Sunday, April 29, 2012

Such a Drag...

Researching for the young adult fantasy series I'm working on at the moment is such a drag. 
My present series (Emporium Sister's Escapades) is about five sisters who are given a magical emporium by a grateful dragon. (Although they are unaware of both the magical nature of their emporium and their donors identity or, indeed, existence.) Each sister has her own shop, one a spice shop (think candles & perfumes as well as cooking spices) one a cafe, one a tea-shop, one a silk shop and the youngest lucky sister a chocolate shop. Each shop has a secret door leading into a world of lost lore relating to her shops goods. 

Obviously, proper research for this book entails gallons of reading about lost lore (Arabian Nights, Herodotus, history of Spices, 16th century merchants...) but also... taste tests... 
In the spirit of sharing, in the course of my research I can tell you that my favourite chocolate in Melbourne is Coco Blacks (their raspberry ganache, pear and caramel and Passion are prime favourites, but in the interests of cross-shop research the cinnamon chocolate is also fairly divine.) The chocolates are so rich that a quarter of one leaves you feeling full and savouring the different layers of flavours. 

 I can also inform you that T2 sell my favourite teas. My sister-in-law recently gave me a wonderful selection of teas for my birthday and I have since become obsessed with a T2 tea called Liquorice Legs. It's not something I would have thought to try, but it's entirely addictive and I could drink several litres in a day. It's made of liquorice root, fennel and peppermint and has a wonderfully sweet aftertaste. Sans added sugar and sans caffeine (unless liquorice is a source of caffeine I was unaware of) it yet has the buzz of both. And, unlike most sweet drinks, if you eat something sweet after it, say some grapes, the grapes taste sweeter, not less sweet. And if you eat something sweet before it... your Liquorice Legs tastes sweeter... its a sweetness enhancer! I am afraid to Google the ingredients in case they're horrifically bad for me.. 

And then of course there is the essential intensive examining of cafes and different tea, chocolate and spice shops to work out how my Emporium looks... The kids have come on many exploratory trips with me to the Melbourne CBD and Fitzroy (where I've chosen to plonk the Emporium!) 

Also trying to visualise my Emporium I am forced to spend extensive time on Pinterest (nobly forgoing mopping the floor or scrubbing the toilet) trying to find the perfect Gothic-Victorian style for the Emporium, enchanted towers, French Windows and mythical creatures... 

Research for one of my previous books entailed getting stuck in a gale in the middle of the rather cold Atlantic on a (showerless) yacht for 5 days - so far this series has involved a lot of coffee, spiced tea and chocolate. How I suffer for art...
Research is such a drag! 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sweet Dreams...

Bedtime, when the kids are all washed and clean and looking angelic, is one of my favourite times of day.
As my beloved gave me a new lens for my mother's day present * (I know, it's not mother's day yet, but once he had it we decided it wasn't doing much good sitting around) we have been experimenting with taking photos in low light. So here are some photos straight from the bath and about to launch into stories.

                                          Big smile from my Golden Girl
                                                       Jumping on Daddy

                                                    My milk. All mine. Stay Away.

Now you might be thinking there's a bit of a bias here. Quite a few photos of the Poppet, but not so many of the Sprocket. There is a very simple reason for this. All the photos with the Sprocket in them looked like this:

So the verdict on the new lens? Great for little girls who stay still. Not so good for little boys who caterpault around!
The following shots were taken with the old lens, but I took them during the day when the kids randomly decided to pretend to go to bed. (This is a brilliant game! We can play it every single day or even every hour of every day) In daylight we could even get some photos of Caleb!

*My beloved said that when he told the lady in the shop the lens was a mother's day present she rolled her eyes, but capturing memories of my kids when they're little and cute is my favouritest thing. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What's in a Name?

