought of it. But apparently I did. It's all in there and my head was the only one that it came out of.

Weird. Does that happen to you when you're writing?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A blind spot at which you may poke fun

Alexander Solzhnitsyn, one of the world's literary giants has died.

I will, however, have to take the world's word for it that he is a literary giant. I have a flaw; a fatal flaw when it comes to Russian literature.

*blush* I can't keep up with the names.

I've tried several times to read Russian authors, starting from when I was in my teens. I kept abandoning my attempts, assuring myself in a year or two it would all be different.

It still isn't.

Let's start with the sheer number of characters. Invariably there seem to be millions of them. Add that they all seem to have at least three names, any one of which can be used at any time. Plus nicknames. Plus the entire cast always appear to be interrelated, so many of the names are similar. Just can't keep 'em straight in my head.

Sorry, Russian giants of world literature. But I promise to take others' word for your giant-ness without a single pinch of salt. It's the least I can do.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Almost all better

I'm sure your good wishes made all the difference. Husbad now has Man Flu, however, which we all know to be a million times worse than Woman Flu, so keep the good thoughts coming.

This will be a random post about nothing in particular. Let's have some stats though. Not over the past fortnight, because I have a feeling it's more like a month, but The Woman in the Wall is now up to 18,000 words and zipping along. The things I'm putting that poor girl through. Sad, really. Yet fun. I'm glad to be back into it again. I've given myself a deadline for completing the first draft, which means I need to write an average of 1000 words a day for the next couple of months. Not so easy with work, kids and life. Tough love, though, people, tough love.

In other news...we haven't had a soccer update in a while. It's Soccer Boy's last match this weekend. They've only had one loss the whole season. Some of the parents want to keep the team together; others want to move on and strive for higher grades next year. We're torn. All modesty aside, Soccer Boy is probably the best on the team. But he's had an absolute ball with his friends . We're trying to decide what to do. At the moment the thought is to leave him with his friends so he has more fun, hope they get upgraded a little next year and also throw him into every individual course/talent-spotting opportunity that we see so he is ready for when things get competitive in a year or two. Best of both worlds. However, in the event that every good player on the team moves on, barring soccer boy, we may need to move him too. Fingers crossed that some of the other boys also favour fun over ambition!

Soccer Princess continues ambling around the field, playing aeroplanes, patting dogs and chatting to the other team. What a lovely time she is having. Her team fielded a non-regular player a couple of weeks ago due to low numbers and while Princess and her pals trotted about, doing their thing, this kid beavered up and down the field on his own and scored two goals for them. I don't think the Princess and her Princelings even noticed. There was a helicopter in the sky, and that was much more important.

Ho hum. Weather changeable. Winter yuk. I'm going to see Mamma Mia tonight and eating Thai afterwards. Go the Brisbane Broncos.

Yup. Random.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Convalescent koala

Thank you for your thoughts and remedies in the previous post.

To date I have applied:
cough medicine
nasal spray
honey and lemon
several very rubbish library books

Am now hanging on to eucalypt with two claws and a third is twitching.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Share your remedies

I am a sick koala. I dangle from the eucalypt by a single claw.

Tell me your favourite remedies for colds and chest infections. I'll read them when I wake up from my stupor. I will strongly favour anything involving whisky, heat and sleeping.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The power of story

I can't remember her exact words (sniff, memories are fading), but I believe Miss Snark had two sayings. One was 'Good writing trumps all'. The other was 'Plot trumps all'. Or something along those lines. Anyway, there was a contradiction between her much-vaunted belief that good writing was essential, and the draw of a darn good story - a contradiction that she herself freely admitted.

I've just run into this situation in a medical thriller. Not a genre I usually read, but it looked a bit more interesting than most. Here are a few of the issues I ran into within the first few chapters:

A monumental contradiction surrounding the murder weapon
Characters speaking like instruction manuals
Other characters perpetually in 'as you know Bob' mode
A tendency for the main character to forget the second half of a conversation she has just remembered, simply so she can remember it at a more suitable time later in the book
No Reason Not to Tell the Police what the main character has just unearthed
The mysterious ability of the main character and her boyfriend, supposedly madly in love, to have a shower together and not even think about having sex. In fact, as far as I can tell, they never have sex. Despite almost living together. With no good reason not to have sex. Without this being a plot point.

And more. In my eyes, the story was badly written and illogical. And yet...I read it to the end. Why? I think you know. Plot, people, plot. A good story, stuffed with twists and turns, gleamed through all the dross around it and positively forced me to read to the end. And (blush) I enjoyed it.


