Thursday, December 17, 2009


Isn't it amazing how much better the day looks when your hair is cut and no longer flopping in your eyes? At least that happens for me. I feel much more in control. That probably sounds like I'm a control freak and I'm not really. I can hear my family and friends gasping at that comment, imploring me to tell the truth, but each of them only sees the parts of me I show them. Sometimes I play it up, just for a reaction.

Anyway, back to the hair. My hairdresser fitted me into his lunch break yesterday and didn't even charge me for the appointment I missed. Of course I took him a bottle of homemade chutney and a bottle of wine as a peace offering so that might have helped. Now I can wash my hair, shake it and leave it - I rarely brush it before night time - and I can focus on the rest of my day and not on keeping my hair out of my face. Calm has once again descended.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I always thought that I'd get more done over the holidays just because I have more time, but it's not the case. If I'm not so busy I need to stay super-organised I seem to be prone to distractions.

Yesterday was a perfect case in point. I had one place to be - the hairdresser at 2.30pm. So what did I do all day? I admired the beetroot chutney I'd made the day before - several times because I love it when new recipes work out. I read a couple of e-books - I REALLY need to get myself an ereader; my laptop is way too heavy and hot. I made apricot jam, which didn't set. That or course had me running into the kitchen every ten minutes just to make sure it didn't set. It set on the saucer and what was left in the pan but not in the bottles. Go figure. That kept me occupied for a good many hours - I really hate it when recipes don't work, especially when I've been so careful with measurements. Sigh - that means I'm spending time today fixing the apricot jam. I did a bit of tidying as well. The cleaners come on Tuesday and it's always nice for them to have access to things so they can actually clean them and not spend their time putting things away - I can do that.

And where in all this was the hairdresser? On my calendar, written in the correct day and with the correct time. My head just kept telling me the 14th of January was Tuesday. I looked at the calendar at least a dozen times during the day. I worked with files on the computer that had been saved on the 14th. I checked the date on the computer several times too, and never once did it click that Monday was the 14th and I should go out.

And this close to Christmas, my chances of getting another appointment are slim. Looks like I'm growing my hair longer for a while. Great - I hate hair flopping in my face so I'll be pinning it back and looking like some over-aged preschooler.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Coconut Ice and anniversaries

I just realised why I have a sudden urge to make coconut ice when it's not my favourite sweet and my sister was always much better at it that I'll ever be.

Today is the 19th anniversary of the death of my father. He was one of life's true gentlemen. He was kind and thoughtful and gentle in his dealings with others. He was the person who taught me never to judge someone else, and especially not because they were different to me. According to my father, if I didn't make friends with people who were different professions, social status, races, cultures or sexual orientation, I would be the poorer for it. In 1960s/70s small-town Australia, that was a difficult stance to have, but he was right. My life is richer because of the man he was. I still miss him every single day.

Christmas Cooking

For the third year in a row I've made the same thing to give to people at Christmas. Spicy Tomato Chutney, Apple Jelly and Lemon Butter. I need to do another intensive cook-off before Christmas for the family gifts.

These preserves are all really easy to make and always popular so it's not a disaster that I keep doing the same thing, but I think I need to try something different. I should pull out my old sweets thermometer and make something like coconut ice. That was always my dad's favourite - until my sister decided pale pink was boring and made a bright green batch.

The only problem with cooking at this time of year is the weather. We're regularly over 30oC every day with the nights rarely going below 25oC so it gets very hot in the kitchen. I've done most of my preserving in the middle of the night as it's simply too hot to do anything during the day.

I'm thinking about getting a Lilly Pilly tree for the back yard. That way when it fruits I can make Lilly Pilly Jelly. You never see it around anymore. It's one of those things that reached its peak during the 1930s depression and has gradually slid into obscurity. It's a pity because Lilly Pillies make a fantastic jelly, deep pinkish red with a slight tartness underneath the sweetness.

I've thought about other fruiting trees but I'm not really much of a gardner. Anything that can't survive my neglect won't do well in my garden. I have enough trouble remembering to water the chilli bushes, let along remembering when to spray for bugs - and where to find a natural spray because I don't like to use chemicals if I can avoid them. I keep bugs and grubs out of my garden by companion planting. Everything is mixed together: vegetables, herbs and some flowers. All of them are planted next to things that will either help them grow better or keep bugs at bay. I'm happy with the yield I get, especially since more often than not I forget to water.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NaNo comparisons

I just opened the novel I was working on before I began NaNo.
  • In twenty months writing Warrior Pledge I've written just over 50000 words.
  • In thirty days of writing No Evil Star, I've written just over 50000 words.
Of course Warrior Pledge is a much better story so far because I've been editing and plotting story arcs and character arcs and all those sorts of things along the way but it doesn't change the fact that it's taken me nearly two years to write the same amount I wrote in a month.

And I have exactly the same problems with both of them, even with all the preparation and editing that's gone into Warrior Pledge. Apparently all my characters sound the same. I can't see it which is why it's a problem. In my head they all come across as totally different people but I'm obviously having a problem getting that across on the page.

I'm not going to worry about it tonight. I've given myself the rest of this week to just fudge around, writing a word here, a paragraph there and thinking about the research I need to do and reading an article here and there. Next week I'll begin a program of mimimum standards:
  • Minimum one hour writing
  • Minimum one article read
  • EVERY night

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I made it!

I hit the 50k mark this morning. I was beginning to wonder if I had time to do it, this week's just been crazy. I've validated at 50518 and I'll leave it at that for the moment. The book's not finished. I've written a chunk of it and then this morning I skipped to the final scene and wrote that. That was enough to slip me over the 50k. I need to do some plot sketching to make sure the plot arc flows. I have to work out exactly where everything fits so I don't leave any great gaping holes in the logic - there are heaps there now. But all that will take time that I don't have at the moment.

There's a workshop on at uni next week that I really need to go to. That requires a whole heap of reading and 'serious thinking' and I have only two evenings to do it all in. Normally I'd take a couple of weeks to do it and feel prepared but I don't have that time.

