Monday, June 30, 2008

Gems and jewellery

I love gemstones and I love designing jewellery. I have absolutely no training other than what seven years working in a jewellery store gave me but I love it anyway. I have a small collection of gemstones I've bought, mostly from e-bay.

As with nearly everything else I do, I have a system. I have found a few sellers on e-bay I trust and I generally stick with them. I'll even pay over my limit with them sometimes because I know I'll get what I expect. I have a limit to pay for items. Generally it's $20 including postage. Sometimes I'll go over but not often. I know $20 isn't much, especially when you include postage. Usually the adage 'you get what you paid for' works true as well so my little stash of gems isn't exactly a treasure trove.

Occasionally something really special will come through and it'll be a total fluke. I have a ruby that fits into that category. It's 1.35ct pear shaped and the most gorgeous pigeon blood colour. I have another ruby that definitely doesn't fit that description. It's 6ct oval cabachon and has some very interesting pink and white striations through it. No one could even suggest it's a good stone, but it is interesting.

When I can I have items made using my gems. I designed a set (pendant, earrings, ring) for Lauren using some lovely blue sapphires I got a couple of years ago. David has a ring with a 1ct black star sapphire set in it. The star is a bit iffy unless you get it in the right light but the ring looks great. The stone cost me 99cUS + postage so I'm really pleased with the result.

The last couple of weeks I've been buying for my sister, Sandra. Tomorrow I'll be posting the little stash I've collected for her. By the end of the week she'll be having fun designing jewellery for two matching blue sapphires, 10 coloured sapphires and 17 little amethysts. I'll send a couple of drawings of my own with them. Sandra and I don't see each other very often and don't really have a lot in common either. I'm enjoying buying gems for her because it gives us some time to be together, albeit via email, that we haven't had for a long time. It's lovely to touch base with her and share something with her.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bookcases and efficiency

I love bookcases. When I decided to convert my spare bedroom into an office I had three bookcases made to fit into the built-in wardrobe (almost floor to ceiling). I had a smaller one made to fit under the window and a double-sided one on wheels made so I could pull it over to my desk and pick books from it as I worked. They're gorgeous. When I moved house, I had the bookcases pulled out and brought them with me. This office (another spare bedroom) is a different size and shape but I've managed to fit two of the bookcases into the built-in wardrobe and the rest around the room.

My only problem is the bookcases are over-full. I suspect it wouldn't matter how many bookcases I had, there'd always be more books than shelves. I spent all day today tidying one bookcase. Before I moved I had all my fiction books sorted alphabetically by author and my non-fiction by subject and then alphabetically by title. The system was brilliant. I've been studying since I moved here and haven't sorted my books yet. Having one bookcase sorted doesn't really mean much in the scheme of things. It's one of the fiction cases and, while it's not yet in alphabetical order, I do have all the books by one author together. That way when I get around to doing the alphabetical bit I won't have to search all over the room for each author.

It's exciting. I can look up now and see a whole shelf of Asimov, another of Eddings and Irvine and Dart-Thornton. Still another has Kevin J Anderson and W A Harbinson and Matthew Reilly. Whenever I'm looking for a book by any of those authors I'll know exactly where to find it. Only two large and three smaller bookcases to go. At least the fiction and non-fiction is already separated. That makes it easier. The non-fiction is also already arranged by subject, except for a couple of books that haven't been put away yet.

Having books easier to find makes it easier for me to read exactly what I want as well as making research easier. With all my gardening and herbal law books together and near all my medieval history books, I can find just about anything I need for my current w-i-ps. They're all just behind me too, so I can roll my chair back, grab a book and roll back to the computer, all in just a couple of seconds. I love being able to use things efficiently.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bedtime stories

I don't write short stories much any more; I've focused on novels for a while now. But this week I wrote a short story, just for Black Friday. A murder mystery.

My daughter, Lauren, rang after work last night. She finished around 10pm so the phone rang about 11 - lucky I was still up. We haven't seen each other for a while - nearly two weeks - so there was a lot to catch up on. She told me about work and how busy she's been. I told her about my new short story.

Immediately the response was "read it to me?". I picked up the papers, she crawled into bed with her cat and I read her the story over the phone. It's been a long time since I read her a bedtime story.

It reminded me of when she was little. Most nights she'd already have the book picked out and on the pillow next to her when she got into bed. Some nights she couldn't decide which story she wanted to hear so she asked me to make one up. We had a system where she'd say a sentence to start the story off, then I'd continue with a few sentences. Then it was her turn again. By the end of it we'd created a story that often dealt with all the problems she'd faced during the day or the week and found solutions for all of them - and all in the guise of an adventure story we made up ourselves.

It was fun. Just like last night was. I might not have gone to bed until nearly 1am but the time spent chatting with Lauren was precious. I am so lucky. I think just about anything else in my life could fall apart and, as long as Lauren was still part of my life, I'd feel like the luckiest person in the world.

btw: Lauren loved my murder story. She said it was scary and was so graphic she could imagine it happening in her home. High praise from someone who is usually stoicism personified.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A good reason to kill your mother

It's black Friday tomorrow and I have a meeting with fellow writers. We get together twice a month to critique each others' work, each chocolate and chat. It works well. We usually try to do something different on special occasions and black Friday is one of those times. We'll dress in black, have candles and maybe some wine.