And/or hop on over to the Book Roast (link in the sidebar) where the chefs are stoking the ovens, ready to grill a few more writers starting Monday.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A little something to keep you busy

I found this quiz at Holly Lisle's site. 69 points for me - how about you? The discussion at the end is interesting, too.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Voices in the dark

Robin is kicking off another listening session at her place. Here is my contribution - again from The Woman in the Wall. (I'd call it a work in progress, except I haven't made any over the past couple of weeks. Work, work, work, sigh).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lovely thing

I was roaming around the blogs today (yes, I know, I should be working) and spotted a little gem over at ex-Snarkling (aren't we all!) Heather Wardell's blog.

This fabulous gadget counts the words in a text and turns them into beautiful word clouds. But there's more to it than that - the size of the words depend on how frequently they are used, so it's also a useful tool to show overuse of specific words. doesn't work on this computer! I think it will work on my laptop, so I'll pull that out tonight and see if I can make some pretty clouds. In the meantime, I couldn' t resist sharing.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What are you reading?

Yes, it's book review time. But in a fast, simple and non-intimidating kind of a way.

What are you reading right now? Not what you think you should be reading, or the book you've always meant to read for your intellectual health, or what you're pretending to read, but what's actually been gathering dust on the nightstand for weeks. What you are actually reading. In all its greatness, and/or all it's shame. Maybe it's more than one thing (see my own review/s, heh, heh). Spit it out! Less than 100 words, please, including what it is, who wrote it and whether or not anybody else should read it.

I'm doing mine in the comments, so flick over there right now...

Monday, June 30, 2008

Work is manic!

Completely manic. And busy too. So I know it's boring, but not much to say, other than, I'm working. I promise to come back as soon as I can with fun and frolics.

In the meantime, Polly (dog) was bitten on the nose while at soccer on Saturday. She's fine now, barring two healing pink spots, but two questions:

Will the black dog-nosey bit ever grow back over the new pink skin?
What should the owner of the other dog have done?

Actually, these answers could make this post quite interesting. I withdraw my boringness for today.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Still working on this...

The Woman in the Wall is up to just over 10,000 words, which is good progress considering how manic life has been for the last couple of weeks. I'm still tinkering with the pitch, and if you're not too bored with me yet, please let me know what you think of this one!

Jac Thompson thinks she's escaped her neglected childhood in Glasgow. Now she's the perfect employee, waging a one-woman war against untidy desks, long lunch hours and post-its with puppies on them.

When Jac loses her job, her estranged father reappears, claiming to be sober, repentant and ready to help her pick up the pieces. Within days he's betrayed her trust, discovered a skeleton in the walls of her isolated cottage and walled it back up again. When a baby's body is discovered near her childhood home, Jac's father builds a priest's hole in the wall and hides alongside the skeleton.

Who is the baby? Who is the woman in the wall? Jac sets out to discover the identity of both.

Neglect is only the start of it. Like her cottage, Jac's life is built on bones.

The only thing that bothers me is that I don't mention the disembodied voice. But maybe I don't have to. It's not as central to this as it was to the original short story, although it does still feature in the early pages.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pinched an idea...

from PJD.

I've covered this much of the world:

Hm, some big gaps there. *looks for passport*

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Hand

Robin has triggered a new craze. Voices. Wow. Here I am.

Powered by

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Everything is relative

It's been quite a week. Client meetings on Monday and Tuesday; urgent work slid in around them and all day Wednesday. School committee meeting on Tuesday night, gym class Wednesday night, girl party here on Thursday night to help a friend who is setting up in the party business, preceded by a day of tidying, cleaning and scrubbing so they could actually get into the house; and cooking to keep them fed once they were in. Plus the usual, volunteering at school and all the kids stuff - homework, sport, feeding time at the zoo etc.

Then today I was at the funeral of a three-year old. Suddenly a few other things seem a lot less urgent.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Not dead, just working

After weeks of little or no work, suddenly I've got heaps going on. It's all work and no play here for a while. I've skimmed past a few blogs, but I'm clearly missing all the good stuff. So help me. Your mission for the rest of this week is to tell me where to go. Whose blog is a must-see? Where's the scandal going on? What's the funniest post of the week?

In return, I'll let you know tomorrow's Must See Blog. See, although I'm working hard, my Fun Radar is already twitching and forecasting a big announcement of the Top Secret Project that I've mentioned a few times and it's happening over here, at Chris Eldin's blog.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Calling Team Koala!

I've been having a fine old time with the Woman in the Wall. For a disembodied voice she's great fun.

Stats for the past couple of weeks...I'll keep it to Woman in the Wall, because I've ignored the rest and it's getting so dull posting '0' all the time:

Stats for the past fortnight
Planning/structuring WiW: 4750
Editing The Woman in the Wall into a cracking start to a novel: 500 - but they're good words!
Also, research.

Here's the pitch. It's a bit long and I suspect it can be cut at the start in particular, but I'm not worried about that at the moment. I'm interested to know what you think. Would this intrigue you? Would you pick it up? I would, but maybe my taste is weird.