Today is another family day. It was my birthday last week so Lauren has been spending lots of time with me. We went shopping yesterday. It was only going to be for an hour or so but it ended up being for most of the day. We both hate shopping, particularly close to Christmas, so it was a real feat to do it. I now have a new chair for my office - a nice red leather one that makes me sit straight. And I have new eyebrows. Lauren says I'm at the age now where I looked washed out so I needed to get my eyebrows coloured. Lovely child.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 26

The last two weeks have been all up and down. Last week I struggled to fit writing in with the research and this week I've had a killer headache. Serves me right for sitting at the computer for five hours straight on Sunday, I suppose. All my muscles are still frozen solid but at least the pain's gone for a while. Just over 46000 tonight. Only 4000 to go to target.

This week is also my birthday so I have a lot of family-oriented stuff happening. Last night Lauren took us to dinner. I walked into the Modern Thai restaurant and she had everything organised. She works at the restaurant so she'd set the table herself, chosen the wine and the food and tea. It was wonderful. All I had to do was sit there and enjoy the company. I know I've said it before but I'm so lucky she's mine. I can't think of a better daughter or a better friend. She's fantastic.

I floated an idea with Lauren at dinner last night. I've been thinking of selling all my property and consolidating, buying two houses in the same street so she can live in one and I can have the other. She looked at me in total disbelief, then snapped, "We had that and you left." She's right. When she bought her first house and moved out of home, she bought a house at the other end of the street from me. Then a couple of years later I moved to another suburb. She's obviously still not happy about it! Now that's love. ;)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 21

I went to the library yesterday and borrowed about a dozen books for my research. By the end of the weekend I'll have a list of others I want to buy. I figure if I'm going to spend three years analysing them I'll want to writing notes in the margin - can't do that with library books. When NaNo finishes I'll begin compiling the annotated bibliography and doing the literature review. I'm really looking foward to it, but I've made myself put it away for a while. I'll keep reading and making notes but it won't be my focus until after NaNo.

Making that decision and getting that little bit organised has helped me get back into my book as well. I've struggled all week to write anything and have only managed around 600-700 words a day. Last night with the issue of the research decided, I wrote 2440 words. Much better. I'm hoping for 3000-4000 each day this weekend to get me back on track for hitting the 50000 by the end of next week.

I created another wordle from what I wrote last night. I like the wordles: they give you an idea of what is happening without showing how bad the writing is because I haven't thought about it much or edited it.
Wordle: Starr 2

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 19

I've had a week of 600 word days. A lot of that is because I've been focused on some research and trying to pull a proposal together out of thin air. I've reread a lot of material from a year or two ago and started working on the context and purpose of the study but there's still heaps to do, and an interview to get through tomorrow.

As far as my novel is concerned, I've been playing with Wordle. What a fantastic procrastination tool. I think it could also be used to help with quicksand plots too. Just putting a couple of paragraphs into Wordle and letting it do its thing could bring a whole new idea to light. Check out the wordle I created from the first couple of paragraphs of the novel. What pictures does it bring to mind? What assumptions can you make about where the story and characters are heading?

Wordle: NaNoWriMo Star
Image (cc) Wordle.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 15

I wrote just over 3000 words today, going just past the 30000 word mark. I probably could have done more if I'd forced myself to stay at the computer but I work better if my mind gets to percolate ideas for a while in between writing jags. Today I've written both a sex scene and a panic attack, both highly emotional things. I haven't portrayed the emotion at all well and I'm not looking forward to editing it to put it all in.

Sometimes I think there's just too much emotion in the world and not enough of just sucking it up and getting the damned job done.

A lot of my friends and family shake their heads at me and tell me I have too much testosterone to be a real woman. I wonder if I'm supposed to go through life on an emotional roller coaster, never be able to make a logical decision and be totally drained at the end of every day. I much prefer the ordered routine I have where I have plans of action for possibilities and fix problems logically and calmly.

No excerpt again today. The writing's not good enough to share.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 14

I missed the deadline to add my word count to the NaNo website last night. I wrote until about 12.30am and my word count for the day added onto today's record. That's disappointing, mostly because I don't like seeing that records show I didn't do any work one day but also because I passed the magical half-way mark (25000 words) and when I put my entry in tonight, there's not going to be a record of exactly that time. I know - build a bridge.

At my writers' meeting last night we talked briefly about what to do when the plot stalls and you don't know where to go. One of the girls suggested changing the morality of one of the characters. I thought about that for a while, trying to decide who it would work best with, what way their morality could change and how it would work best. That's where I got 1500 words last night in just on an hour. That small change has also given me the set-up for the next chapter and a way for all the major characters to begin to deal with their internal conflicts. What a fantastic way to get things moving again.

I'm not putting an excerpt in today. As I've become less sure of where I'm going with the book, my writing has become less ... less everything. There is the occasional phrase that's pretty good, but the rest is telling, not showing and, basically, absolute rubbish.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 13

I'm to the stage where I'm so tired I can't remember what day it is. It took me a full five seconds to realise that the date is also the day we're in on NaNoWriMo. I suppose it goes with putting my Berocca tablet into my cup of tea this morning instead of in the glass of water beside it.

November is one of the busiest months at work and having my book stuck in my head constantly has made it more difficult to concentrate and get things done. I'm also not sleeping well, barely getting five hours a night this week. I think I'll sleep in tomorrow morning before going to a write-in. I'll be in a place where I have no choice but to sit and write. Hopefully that means I'll get a lot done.

What I wrote last night is rubbish so I'm not putting it up here. Today's extract is from the middle of a previous chapter. As usual it's not great writing but it's not the rubbish I wrote last night either.

When Starr came here, he came face to face with his childhood. Every time. He knew Natch loved to play with that. When Starr walked in there Natch would be sitting behind his desk with the thick crop beside his hand.
Starr entered the corridor, strode to the end and went down the stairs. He never hesitated. Not now. He had once. Only once. He knocked briefly on the double sized black door and pushed it open. Once he was in front of Natch’s desk he stopped, hands clasped over his crotch in a futile attempt to protect it.
It was long minutes before the fleshy man on the other side of the desk looked up.
“You’ve been busy Starr.”
Starr nodded but kept his mouth shut. Natch had plenty more to say yet and Starr needed to find out what he was supposed to have done wrong this time.
“I’ve been getting reports in from all over about you and your pyromaniac tendencies.”
Starr frowned. He had no idea what Natch was talking about. He hadn’t set fire to anything since his last visit here. Not unless you counted Freema’s ship.
“Those were your pirates?” When Natch glared at him, Starr realised that one question had earned him a beating. Not that it took much to convince Natch he should beat Starr.
The crop was snatched up as Natch pushed himself up from his chair. Starr almost didn’t feel the first slice; his suit protecting his upper arms. The second one landed across his chest as Natch rounded his desk. The third, across his abdomen and crossed forearms.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 11

I almost didn't write anything today. I had a super busy day at work and then a job interview that I'd only had 24 hours to prepare for and was exhausted by the end of it. Not having a clue where my story had to go from where it was didn't help either. Then I get onto my blog and find my widgit from a few days ago has gone. I'll worry about it later.