Being the bright spark I am, I suggested those who had time could write a murder mystery to share on the evening. Now I have to do it. It was my bright idea, afterall.

I have a great scene for the victim (already dead at the beginning of the story). I have a murderer and a method of discovering who she is and how she gets what she deserves. I just can't think of one believable reason for her to kill her mother. I know she did it, I know it was planned and deliberate; I was there.

So far I've thought of:

Her mother refused to give her money to go to America to be discovered (time line too great)
Her mother told her she had to move out and make her own way in the world (who wouldn't want to)
The girl was abused and blames her mother for allowing it (done to death)
Her mother was co-trustee of a trust fund from her grandfather and wouldn't release the principal before she turned 25 (the other trustee had agreed to release the principal)

I'm still thinking about the last one. It might work if I can tweak it a little. I'm still looking for a logical reason. In my brain, everything has to have a reason; a logical reason. This girl is obviously crazy, so her reason won't be logical to me, but it has to be for her. I keep circling around greed and power as reasons for murder - they make sense to me - but I'm missing something here. This girl's motivation is something different and I can't grasp it. Maybe I should look at passion too.

And I have to finish this story tonight - the meeting's tomorrow and I've promised home baking so won't have any time tomorrow for writing.

Any ideas?

Monday, June 9, 2008

The murderers I have taught with

Last week the news was full of a massive raid for pedophiles. Four teachers were involved (so far there have been more than 80 arrests nation-wide). Every time something like that happens (thank heaven, not very often) a wave of dismay, disgust and disbelief washes through my workplace. It doesn't matter what school I'm in, the emotions and questions are the same. How could anyone think for a minute that treating children like that coud be right? How could we (as in someone close to the people) not realise and stop it earlier? Those poor children.

We don't dwell on the topic long. It's too upsetting. Just the thought of what the children have gone through and still have to go through in their lives because of it squeezes the heart and brings tears. We move onto other macabre topics that can have a humourous (bizarre humour, that is) twist when viewed from the distance of years. Last week, Nola, a lady I work with, came out with a classic phrase: "The murderers I have taught with".

The woman should have a blog with that title. She has enough stories to keep it going at least twelve months if she blogs a couple of times a week. Last week we heard of a teacher who apparently killed his wife, chopped her into pieces and put her in a garbage bag in the boot (trunk) of his car. At the weekend he took members of his family on a bushwalk in a forest and while they went ahead, he dumped the body. Bizarre. (My apologies, Nola, if I have any of the facts wrong.)

It's amazing what people don't notice about others around them. Even if things are noticed, they're often dismissed. No one wants to intrude. No one wants to get involved. Everyone wants to believe there's some reasonable and logical explanation. No one wants to believe that ordinary looking people do terrible things. It would mean we'd have to suspect everyone. We'd have to admit our life isn't as safe as we want it to be.

On one radio show, I listened to the announcer suggest an interview during the application process for a blue card (child safety certificate) would identify dangerous people. Everyone in Australia who works with children has to have a 'blue card'. It's basically a criminal check to make sure no convicted pedophiles get jobs close to children. I'm still wondering how an interview would help. People are innocent until proven guilty. If they don't have a conviction we can't accuse without reasonable evidence. We can't conduct an interview and say "You look odd; I think you're a pedophile". It's not as if they have tattoos on their foreheads proclaiming it so.

I feel very strongly about children being treated well, but I also feel strongly about making sure we don't set up a system of discrimination or harassment in our efforts to protect them. The system might need a review and we all know the law is years behind the technology, but everyone's rights have to be protected, not only childrens'.

Knee-jerk reactions have to be avoided. Everyone (ie most people) is horrified and upset that such a thing can go on under our very noses but we have to make sure our reaction is responsible, reasonable and rational. Witch hunts don't work. All they do is set up situations so that society becomes a scary place. People become afraid to express themselves in case it's mis-interpreted. That's not what our democratic lifestyle is about.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Olympic Dreams

This semester at uni I was fortunate enough to be part of a wonderful team of people. No doubt they'll all make their way into the blog at some stage. Tonight I want to talk about Heather.

Heather has booked tickets to China for the Olympics. She has clothing and banners in Australian colours and is getting really excited about seeing her daughter compete in the water polo. And they don't even know yet if she's made the team. It'll be another two weeks before it's announced.

I can remember Heather mentioning the training schedule early in the semester but it didn't click that it was serious training. I just assumed it was a fun thing, two or three times a week with a weekend game. But no, we're talking six to eight hours a day, seven days a week for months and months, just for a chance.

Heather's daughter is overseas now, training with the team and it's looking positive. Looking at Heather's face, the smile that never quite settles, the eyes darting with excitement and apprehension together, I began feeling some of the thrill of possibility. What a brilliant experience.

I hope Heather's daughter makes it. The whole family has worked really hard for this chance to compete at this level. Her daughter deserves to be able to get out there and strut her stuff. And Heather deserves to be able to watch it and let her pride in her daughter overflow.