*stop here new version in comments!!!*

"When Jac Thompson's carefully-constructed life of lies as a privately educated middle-class daughter of the manse falls apart, she loses her ice maiden image and her job. Does the world really need Jacqueline-Marie, child of a drug abuser and alcoholic? Jac thinks not. Suffering pneumonia in her isolated cottage in Scotland, she descends into delirium, her only companion the ghostly woman's voice she imagines coming from the walls of the cottage.

She is saved from death by her own neglect by the unexpected reappearance of her father, claiming to be sober and repentant, and ready to help her pick up the pieces. But the woman in the wall is still talking to her and her father's repentance is undone by the discovery of a skeleton in the walls of the cottage – or is it by the discovery of a baby's corpse back on their home estate in Glasgow? Jac's father hides from the police by building himself into the wall of the cottage alongside the skeleton while an increasingly distraught Jac tries to puzzle out the connection between him and the baby. And what about the woman in the wall, who is she and what does she want?"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

It's just not authentic without the sharp edges!

Another blow from the Health & Safety Department!

Sword dancing without the swords!

Monday, June 09, 2008

What's in a name?

When I first started commenting on blogs ('twas the late, great Miss Snark that finally made me crack - pause for a moment to remember...), I didn't want to use my real name. I used to use a version of my name on a social site that had several trolling problems and once a woman with serious psychological problems that some of the people on the site got drawn into. So when I got my internet courage back up again I wanted to stay anonymous - but I didn't want to be one of the great flock of anonymi. I wasn't afraid to be identifiable and to show at least some of my personality.

And so, and you all know this bit, McKoala was born. She's me, but fluffier. And vegetarian.

However, recently I've begun to wonder about the sense of this. When my agent took me on a few months ago I created a web site in my real name, but didn't link it to this blog. In the past week or two I've become involved in a Top Secret but Very Exciting Project That You Will All Love and I've decided that that is a place where I would like to use my real name. I've dropped a big fat clue in This Secret Place as to my dual identity, so I think you'll spot me.

And yet... I still don't want my real name on this blog, or in many of the place where I post as McKoala. The most rational explanation is that because I'm trying to sell young adult writing, the utterances of McK, and some of her friends, *wavey*, are not anything I would particularly want my kids reading if they fell into that age group, so why would I want somebody else's kids to read them? That then begs the question, should I be posting anything I wouldn't want my audience to read at all?

But you are also my audience *more waveys*. You are an important part of my network as a writer; many of you have critiqued me, many of you have supported me, many of you have made me laugh and all of you have been nice to me. I like you. And I like not to have to mince my words around you. So I thought I would see if I can handle a dual identity. I'll stay McKoala here and at EE and most other places, but I'll use my real name where I'm being sensible (hah!). Not that I'm planning on being that sensible.

Other people have approached this issue in different ways. Robin and Precie choose to keep their blogs secret, although they post widely under their blog names. Church Lady pushed Takoda's bunny down the canyon, and then was herself pushed by Chris, who felt there was more benefit in using her real name. Conduit has never made a secret of his real name, and has now linked his real-name website to his blog. Others manage dual identities that are clearly connected to one another.

For now, I think I'd still like to retain a level of privacy for the real me. Of course, this could fall apart very fast. I'll need to create a new profile as the real me so I can log under the right name at Top Secret Project, and feel free to place bets on how long it takes me to post using the wrong name in the wrong place...

Bets aside, I'd be very interested in your thoughts on this and your own choices, and, of course, your advice on what you would do in my situation.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

And the winner is...

...pjd. For modesty, Wayne's World and pointing out that since I'm in his list he darn well ought to be in mine. Enjoy your position at the top. in all good competitions there will be first second and third...JJ de Benedictis. Call yourself whatever you want, you'll always be a goblin to me.

And in third place...Sarah. For being nice. See, the rest of you never even thought of that one, did you?

Honorable mentions to Whirlochre, SS@S (wasn't your fault that JJdeB brought up your argument first...). Ello gets her place in the middle and Robin and BT can continue to be happy at the bottom. So to speak. Disgraceful mention to rhinothongbutt for never returning to justify her placement, but some leeway given as I suspect she's been distracted by Top Secret Project. I've added a few other people too, let me know if you want to join 'em.

In a few weeks I may get around to some descriptive stuff, letting the innocent know why they should visit your blogs. Or it may just be funny stuff. Depending on my mood.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Some koalas give other koalas a bad name

As you all know, I'm an innocent, dewy kind of a bear, but check out thisnaughty boy.

More to come on the power of names, also the results of Linky Lovin' (I'm frightened to say that now...). Am busy working on Top Secret Project so it may be tomorrow, so keep posting your arguments as to why you deserve top billing on my link list on the post below.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Linky lovin'

I've been updating my links; check the new improved listing to the right!