But I sat down at the computer about an hour ago and told myself that I was going to write 500 words, even if it was all rubbish. So I've now written 1400 words and moved my characters forward another step. It's not great writing but the bones are there.

Here's today's excerpt:
“We’re not stowaways,” exclaimed Freema indignantly. “You rescued us.”
“You didn’t leave at Tolifax, told no one you were here. In the eyes of governmental law, that makes you stowaways, whether the pilot is aware of you or not.”
Lonnar nodded. This obviously wasn’t news to him.
Freema looked devastated.
“What?” Starr asked. “Didn’t you consider you might be breaking a law just by staying on board?”
She shook her head, her eyes welling. Then she broke down into noisy tears, her hands covering her mouth, making the sobs echo weirdly in her mouth.
“Jeesis.” Starr landed on his knees beside her, leaning over her lap, drawing her body close to him.
Lonnar leaned around her from behind, his arms looped over her shoulders and around Starr's head, holding them all in a fierce embrace.
And overhead, a haunting melody began. Eventually Starr recognised it as Bussey’s Luna, the prelude Starr often played to go to sleep by. He almost broke out of the hug to tell Brett to turn it off, but he felt comfortable; comforting and comforted at the same time and he didn’t want to move.
Manipulative bastard.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 9

Today's been difficult. I realised at lunch time I'd totally forgotten about applying for a job I wanted to apply for and had to write responses to ten selection criteria in a bit more than two hours with about one hour to plan. I don't expect to short-list, but that's not because I rushed the application. I don't have the experience they want, just the qualifications. We'll see.

Anyway, after all that writing I couldn't stay sitting at the computer and switch to NaNo. I needed a break. And then I needed a longer break. Consequently I haven't written a lot tonight. I pushed myself til I broke the 20000 word mark and then I stopped. One more chapter down. It's a dreadful chapter - all choppy and missing bits but it's the best I could do today. I'll work on it again tomorrow before starting the next chapter, maybe fill in some of the missing bits - as soon as I work out what they are.

And today's excerpt:
 “Starr, you need to come back to the bridge.”
“Kryste, can’t a man take a piss without being interrupted?” Starr finished, then squirted cleansing gel on his hands as he left the bathroom. “This better be important Brett because I really don’t want to have to deal with anything more from you three right now.”
“It’s important.” Brett’s voice sounded more serious than it had since they’d lost nearly half their ship in the fight to rescue Freema.
Starr started running.
Three ships filled the view-screen. “What the fuck is this about?” Starr exclaimed.
“They were waiting for us,” Brett said.
Jeesis. They weren’t where they were supposed to be. They’d told no one what they were doing beyond the first jump, yet three pirate ships knew enough to be sitting there waiting for them when they came out of the second unplanned jump.
“Can you read anything, Brett?”
“They’re Natch’s men.”
Starr flicked a look at Lonnar but the older man was standing beside Freema staring out the view-screen. He had a fierce frown on his face and his fists were clenched by his sides.
Freema slipped into Starr's chair and pushed her hands into the control manacles. “Brett, what do you think their reaction would be if we did this?” She punched in code as she spoke.
“I think at least two of them would shoot each other and the other one’s pilot would probably shit his pants,” replied Brett.
“What are you two talking about?” Starr demanded. “Freema, get out of my seat. And Brett, stop encouraging her.” He began to walk over to his seat but at that moment an orange light flared on the hull of one of the ships.

Dog people

I'm not a dog person. I think dogs are fine and friendly and all that. I've owned a dog and absolutely adored him. But dogs are time-consuming and smelly.

I much prefer cats. I love their independence and their dominant nature; their absolute acceptance of their superiority. According to David, my cat, Bridgit is very dog-like. She comes and tells me when she's hungry - usually every 10 minutes - and waits until I get up. Then she walks in heel position, checking on me constantly until we get to her bowl and I give her more food.

I can't see what's dog-like about that. She's not the one in heel position - I am.

I love widgits

I'm stuck with my writing at the moment - trying to make a fight scene different from the other two I've already done - so I've been browsing the NaNo page. I found this fantastic widgit. I love widgits. It's like having a new toy to play with. The pale blue isn't one of my favourite colours but the choice isn't mine. I just love having a visual to see how I'm going. It's supposed to update every five minutes so I'll come back tomorrow to see if the word count has changed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 8

I went to a write-in today. What an interesting exprience. I was torn between chatting with people, some I have met before, some I haven't, and writing to get my word-count up. As being social isn't one of my strong points, I chose the latter. It was really good - I wasn't at home so I couldn't be distracted by all the things at home. My seat was surrounded by others so it was difficult to get in and out, so I just had to sit there in front of my laptop and write. I wrote over 3500 words before I left a few hours later. That makes something like 4200 for the day so far. I'm going to spend another hour this evening on it. I'm looking for another 500 words to get over my personal target for today. I think I have the scene forming in my head so it should work.

I'm a slow writer, probably because I don't plot very well. I can't seem to see what will happen next unless I have what has happened before mapped out. I know it will need some serious editing before it's good but one scene has to be on paper before I can move onto the next one. I can't even visualise the next one until the previous one is done. That slows me down.

I'm enjoying this book, although I enjoy all of them when I'm writing them. It's very different to anything I've written before in that it's set mostly in space, in a confined area and the four main characters are tripping over themselves with nothing to do. It's a challenge to make it interesting and not fall into a rut. Speaking of ruts, I'm coming up to my third attack from pirates. I'll have to handle this one differently, make sure the reason for the attack is different from the others, make the stakes higher, otherwise it will read like I'm in a rut. That's the reason I haven't just written the 500 words I'm looking for. I need to get the beginning of the scene clear in my head before I can begin. Once I start, it seems to flow fairly smoothly until I run out of scene in my head, then I have to stop and think again. Sometimes that's 3000 words, sometimes, like last night, it's 200.