Anybody else up for some linky loving? Apply here, with cogent argument about why I should include you, and why you should have the honour of the spot at the top of the list.

In other news...Soccer Boy's team can't be regraded as there are no spots in the grades above them, so Robin can rest assured that their invincibility will remain untainted (we hope, maybe they'll come a cropper this week...). And Princess will be taking to the field - she went to soccer practice last week and loved it, so Saturday mornings are going to be very busy.

*updating to add...current list members are welcome to present arguments as to why they should move to top billing*

Monday, May 26, 2008

Progress report and pain

I think it's been a fortnight or so since I last updated my little progress report, so stats for the past fortnight:

New words: 2000
Plotting The Woman in the Wall: 2000
Re-editing Maureen: 0
New novel research: 0

Yes, the new words and the plotting sections are the same 2000 words. It just makes me feel better to see it like that, OK? There's been much more going on in my head than has been going down on paper. I have a clear structure in my head of how the story continues and some scenes that just haven't made it on to the page yet. I will have to unravel the story that I have already written, too, which is a little offputting as I like it the way it is.

As far as the overall plot is concerned, I did have a bit of a block towards the end. However, on the weekend, while driving to Penrith I suddenly understood what the problem was. Whether I like it or not, this novel cannot have a happy ending. As a result, without knowing exactly what's going to happen, or how, I do know where Jac will be by the end and it's not good. I had no idea I was so reluctant to leave my characters in trouble. That's not to say that there may not be some hope on the horizon, but, on the other hand, there may not be. I think it was my inability to accept this that was causing the blockage.

So here's a question for you all. Do you have a hard time putting your characters through pain? Particularly if it's an unresolvable situation?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

From New Zealand to...Penrith

Yes, after our big trip to New Zealand we spent another weekend away, this time in the exotic suburb of Penrith. Ah, the beauty of the shopping centre! The majesty of the Panthers stadium! Um, well, yes. It was more about the friends that live there.

Soccer Boy's game on Saturday - another flogging of an innocent team. 15-1, with Soccer Boy scoring 5 of the 15. 'Massively undergraded' is now the phrase of the week and, in fact, this week the manager is going to request regrading.

Regular blogging to resume shortly.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It's all about me(me) desk

This is Conduit's tag:

1) You must take a photo of your workspace and post it to your blog.
2) You must provide a few words about it.
3) You must NOT tidy, clean or otherwise stage the workspace - it must be EXACTLY as it usually is (you can see that I followed this rule religiously).
4) (Optional) You can nominate as many or as few others as you wish.

Here's my little beauty:

It looks messier than I realised! This is the spare room, aka the dump. I have two desks, because both are small. I'm planning on buying a new one soon so I can get rid of these. The tall desk wobbles chronically and will probably collapse under me if I don't get rid of it first. The chair is no better Lots of notebooks and reference stuff around the place. The diploma is DH's; mine are in cardboard tubes somewhere (no bragging encouraged in my upbringing). The mug of tea is mine and is a permanent feature.

And I am going to onward tag this's tagged me recently...Whirlochre, Fairyhedgehog and Chris, show us your stuff! Actually I'm not sure it was Chris that tagged me, maybe it was Sarah. OK, you're both up!

Check out Conduit's workspace here.

It's all about me(me)

Twin-tagged by Fairyhedgehog and Whirlochre with this one. I think my answers will be quite boring, but here goes. Conduit's just tagged me with something, too, but that might have to wait until tomorrow.

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. Again, I'm deleting the rest of the rules, because I'm planning on ignoring them.

Inquisition Meme

What were you doing ten years ago?

I was a newly-wed, living in San Francisco, aw, sweet. However, with no working visa I was bored to bits. I did some voluntary work teaching English (which is why there are some kids in SFO who talk about 'post boxes' instead of 'mail boxes', oops), played a ton of tennis, cycled for miles, argued with DH about ironing and acted in a zero budget movie that I never saw (no, not one of THOSE movies). I wasn't writing in those days, unfortunately.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

It's evening and I've had extra kids today due to a teacher's strike here, so I'm planning on getting the kids to bed, finishing the washing-up, making a mug of tea, unwrapping some chocolate and reading a book.

What are some snacks you enjoy?

Anything from a bakery. Yum. Oink.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

This may be too obvious, but I'd spend money.

What are three of your bad habits?

I'm a duvet hogger, I always squeeze the toothpaste from the middle and I don't read enough to the kids (too busy reading to me).

What are five places where you have lived?

Sydney, Oz
San Francisco, USA
Amsterdam, NL
London, UK
Victoria, Canada

What are five jobs you have had?