Below is today's excerpt from what I wrote today. I'm trying to choose dialogue as it's more difficult to stuff up dialogue and it's more likely to be a little bit interesting. I think it also shows the characters better than exposition. Total so far: 17767.

“Starr. Starr, wake up. She’s doing it again.”
Starr heard the words and groaned. “Who’s doing what, Brett?”
“Freema’s hacking me.”
"I thought you had that under control.”
“She won’t stop.”
Starr pushed himself out of bed, wincing at the tightness in his skin. The pain was better, just an ache in his muscles when he moved. Moving around would help that.
“Alright. I’m coming. Don’t get your knicks twisted.”
Starr pulled on his ‘recovery’ clothes; a soft cotton knit shirt and almost threadbare cotton knit sweat pants. They hung loose and didn’t rub. He’d wear a suit tomorrow. He padded barefoot to the bridge and found Freema sitting in his seat.
He tilted his head, trying to see around the back of the seat, to the holo-screen, wondering what she was doing, or trying to do.
“Starr, make her stop.”
Freema jumped and spun around. If her skin was lighter, Starr thought her face would be bright red. He leaned on the back of the chair. “Watcha doing, Freema?”
“She’s hacking me, Starr. I told you.” Brett interjected.
“I am not,” retorted Freema.
“Are to,” returned Brett.
“You started it,” she exclaimed.
“Did not.”
“Did too.”
“Enough!” Starr exploded. “Jeesis, what’s wrong with you two?” He reached over and pulled Freema’s hands out of the control manacles. He kept hold of her wrists as he turned her to look at him. Her dark eyes were wide, wary. “Freema, this is my ship, not yours.” He thought of revealing that he knew she was a soldier but decided not to. He’d play this cool and see how she reacted. “I don’t know what sort of thing you’re used to doing but on my ship we respect privacy and ownership.” His thumbs circled on the skin of her hands, warm and smooth. “You’re here as a guest, under my protection until we can sort out why those pirates wanted you and get you to safety, but that doesn’t mean you can upset Brett.” His thumbs circled and circled, the warmth from her hands filling him, calming him. “If you can’t respect that, then you’ll have to leave my ship.” He looked deep into her eyes and forgot what he’d been saying. He dropped her hands and stepped back. “Do you understand?”
She stared at him, her hands still resting in front of her where he’s been holding them.
“Freema? Do you understand?”
She swallowed and lowered her hands and her eyes. “Yes, I understand. No more hacking Brett.” She didn’t sound happy about it. “But he started it.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 7

I've written every day for a week. The last two days feel like I've been unravelling my small intestine to get words on the paper. What I've been writing is absolute rubbish. I keep forgetting particular character quirks and have to go back and try to make them sound the same all the way through. I also have absolutely no idea where the plot is going. The really worst part is that the really good interaction between the characters, particularly the computer with separation anxiety and his pilot, has gone flat. The moment my pilot was beaten and raped, I lost it.

I'm still ahead on the daily word count (sitting around 13500 words) but that's the only good thing happening with it today. I'm going to a write-in tomorrow. With a bit of luck some interaction with real people and other writers (I mean both, not either/or) will help me work out not only where the plot is going but how to get there in the most interesting way. All the pieces are in place, I just need to know what to do with them.
And just to bore people to tears, I'm putting another poorly-worked extract below.

His wrist beeped. The sensor he’d set two days ago told him he had nine hours oxygen left. He stared at it, willing it to change. Grimly he released the belt and floated off the bridge. His suit, in the forward hatch, would give him another three hours. He settled again in his seat on the bridge, the legs of his suit snugged under his thighs and jammed the torch into one of the drive manacles. Across the useless control desk the blackness outside ate at his sanity.

After some time, he realised that one thing on this ship did still work. He retrieved the torch and shoved in between the manacle and the gauntlet it secured so the beam shone on his face. He lifted his wrist and tapped in a code. The small square screen flashed green, then a face appeared on it.
"Hey, Momma,” he said, smiling even as more tears burned his eyes.
“Nalen!” His mother’s face turned away. “Papa, it’s Nalen.” She turned back to him. “He wants to see you too. Rogan, go get Papa. It’s Nalen.” Finally she settled and looked at him. Went silent. “What’s wrong?”
“I was just sitting here and thought I’d give you a call, that’s all.” His voice was as even as it usually was, betraying no emotion.
“Nalen Lonnar Pedrig, don’t you speak to your mother like that. I can tell when something’s wrong so you just tell me and we’ll save a lot of time.”
The screen on his wrist band split and his father’s face joined his mother’s. “Nalen boy, it’s good to see you. I told Momma you’d call and let us know when you’ll be arriving. It’s family day soon.”
“Hey Papa. I just rang to talk for a while. I won’t be coming home.” He wondered if they heard the finality of that statement the way he did.
Silence greeted him. They did.
“Where are you? We’ll come.” Momma’s voice had gone still and quiet, just like his.
He shook his head but couldn’t get the words out.
“How long?” his father asked, sitting on a chair and pulling Momma with him. They didn’t know exactly what he did for a living but knew he faced danger every day. That was the reality of space travel.
He sucked in a breath. They were there for him, just as they’d always been. He wouldn’t be alone. “Twelve hours.”
Momma gasped, smashing a hand over her mouth to mute the sound. When she lifted it away, she was calm again. “What happened?”
“I ran into some pirates.” He huffed a laugh. “I managed to escape just fine but they hit me a few good ones. Directional control was gone. I crashed onto an asteroid which managed to destroy everything the pirates didn’t. I’ve tried everything but there’s nothing left to do.”
Their breathing was the only thing Lonnar heard for a long time then his Momma sat up straighter and patted her hair.
“Mother Meecham down the road was telling me the other day that the farmers were having trouble selling their crops in town. Old man Goo insists on putting his pigs on top of the hay when he takes it in to sell and punches anyone who complains about the smell.” And so it began. After a while Papa joined in and soon they were all laughing and reminiscing. Gods, he loved his family.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaNoWriMo, day 5

I think I've lost my momentum. Either that or the headache I woke with has mushed my brain. I've written maybe 50 words so far today and those took me all day to think of. Still, I'm happy with my progress. It's so exciting to push myself into achieving a certain level of writing every day. I'm proving I can do something I'd always told myself was impossible.

My excuses have always revolved around lack of time and too many things to do and to a degree that's true. I'm not accomplishing anything else, that's for sure. The headache is probably from too many hours at the computer and not enough time doing something else - anything else that gets me moving. Poor sleep because I keep thinking about the book has probably contributed to it as well. My response? Too bad. I had a massage and a rest and now I'm getting back into the writing. I want to write at least 1000 words tonight to make sure I stay above the daily target.

I've been posting the first 200 words of each day onto the nano site but I thought I'd start doing that here too. Here's the excerpt from Day 1 - it's probably the best thought-out part and therefore the best written. Expect it to go downhill from here.

The blast knocked Starr sideways, wrenching his wrists against the drive manacles. The ship lurched, evening out as he regained his seat and settled his grip on the controls. Too close.
“Brett, we’re going to have to disengage.”
“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”
Starr gritted his teeth against the annoyance rising in him. Seven years and he still couldn’t get the control system to volunteer information.
“Tell me why disengaging when we’re under attack would be a bad idea in this instance.”
“There’s a life form on board. Faint.”
Fuck. He sighed and released his wrists from the drive. “Brett, hold position and protect us the best you can until I get back.”
“That’s it then? You’re leaving?”
All that programming and the only thing Starr’d managed to achieve with Brett was a slight lisp in the system’s morose tone. “I’ll just grab this person and come straight back. You’ll be monitoring me so you won’t be totally alone.” The words came automatically as he snapped a blaster into his hip holster and checked the position of his knives and explosives. “I’ll be back soon. Try to keep them from destroying us.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Projects

I love starting a new project. I've just submitted the last assignments for the semester and have the first draft for a presentation at a job interview prepared so I've begun plotting a new book.

I love the journey, finding out what the characters I have in my head a doing and thinking and feeling is a buzz. This new book is SF again because that's what I love but it's shaping up to be different again from the last three books. The first two were set on the same worlds and had the same characters so they were similar and familiar. The third one has the same race as the first two but a different world and different problems. This one is totally different. So far it's shaping up to be more Science Fiction than the others but that'll probably change as I go through and realise my knowledge of science isn't enough to maintain it all.

I'm constantly amazed that I can pull these things out of my head. Yesterday my mind was blank. Not an idea to be found. This morning I had a beginning scene in my head and that was it. I had absolutely no idea what anyone was going to do. Now I have a planet, pirates, government authorities, missing 'objects of military desirability' (haven't quite worked out what they are yet, but I will), a secret mission and a computer with separation anxiety. My mind is buzzing with ideas.

And all this is for NaNoWriMo. It's a challenge to write 50000 words in thirty days and it starts on Sunday. I know lots of people who've registered so we'll be able to chat and support each other along the way. Now the assignments are done, I'm starting to get really excited.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Eye-hand coordination

I don't have any. Lauren's the same. We drove to Fernvale today (about an hour west) and spent an hour at the tennis courts there. Most of the time there we were running after the ball. About half the shots that should have been easy, we either missed completely or hit with just the edge of our racquets and the ball shot off on a tangent. I think there were only three or four times we actually managed a reasonable volley - 5-6 hits in a row. Of course we didn't bother with any rules. There's not much point when hitting the ball is a challenge in itself, so we had lots of double-bounces and a few returns from under the net, and services from the middle of the court (just to make sure the ball went over the net a few times).

After the 'tennis' we went to the pub and shared a fish-and-chip lunch. And the whole time we talked. We haven't actually seen each other for a couple of weeks, even though we've phoned and emailed. Our words tumbled over themselves, eager to get out. Most of the things we talked about couldn't be considered 'important' but we simply had to share it all.

When we came back home we lounged around and drank tea, dozed and chatted some more. We had the best day.

When Lauren walked into my house this morning, I felt the release. My world was once again in balance; everything that could be right, was. That's the effect she has had on me from the first moment I saw her.

Lauren feels the same, but she's not sure if the feeling is due to me or the fact that I hadn't lost the tennis racquets afterall!

Friday, September 11, 2009


I've just realised I still throw childish tantrums. Oh, I don't rant and rave or throw things or make noise at all. My tantrums manifest in more subtle and self-destructive ways.

I discovered this when I got my first assignment for the new course back - and found out I had a 4(pass+). I've spent the last few years getting MUCH better results than that and the 4 has totally thrown me. I expected better from the assignment and from myself.

Consequently, for the last ten days - since I picked up the assignment - I haven't done any study at all. I've been finding books I 'desparately have' to read and sitting in bed and reading every night. I'm not even reading the books I need to for uni. I've totally shut down. How self-destructive is that?

I've given myself until this afternoon to get over myself. Avoiding the issue isn't going to improve things. I've had an interview with the tutor about the marking of the assignment and I've identified what I need to do to do better next time. Now I have to get off my butt and do it. That's beginning this afternoon. By Monday I'll be ready to move on.

At least that's the theory ...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

On writing

I've started back at uni. This time I'm doing a Graduate Certificate in Creative Industries (Creative Writing) and I'm having a ball. I haven't written a short story in four or five years and in the first week of term I wrote three. I've written a few more since then as well. I'm trying to find an interesting story premise for around the 1500 word length that doesn't end up being a conversation between two people or a monologue. It's not long enough to have a lot of characters in so I'm not sure how I'll do it. Meanwhile, trying means I've begun a series of short stories that are exploring relationships between women - to the extreme, of course; I could do nothing less.

I'm also doing a subject that focuses on the novel. The major assignment is to prepare a partial which I think is extremely useful. My only problem is I need a partial now, not the end of semester.

I went to the RWAustralia conference last week and pitched a book to a publisher and an editor. They've both asked to see a partial even though they don't really deal with the kind of books I write. I assumed that to mean I talked the talk really well and they want to see if I can actually write. Even if both reject the manuscript I'll at least have a polished partial available. My problem is knowing when to stop polishing. I hate writing synopses and know I'm not good at it but I've finally got one that sounds close to what I want it to - but the first three chapters don't match it that well. I'll have to go back to the book and ramp up the tension a bit so that what I said in the synopsis is actually happening.