PR Executive
Shop assistant
Kitchen assistant

What were the last five books you read?

No idea. Sorry, but I'm a serial speed reader at the moment, all library stuff chosen randomly. Some are rubbish, some are good, and I can't remember the names of any of them, which is a comment even on the 'good' stuff available from our library.

No onward tagging. Although if anyone would like to volunteer, feel free.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I'm thinking you all know this...

...but, being distracted by my mini-vacation, I was a bit slow off the mark.

Conduit's got an agent. Not any old agent, either, but a super agent. I'm overjoyed for him. I was one of the beta readers for The Ghosts of Belfast. I even read it twice. It's that good. You'll want to buy it.

More details here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

You all love me when I'm gone...

Two memes, a touch of man lust and some moderate abuse. Just the kind of highbrow input I'd expect from a group of writers while my blog is unsupervised.

As LW points out, there was plenty of net access in New Zealand, but, alas, none for me. The hotel's access was outrageous and DH muttered 'internet addiction' any time I suggested paying for it. Plus, although the kiwis have discovered wireless access networks they have also cleverly discovered how to lock them and make people pay for them, eliciting similar remarks from DH. Very devious of him. If he'd just said 'no', I would have defied him instantly - he never gets away with that kind of 'I'm the boss' behaviour, because, frankly my dears, I don't give a damn. I'm the boss. However, 'internet addiction' pressed right on my guilt button (the one that says 'shouldn't you be spending more time with your family?'), and was insurmountable, although untrue. Clearly.

Anyway, had a fine old time. It's stupid, I know, but I had no idea of what to expect from New Zealand and I loved it. It helped that the weather was fantastic. We walked, took ferry rides, visited Sheep World (only in New Zealand) and bathed in hot springs. Amazing landscape, more like Scandinavia than dry old Oz. Started muttering to DH about his seeking gainful employment there, it's a lot more tempting than some of the other places he's mentioned (as ever, we may be on the move, yes, yes, I'll believe it when I'm on the plane). Soccer boy saw some kids on the soccer field, so he's with me and Princess - well as long as she doesn't have to walk up any more 'dollcanoes' she'll come along...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A few days off

We're heading to New Zealand for a few days, and I've just been informed that internet access is unlikely. Just as I'm finally ruling the roost in 'true's quiz as well! Sigh. There's always something between me and success.

See you next week.

Monday, May 12, 2008


You decide: your kid or your beer?

Check this out.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why critique?

Writing stats for the past fortnight
New words: 0
Editing The Woman in the Wall: 0
Re-editing Maureen: 0
New novel research: 0
Critiquing: 170,000

Clever readers will notice that over the last fortnight I haven't written a word. I've devoted my writing time to critiquing. Why do that, when I could be massaging my magnum opus to splendid completion? (Robin, don't overthink that remark...)

I've got heaps of answers to that question, all personal, all right for me. Your answers may be different. If you critique at all. So my first question to you is, do you critique others' work? If not, why not - and if so, what do you get out of it?

1. Procrastination. (Yup.)

2. Helping others. (Seriously. I was a good little Brownie.)

3. Earning critiques back. (You knew there had to be some self-interest in there.)

4. Comparing my writing to others. (Not in a competitive way, but it's interesting to see other unpublished works - in the raw, before agents/editors refine them (or not, as the case may be) for print.)

5. The pleasure of getting to read something different from what I would usually read. (That sentence sounds ungrammatical. Fix it if you can.)

6. Learning from others. (When I look closely at others' work I see errors or naughty writing habits I don't always see when I read 'normally', and I can bear these in mind when I'm reading/writing my own work (cut out those adverbs!))

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Not enough huggles

Soccer boy told me this morning that the reason he is getting angry so much is because nobody gives him huggles any more, they only hug Princess. So we agreed that whenever he thinks he is getting angry, he should call me and I will administer a hug and we will see if that helps cut down on the rages.

Man, he gets angry at some seriously inconvenient moments.

I'm a pathetic poster this week, I know; just a bit busy in yanno, that real life stuff.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I am so vile

I can't believe I'm posting this.

2,157,120How Many Germs Live On Your Keyboard?

Apparently that's the equivalent of four hundred and sixty something toilet seats. Thankfully for all who know me I'm an obsessive handwasher. Looks like I need to be.

*dashes to computer store for keyboard cleaning products*

Now I need to know how many toilet seats your keyboards are harbouring!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Slice of life

If you would like to read Robin's story, scroll down a bit, and it's waiting for you.

Meanwhile up in the eucalypt... Not much writing going on, but heaps of critiquing. Three people sent me stuff on the same day, two of which were full novels! Now I love you all, but...hey, I love you all, and I'll do it! Then, once you've all drained me dry, sorry, once I've finished, I'm going to revisit the Woman in the Wall and do a bit of a rewrite. Then, I think I'll send the story out to a mag somewhere (brilliant suggestions for mags gladly accepted). Once she's on her merry way, I'll revisit again and see if I have actually written part, or even an elaborate synopsis for most, of a novel. I'm still having ideas surrounding the characters (that idea salmon has quite taken to it), which is a good sign, so I'm wondering if the process has kicked off more than a short story.

I smell of wet dog, because we bathed Polly today. Not a favourite activity for anybody. However, before that we made her a little obstacle course and had her bounding over jumps and going through tunnels, and she loved it! The treats at the end helped. Soccer Boy loved it more. Those are the moments of dog-owning that he likes.

Soccer Boy scored a brilliant goal this morning. His team of little mates are kicking the pants off all opposition. We had our narrowest match today - six nil. Last time was thirteen nil. The word 'misgraded' echoes around the oval.

Princess has a birthday party this afternoon so all is right with her world.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Author's week with RTB!

Check out Eldin's blog for author's week, starting now! Some awesome writers, some great competitions and some unbelievable prizes! * ** ***

* there is talk of a camel
** Ok, so Josephine Damien may have started that one
*** Some of us may have joined in...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Robin's story - fourth and final part

The next week, in the middle of the week, and almost into September, Randall T. asked me if I could call in sick, if I could go with him on a trip out of town, down I-65 to the small towns up and down it, and him seeing some doctors and selling them his pharmaceuticals. So I called in sick and I rode down into the country with Randall T. while he peddled his wares, or his pills, anyway, so we could go on a small-scale grand adventure for a couple of days.

He told me he was tired of me always being in jeans all the time. I’d gone back to wearing them now that I was at his house when we were together, so he bought me this zip-up brown jumpsuit, thin chocolate-brown corduroy, new for our trip. It was soft like velvet. When I told him that, about it feeling soft on me and how I liked that, Randall T. said it was perfect for me then, because I was soft like velvet, too.

He had a CB in his work car, so he could jabber on it and say over when he was done, like the truckers all did. And he had a handle he went by, like a code name to play secret road agent. It wasn’t quite as stupid as Glad-he-ate-her, although it was close.

So I wore my new jumpsuit, there at the end of summer, sitting beside Randall T. in the car while he played with his CB all the way down the highway, him talking to the truckers, and then grinning big. A couple of times when a truck flew on past us, the trucker would get on his con and say something about that little beauty that guy in the Buick had along for the ride, and Randall T.’d look over at me and grin again, and he’d say, Bet you liked hearing that, didn’t ya Renae? And I kind of did like it, but I was too embarrassed to say so.

I sat in the car and waited while Randall T. went in and out of doctor’s offices here and there all the way down to Cave City. Then he turned down a slip road off I-65, and we called it a night at a roadside motel, even though it was only afternoon.

The hotel had a pool. I never got the chance anymore to swim in a pool. I hadn’t been swimming since I’d known Eugene, but I didn’t mention him when I said I wanted to jump in the warm water. When I said that part to Randall T., he told me that he’d take me.

Maybe it was the lateness of the day, and the angle of the sunlight, shining straight across my line of vision, brightening everything in sharp relief along its path, the turquoise of the pool paint, the wide slats on the lounges. Maybe it was the high hum of the air conditioners, lined up in all the windows and running full tilt. I don’t know. Maybe it was those things, or maybe it was just being away. But breathing time was gone. And it had been replaced with a funny feeling, that I wasn’t there, that I was a moment in time, that I had become a part of memory, it’s just that I hadn’t left yet. There are moments, pieces of time that you punch through and you see it and you know this, even if you can’t find the words to say you see it. Like there, sitting at the hotel pool with Randall T. And me wearing a silky cranberry-colored bikini and me just jumping into the water to get wet, because I was hot, and coming up out of the water, feeling around me, hearing it move around my ears, leaning back in and dipping my head backwards into the water to smooth my hair back. And climbing out and walking over to Randall and hearing a boy, a boy in the pool resting his elbows up on the concrete edge, asking Randall if he was my daddy. And Randall saying What like that embarrassed him, and then him saying to the boy No, no, she’s my daughter, kid, and he stood up and walked to me with a towel and leaned over and said in my ear, Did you hear that, Renae, what that kid said? And I said I did and I said I thought it was funny and don’t worry about it, Randy, is what I said.

And then we walked over to a different set of lounges away from that rude boy and we sat down, but Randall sat down right beside me there in the hot sun. He sat there on the same lounge with me, just sat, and we didn’t lie back, and the sun went under a cloud just then, and you know how even on a hot, hot day, if there’s a breeze and the sun goes under a cloud, you can get a shock of cool air hit your skin? I got a shock of cool right then, and I shivered, and Randall put his arm around me, and he put his leg right up against mine, to warm me up, and he rubbed on my other leg with the white hotel towel. The air was quiet all around us and the only sounds seemed far away right then, like the traffic noise out on the highway in front of the hotel. And the air conditioners, running and running.