Meanwhile the clock is ticking. I can't leave it too long before sending it in or they'll forget all about me, but I don't want to send inferior work either. And that's the end of my break time. Time to get back to work.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My new computer

I've decided I don't know as much as I used to. I haven't maintained my currency. For several years now, my use of computers has become just that - usage. I haven't been teaching any of the technical stuff, haven't needed to pull a computer apart, diagnose problems or rebuild it. Other people have looked after that aspect at work and I've had the same computer for eight years at home so it's just needed basic maintenance and the occasional upgrade.

Last week that all changed. My old computer had been annoying me for a while. It had become very slow, freezing regularly and shutting down spontaneously. Rather than try to fix the problem I decided it was time for a new computer. So I sat down with Lauren's boyfriend and talked RAM and graphics cards and other things with unintelligible letter/number model numbers. I knew what I wanted the computer to do and I knew enough to decide on the parts I wanted and I could have put it all together if Adam didn't do it for me but I really have no interest in all that any more. I've been happy to hand all that over to him and let him be my 'tech advisor'.

The things I'm struggling with now are the gliches that have been arising all week. My printers, having been bought at the same time as my old computer, were eight years old. While I could find drivers for both of them on the internet I was at an absolute loss as to how to get them to work. Downloading and installing didn't work. I ended up losing patience with it and bought a new printer this morning. It's a colour laser so it's taken the place of both the laser printer and the bubblejet. Even then I had trouble. The driver that came with it wouldn't work - for some reason it was looking for someone with administrator access or the usual user of the computer. Both me, but it still didn't want to work. Of course just plugging the printer in and connecting it worked just fine but the installation instructions that specified several times in big red writing that I wasn't to do that confused me.

I'm also having a weird problem saving things. Word thinks it saves a document but I go back into it the next day and all my changes are gone. I can check a document in a couple of different ways. In the "Open an office document" window, the document won't appear, but in my directory folders it will. Neither place shows a document has saved; at least not consistently. Sometimes the save date changes, sometimes it doesn't. I know enough about computers to know how to save things, and I'm saving my work in as many different places as possible at the moment because I'm not sure my files are going to be there the next day. This problem has defeated me - and it irritates me. I need something I can rely on. I don't want to have to spend nearly an hour every night checking to make sure the document I've been working on has saved somewhere - anywhere, as long as I can find it again - before I can close it and go to bed.

All this is a huge change from my position years ago when I used to build and repair computers on a daily basis, used Linux and C every day and was the person everyone went to when they had a problem. People still come to me when they have a problem but it's differen. The problems are different; user problems with software, not hardware or technical problems. Isn't it amazing how interests and aptitudes change throughout life?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Puppy school graduate

Logan has graduated puppy school. We're so proud of him. Through the six week course he's learned that Lauren is his human and he has to listen to what she says - that's the most important lesson.

He now sits perfectly, leaves things alone on command, waits for things, drops onto his belly, and, most of the time, comes when called. He's also learning to bring things to Lauren.

Lauren's yard looks like a disaster area, strewn with Logan's bones and toys and the grass worn thin, but if it keeps him happy and not digging under the fence no one cares much.

Lauren has also learned to accommodate Logan into her life. It had been four years since she'd had a dog so it was a big adjustment for her - particularly as she's never dealt well with change. It's good to see them happy together. It was a stressful time for a while.

Sometime soon, Lauren will get him into some agility training so he has an opportunity to run some of that excess energy off.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Writing activities 2

These activities were timed. The exercise gave us a word or phrase and I had to write for 60 seconds and see what I ended up with. I forgot to time the first one so it's longer than it should be.

I'm beginning to think I'll do ok at this course. It has a reputation for preferring 'literary' writing and I've never seen myself as a literary writer - I'm speculative fiction to the bones - but maybe, if I work on increasing my vocabulary a bit, it'll be fine.

Here are today's activities:

They were long and thin and frilled, shaped a little like a woman's vulva, and bright irridescent orange. They fascinated me so much I sat on the log next to them and stared at them for ages, wishing I'd brought a camera or pen and paper to draw them. They clung to the rough bark of the fallen tree, two thirds down the side, hiding in the damp mustiness of the southern side of the trunk. The lips grew out from the trunk, curling lace waving along the grooves, glistening in the low light of the forest.

The way the light filtered through the water and bounced around the coral and gorgeous fish made me forget I needed to stay near the surface. I ducked my head and breathed in water as the top of the snorkle ...

The telephone rang at 11pm. It was enough to send shivers down my spine and fracture my breathing. The stalker always range between 2 and 3 am so it wasn't him but 11pm was never a good time. Something bad had happened.

My gut twisted with the fear. My throat was so tight I couldn't get the shout for help out at all. No sound louder than a whimper or a tummy rumbling in sweat soaked terror ...

The fur was all that was left amidst a smear of thick red blood. The bones and guts were gone, just those scraps of fur trailing towards the edge of the road ...

Most people wouldn't use James Bond to formulate life philosophy but that's exactly what I did with "Never Say Never". Just the phrase opens up a whole host of possibilities ...

You wouldn't have thought
so many things of significance could happen in one life and how memories of them can be triggered. Snippets, images, things that last less than a second can cause life-changing decisions to be made ...

She wasn't a
friend and never would be. Her need to control everything and everyone around her was understandable given her life circumstances but very irritating. She never gave an inch, never accepted that others could also be right ...

Lying face down
on the bed, the woman slept with her head turned towards the crib. When the baby first stirred her eyes snapped open. This child wouldn't cry, he was too ill for that, but he still needed care ...

Writing activities

I'm starting a new uni course next month and have bought some of the books I need. One of the books is "The Writing Book" by Kate Grenville. Each chapter finishes with some writing exerices. I love this sort of thing. It gets my mind working in different ways and challenges my imagination.

So far I've completed four of the thirteen activities at the end of Chapter one and haven't delved into the fiction world once. I had no idea that there were so many things from my life floating around in my head that could be used as potential stories. Of course as most of the things are written in first person they're coming out a bit like a diary or memoirs but that's fine. I'll still be able to use some of them in fiction stories later.

Here's a sample of what I've been doing. The instructions were to write two paragraphs. One paragraph had to start with "I remember" and the other with "Yesterday I". The paragraphs don't have to be linked in any way. This is what I wrote:

I remember reading through an old composition book from primary school. I loved those times where we could create stories and write them down but I never finished any of the stories started in class. I had it in my head that when the teacher said 'stop' the story had to stop as well. Play time at home was never writing time so even then the stories were left half done, languishing one on top of the other in the back corner of a kitchen cupboard. They hid there, those compostion books, moldering over the years, tempting the desires of a young mind that was at that point incapable of considering completing them. I've forgotten what any of the stories were about; I no longer have any of the books, but I remember the joy of creating a different world to live in, even if just for a short time, and I remember the disappointment and disatisfaction I felt when I couldn't stay in that world and see what happened.

Yesterday I had a great day. I was out all day. It's unusual for me to be out all day and still feel the entire day has been good. Usually I can't wait to get home and dive into one of my fantasy worlds for a time. But yesterday I spent more than two hours with other writers, critiquing and talking about writing. It's invigorating, to speak with other people who think it's perfectly normal for a woman to go to a topless bar with female pole dancers and sit there taking notes on technique and body piercings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek Heaven

I know - in some circles it simply isn't 'cool' to love Star Trek, but I do. Always have, always will.

I went to see the latest movie this afternoon and came out bouncing and smiling. They matched the faces and personalities of the original characters really well. I know this because I've watched all 72 episodes of the original series - over and over again. And it was SO good to see the real Spock there too. My heart still goes pitter-pat whenever I see him, I don't care how many wrinkles he has.

I loved that they kept throwing in lines from the original series too. After the first few, I was 'look, watch this, he's going to say ...' and he did. I felt like we should have got up and danced in the aisles, like Rocky Horror, or something. I would have worn a Star Trek costume but the only costumes I own are NextGen and they're all too small for me now. Yes - I went to the last Star Trek movie in costume, as Dr Beverley Crusher, red wig and all.

I know the black hole just couldn't have happened with such little impact in the universe, and there were a few other things that didn't fit with the science, but it's SF (the F stands for 'fiction') so I can overlook an anomoly or two. And I really liked the alternative reality idea - it sets things up for a totally different 'original' series or next movie. Brilliant.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Logan's Run

We have a new member in our family. His name is Logan and he's a black and tan 10 month old Kelpie cross. Judging by the size of him he might be crossed with a great dane! He has a lovely nature - really quiet and friendly. He's a really intelligent dog too, which is a blessing as that means he'll be easy to train. That's the theory anyway. First of all we have to get him to come to his name and pay attention when we give him a command.

Logan is Lauren's new dog so he's living with her. She's just spent months and a fortune getting her yard landscaped and fenced so she could have a dog and Logan has already worked out how to escape the six foot fence. On Wednesday he went for an unsupervised run for 4-1/2 hours. Lauren chased him on foot for two suburbs but then lost him. He was eventually picked up another two suburbs away. Thankfully he's microchipped and wearing a tag so that made it a bit easier. The good news was, the walk tired him enough that he paid attention to training for a little while.

I suspect part of the problem is that he's 10 months old and hasn't had much training at all. He has bad habits. He's a working dog so will need lots of exercise and stimulation.

Poor Lauren is at wit's end, even after only three days with the new dog. He's digging up her new grass, digging under the fence and not paying attention to her. I suspect that's what's bothering Lauren the most - she like to be in control. It's been 14 years since she had a puppy and she's forgotten about all the work, and all the years, she put in to get her dog to be the perfectly behaved companion. She needs support.

So, even though I'm not a dog person, and I'm not an outdoors person, I went with her last night to take Logan for a run. We took turns running him around the park just to wear him out enough that he might pay attention when we speak his name and realise he has to listen. We met with mixed success.
  1. He doesn't like his 'halti', the harness over his head we use to lead him with, but we won't use anything else that might hurt him. He'll just have to get used to it.
  2. He doesn't want to pay attention to anything other than all the interesting smells in the dog park. Too bad - he has to learn to do as he's told.
  3. He was just starting to get the routine of going for a jog and then back to one of us when we called 'come' and it started raining. He would have kept going but Lauren has a bad cold and I didn't want her out in the rain with it.

Lauren has bought Logan a whole heap of toys to keep him occupied when she's at work and she's booked in for dog obedience classes, starting the 20th, so that'll be good. She'll learn a lot of tricks that will help her with her training. She's also contacted the RSPCA who've been really helpful and sent out a whole heap of information on keeping dogs in enclosed yards when they love digging and jumping and escaping.

Meanwhile I'll keep going with her for his runs. I won't be taking over - I'm no martyr and don't want to own a dog - but I will yell out encouragement and instructions to keep her focused on moving ahead and not on how he won't listen to her yet. Between us we should see the beginnings of a happy, well-trained dog soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Exercising charities

Lauren and I have discovered fun runs - thanks to my sister, Linda. Earlier this month she invited us to join her for the International Women's day fun run in the city. It was 5km walk.

This morning I walked 6.8km. The official length was 6km but one fellow had a GPS strapped to his ankle and told Lauren it was 6.8. My feet tell me it was 6.8! It was a really good walk, through Griffith Uni's Nathan campus which is also Toohey Forest. Really pretty, lots of birds, although the people made too much noise to be able to fully appreciate them. Still, I did hear the kookaburras and butcher birds as they stayed around for a while, even with the crowd.

Next week we're all going on another fun run/walk up at Redcliffe. I haven't been to Redcliffe for years (nearly 30 years) so it'll be interesting to see how the area has changed.

What a great way to support a charity and get some exercise at the same time. Of course, going out for breakfast afterwards kind of defeats that purpose. This morning we all came back to my place and I made fresh squeezed juice, waffles, bacon, sausages and eggs - and because we're Australian and have to keep our sweet foods totally separate from our savoury foods, nearly all my china and cutlery was used and I spent the next hour cleaning the kitchen.

All I need to do now is get new shoes. Every time I walk I end up with bruised feet and hobble for the rest of the day. I think it's because my shoes have arch supports and my feet don't have arches.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I finally graduated. It's not finally, really. The course I did only took 3 years so it wasn't that bad, but I was really pleased to have finished.

I had a fun night. I met up with some of my fellow students - people I'd studied and worked with over the last three years and was pleased to see again. It was great to catch up and find out what everyone was doing and planning.