Randall T. told me stories that night, lying on the bed after we’d made love. How he wanted to move to Colorado and ski and make a mint with a plan he had, how he was gonna do just that, and soon. How he’d lost his one eye when he was young. How he’d tried to keep his head very still while they thought his eye was healing, how the healing didn’t work. How much he loved his little girl, but what he really wanted were some sons.

The next morning, we drove back home, me to Jeff and Tony; Randall T. to his big house and whatever he did with his weekends.
The next week was the week before my birthday, and Randall T. said we’d celebrate together. When I said, What day are we going out, he said, We’ll see, honey.

On the Tuesday night, which was just about my regular night by now, I went out to his house. He’d rolled a big joint for us. We toked away on it for a while, made love on his big brown bear rug. Lying there after, the nestling didn’t feel quite right.

“A funny thing happened last weekend,” Randall T. said. When he went to pick up his little girl for his visitation right, his ex-wife, Veronica, answered her apartment door in her panties, and nothing else. “I guess she thought I’d be turned on. I wasn’t, though.” He looked over at me, looking solemn, looking serious as a heart attack. “I wasn’t.”


I hadn’t known Randall T. all that long, but I already knew a lot about him. He wore leisure suits. His favorite one was a beige polyester number with dark brown stitching. Polyester Western Man was what I figured he was going for. I figured Randall T was a little like me; he had lots of things he could be but since he couldn’t decide which one he was still tinkering. He was a western man, a hunter and a skier; he was a pharmaceutical sales rep, he was an aging hippy pot-smoking fool, he was into sex and bunnies, and he wanted to be rich. He was everything and nothing at the same time, but he was making a lot more money than I was while he was making up his mind, so no one was laughing at him, at least to his face. That’s how it seems to work in life. Even if you’re an idiot, if you have money, people don’t tell you you’re an idiot. They just smile, and hang around for handouts.

So the next week, on my birthday, I drove up to Cincinnati, and got the job at the Playboy Club, on the day I turned twenty-one.

Driving home later on, in the dark, back down to my city, life took on the feeling of cruise control, which is a good and dangerous feeling. Dangerous because the drive itself became a game and seemed more important than anything else that had just happened, with the longhaired gray suited manager man, with the changing into the blue Bunny suit, with the saying I’d start next Monday, when I hadn’t quit my old job yet.

But that didn’t matter there in the dark on the long interstate drive back home. Keeping the same speed, darting in and out of the traffic and taking my chances to keep my speed constant, chances I’d never take when using the pedals to speed up or slow down. The game of it became more important than the point of the journey home. The journey became the point. It took me over. If I could’ve kept driving with no end in sight, well, that would‘ve the best thing. My MG didn’t have cruise control. But that night, it sure felt like it did. And that part was good.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Quick break for a meme for Aerin

"An epithet, a characteristic word (or phrase) replaces or is used together with a person's proper name. Sports and entertainment are among the many rich sources of epithets. Capitalize epithets, but do not use quotation marks."

Science and Technical Writing: A Manual of Style. Philip Rubens, General Editor.

This will make sense to Aerin and now she has to come visit us here!

Robin's story, part 3

Randall T. opened the door almost as soon as I knocked. He walked me inside, to a wide room with stone floors and thick-piled brown rugs. A fireplace sat directly across from the front door, built into a wall of stone running along the back of the house. The room was a cavern.

“Come and sit down with me for a few minutes – before we have dinner, “ Randall T. said, motioning me along with him on into the room.

I’d been thinking and thinking about having it happen like this, with me sitting on his sofa, with me sitting in his house, and him right beside me, grinning big. We were both grinning big, me from the shock of finally finding myself sitting on his sofa, and him, I suppose, from the look on my face as I sat there, all content.

Randall T.’s sofa sat in the middle of his long living room, and, you know how you notice weird things when you’re nervous and excited? Well, I wasn’t nervous, but I was all excited, and in my heightened state, I could feel all the way through my jeans, the taut warmth and texture of the brown leather underneath me, with its deep polished sheen and its hard nubby pillows of red-brown-beige Indian prints propped up behind my back.

I felt something in my hand, and when I looked, I saw I still had my keys in my hand. I was worried about making any mark on Randall’s leather, so I got up and walked over to where I’d put my purse down, and I leaned over to put my keys inside it.

When I stood up and turned around, Randall T. was watching me. He looked a little strained as I explained this to him about my keys; he got a funny look on his face. I thought maybe he was mad, thinking about me making a mark on his good leather.