Mum, David and Lauren came to see me graduate. I saw them as soon as they entered the hall. They looked like the three bears - a little one (Mum), a middle sized one (Lauren) and a big one (David) - all in order moving along to their seats. It took them a little while to find me in the crowd of similarly dressed graduates but they did and all waved.

It was all a new experience for me. I didn't go to graduation for my undergrad degree so didn't really know what to expect. What did amaze me was the number of graduates who didn't know how to greet the Chancellor or accept their award without fumbling. Every one of them has graduated at least high school so they've had one experience of it for sure. Others have graduated a number of times or received other awards on stage. So everyone should have known to pause as they doffed their cap and to shake with their right hand while they accepted the award with their left, but no. People rushed out, didn't pause, almost tripped over their own feet and tried to shake hands and accept the award with the same hand at the same time. Maybe they just needed practice or time to think about it beforehand.

I was lucky enough to be about half way through the program so had time to watch the first group and decide what looked good and what didn't. I knew what I wanted to do once I got out onto the stage.

One fellow received a medal for excellence. His GPA (Grade point average) was 6.8 (out of a possible 7) and he received 7s throughout his last year. And he did a double degree. I really admire brains like that - and was even more impressed when they described the research he'd been doing for the honours component of his degree. What an achievement!

My sister asked me why I didn't get a medal or at least a scholarship and I had to remind her I studied part time and because of that I wasn't elligible. So my very respectable 6.5 GPA was pretty much useless in that regard.

I really enjoyed listening to the summaries of the PhD awards. Some of the research that goes on is incredible. Once they're published I'll have to find a copy of some of them and read them.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the degree. Of course I'd like to work in the field - library management - but I don't have any experience. I have mortgages so I have to keep working and have to have a certain level of income. Neither of those things work with my lack of experience in libraries unfortunately and although I know I'd be able to do the work easily (I'm bright and adaptable), proving it to strangers is a bit of a problem.

I'm still teaching part time. The idea behind that was so I could use my one day off a week to do some volunteer work in a library and get some experience. Unfortunately my one day each week has translated into bits and pieces; an hour here, an hour there which makes it pretty much useless.

Study-wise, my next step is two-fold. I've already applied to start a Graduate Certificate in Creative Industries (Creative Writing) starting in July. I'm looking forward to that and hope I can do the subjects I'm interested in. I've also made some preliminary lists of things to do to apply to begin my PhD in February next year. I know what I want to do but haven't narrowed the thesis topic enough to make it achievable. That's the task for this semester - I just have to find a weekend free so I can spend a day at the library doing research. After that I have to start talking to people and find someone to sponsor me. That won't be easy either as my undergrad and masters degrees are both in totally different fields so I'll have to convince strangers, people who know nothing of my abilities, that I'm capable of doing the work in the creative industries field to a suitable standard. That's part of the reason I've applied to do the grad cert.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm surprised I'm still alive!

When I went to pick Lauren up to go to the gym today, the first thing she said to me was:

"I'm surprised I'm still alive!"

Exactly the type of words every mother wants to hear. All sorts of emotions tumbled through me in the split second afterwards: shock, fear, terror, relief, joy.

I don't think it ever gets easier.

Anyway, the reason for the comment is that Lauren went hiking with a friend today, up near Toowoomba on the Darling Downs. There's a mountain in the valley that has a flat , treeless top (from a distance. Up close it's rocky) and is a favourite for local hikers - Tabletop Mountain. I've climbed it once. The road in is difficult to find and often more suitable for 4WDs than normal cars. Then finding the trail becomes the problem. Of course, that's nothing to keeping to the trail. It disappears after a while and you're left with a choice of scrambling over loose gravel at a 60 degree angle or climbing a rock face.

Guess which one Lauren and her friend chose? That's right - the rock face - without ropes or climbing equipment and only a very general indication to me of where she would be today.

I know I've had conversations with her about hiking safety but when I think about it, most of them were when she was a teenager - and what parent knows anything to a teenager? At least she did have enough sense to let me know where they were going and to take enough water and food to last overnight if needed. Of course her friend didn't have much water so they ended up sharing Lauren's, and Lauren forgot about the need to wear jeans as some protection against snakes or a fall, or take a jacket just in case they did end up stranded over night.

And Lauren has lots of stories about how she made her little Toyota Echo behave like a 4WD on the steep gravelly slopes! We giggled for ages, even though I knew some of those slipping experiences could have ended badly - the roads around there have very steep drops over the sides.

Luckily it all ended well. They got up the mountain and back down again with little more than a few scrapes and some sore muscles, and I have an idea for a birthday present for Lauren - a book about easy hikes around South-east Queensland!

(Image from:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Heat wave antics

Australia, like the rest of the world, has been experiencing some extreme weather.

The last few weeks most of northern Queensland has been flooded (still is) and most of the southern part of the country has been VERY hot.

These photos come from South Australia where temperatures have been more than 40 degrees C every day.
Just so you understand how unusual this is - Koalas don't drink at all. They get all the moisture they need from the eucalyptus leaves. They also don't swim - don't go near water at all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Routine return

I've been on holiday. I finished my masters, finished work for the year, got through Christmas with the family and then shut down.


I basically spent three weeks sitting in bed reading books. I'm half way through number 35 of my tbr pile and am only now beginning to look for something else to do.

The focus has now become 'Life after Study'. What do I do with the 30 hours a week I've spent studying for the past three years? So far, the answer is 'not much'.

Of course that can't continue. I'll get very irritated with myself if I spend an entire year not achieving anything. Especially if it means I notice how untidy the house is and have to CLEAN! ::horrors:: So here's the plan:

  1. I've joined a gym so I can get a bit more active.
  2. I'm going to begin writing again. I've totally lost the routine of writing every day, or even thinking writing every day. I have to work at getting it back.
  3. As soon as I get past the usual beginning-of-year bills I'm going to enrol in some writing workshops. Hopefully nos 2 and 3 will mean I get another book finished, a couple of entries sent into competitions and at least one book edited to a stage where I can send it somewhere.
  4. I'm going to start research so I can write an application to begin my PhD next year.

That, with work and family, will probably keep me busy for a while. Anything as long as I don't have to do housework or watch tv.