But then he said something about how nice it was to see me bend over; how women didn’t know how nice that was, seeing them bend over from behind. And then he got another funny look on his face. When I heard his bending over speech, I knew what the rest of his looks had been about.

He showed me to a round wooden table by one of the front living room windows, a nd he walked into the kitchen to carry in our dinner. When I asked him if he wanted any help; Randall T. said no, he wanted to do this all for me, just for me, and I should let him wait on me.

I tunred around in my chair and looked around the room again while Randall T. was gone. There were animal parts everywhere. There was a big deer over the fireplace, a buck with antlers. There were lamps on the end tables like none I’d ever seen before; their stands were made of animal legs. The hoofs were still on them, holidng up the lamps like they used to hold up the deer they used to be part of. There were snowshoes, or I guessed they were snowshoes, since I’d never seen one before, hanging on the fireplace wall, and they looked like they had animal tails hanging up there with them.

Randall T. walked in then, so I turned back around to the table. He brought me his meal of little dead birds on rice, and some green beans, and some wine. The dead birds, he said, were quail.He told me he’d baked them for me, just for me, because they were little, and he thought I’d like them, small like that. I said thank you.

Looking at my dead bird made me feel bad. I moved it around on my plate while Randall T. was talking to me and biting into his bird. The flesh came apart here and there while I forked it around, umtil it looked like I’d eaten some of it, and that was good. I ate the rice and the beans, and drank the red wine Randall T. poured me. I didn’t like it much.

He cleaned off the table pretty fast, and he asked me if I wanted to see his patio with him. We walked out the kitchen door to the side yard of his house. He switched on the patio lights as we walked outside. There were containers of pot everywhere, sitting alongside lounges, sitting on wooden tables. Everywhere.

“Aren’t you worried the cops are gonna find out about these, and you’ll get in trouble?” I said. “I mean, everyone I know hides theirs.”

Randall laughed. His laugh sounded filtered. He kept his lips almost together when he laughed, so his laugh made a kind of wet air sucking sound as it came and went in and out of him. It made him sound like he wasn’t worried about anything, ever, world without end, amen.

“Nah, Renae.” Randall T. laughed his little filtered laugh again. He motioned all around us with an arm and a hand, motioning out into the blue-black darkness, cut off like a wall from the reach of the patio lights. “Look around, honey. We’re out in the woods here. No one comes back here without a reason.”

He looked down at me. “Don’t worry. It’s safe. We can do whatever we wanna do out here, and nobody’ll ever be the wiser.”

Randall let out a breath like he was exhaling something better than only air. “Ready for some of the best weed you’ll ever have?” He had the funny look on his face again, the hard-jawed look men have when they’re waiting, when they’re waiting and they’re finished with the smiling. So I said yes.

I didn’t want Randall T. to know I couldn’t tell good weed from bad, that I didn’t even know how to roll a joint because Jeff and Tony rolled them for me, so as I enhaled and held and exhaled along with him, out there on his patio, sitting on the side of one of his big wooden lounge chairs together, I nodded and agreed when he told me this was some of the best shit anyone around here could ever get. Pretty soon, I was messed up in the good way of being messed up, when everything seems right and worth doing, when life isn’t just one long thick line of daily bore. That’s when we took our clothes off, and we walked inside and up his stairs.

He had a furry brown rug up in his bedroom, spread out over part of the gold carpet underneath it, a big rug of a dead bear’s fur, and the bear’s head on there, too, right in front of Randall T.’s bedroom fireplace. And we were laughing and he had his hands on me and I had mine on him, just where he wanted me to, just where he told me, and pretty soon I had my head leaning back of the back of that bear’s dead head, and Randall T. was inside of me.

After, we smoked another joint, and we laid out there on the rug in the dark, and we told each other stories. And he told me some things about himself that I should’ve hated, but I didn’t hate them in my altered state, in the altered place where lives the part of you that doesn’t have to play pretend. That he had done some bad things with women, but he was doing better now.

You wouldn’t think this was a secret, but there you go, turns out it is. It’s a secret you have to find out for yourself every time because no one believable will tell you out loud, that you can be good and bad and it can work out like that. Good and bad, and no one tells you being this way makes you clearer in the head than the just being only good can make you. Like me, fucking men sometimes just for the feeling of it and the look of the hairs on their bellies, or the line of their thighs, and how beautiful it is and how precisely alive, to look at and to see and to lean over and feel with your cheek and smell of as you’re feeling of it, the hairs and the belly skin and the place where they grow, right there at the bottom of their bellies.

And Randall T. said, as we settled down into the fur beneath us, as we settled down to rest, wouldn’t it great, wouldn’t it be something, he said, if he had a bunny spraddled over this brown bear’s big head, and I was that bunny.

“Man,” he said, “man, that would really be something.”