I'm itching for a name change.
It keeps tugging at me, sort of like the Poppet tugging my top for her milk. Change me, change me! (Lordy, and now I'm thinking of nappies. Sigh!) 
It's not my own name that needs changing of course, not even the title of my novel - although I'm still undecided about that as well. It's characters names. 
There are two names in my present novel that-just-aren't-right. Which is particularly distressing as each of these characters later gets her own novel - so if I stuff up now I stuff up good. I keep hoping if I give them a little time they'll turn out to be right. But so far, several years later, no luck. For the five sisters in my present series so far all but one has had a name change. But... I'm still not feeling the rightness. Nell, Bella and Susie are right. (As right as their first-incantation names were wrong) but Rose and Amaya are... irking me. 
At present I think Rose needs to become Rosa (she needs a floral type of name) and Amaya become Mai-Mai... is Mai-Mai too annoying? 

Sigh. Help!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Princess Maisie-Mu in the Enchanted Forest

What? You think I've been playing around with the photos? You wrong me! The colours looked exactly like that! Well... sort of. At the tail end of summer everything was just a little bit dry and brown. So I fixed it - the little green there was is now really green!
I took these photos on the way to and from the sea along my very-favouritest path through the ti-tree grove. As a kid I was convinced it was a fairy path, and I do still think it's the ideal setting for a fairytale. With of course, the amazing Princess Maisie-Mu as the heroic, kind, courageous, witty and assertive heroine. Prince Caleb can play side-kick, but in my stories... the girl is always the protagonist! (But we promise to read you lots of books with very heroic heroes, my Sprocket!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Easter Egg Hunt

Some very late photos of our Easter Egg hunt...
By the time Easter arrived the kids had got so many easter eggs from playgroups and church and various other places they were almost chocolated out. The Sprocket had already decided the little mini-Cadbury eggs were not for a palate as discerning as his own and the Poppet was thinking of a similar decision. Kinder-Surprises saved the day! Although the kids looked for the little eggs, only the kinder-surprises were eaten. (Mummy was given the rest) As we were down at the beach we thought it fitting that the Surprises were little seals and penguins from Happy Feet!
We had our hunt late in the day and then went inside for a roaring fire. Bliss...

Cough up, Ms Anderson

I keep expecting the tap on my shoulder to arrive. 

'Excuse me Ms. Anderson, but for granting you the privilege of spending your time in an orderly, serene and clean environment, complete with the pleasurable hum of learning and surrounded by thousands of books, we expect some form of compensation. 
Do you, or do you not, get to attend to your toileting needs All. By. Yourself? (Without little munchkins clinging to your legs demanding milk or climbing up the back of the toilet to push the flush button)
Do you, or do you not, get fifteen whole minutes to sit and drink a beverage of your choice? (Without chasing small beings intent on upturning sugar bowls or climbing curtains) 
Do you, or do you not, get to peruse children's picture books for most of your four hour shifts, only occasionally having pleasing interludes wherein you direct courteous seekers of knowledge and attend to slight printing glitches? 
Do you, or do you not, get to admire an every changing array of the hats and shoes and gloves and other sartorial finery belonging to the bright and promising young ones, just starting out in the training for their careers?
Do you, or do you not, get to converse with educated, widely read and softly spoken persons as you collaborate together in the delightful task of assisting students to become life-long learners? 
Do you, or do you not, get to dress up in a pleasing assortment of clothes that will not have milk tipped down them or be used as a rag for grubby fingers. Do you or do you not get to wear high heels and cute little pencil skirts?'

I keep waiting for it. 
So far it hasn't come. 
Instead, I've just been given more time.

It's like a magic castle of sanity and civilisation. 
It's amazing. 
I think I like it. 
This could be addictive...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Love

Such an excitement!
I have a new author to add to my very-very-favouritest list. It doesn't happen nearly often enough for my liking (but probably more often than is good for keeping up with the laundry) but when it does it's a fireworks and champagne event.
This wondrous authors name is Laini Taylor and the book that has me stopped in my tracks with awe and wonder is Daughter of Smoke and Bone. She has a backlist (which I need to track down) but this is the book that has taken the world - including yours truly, by storm.  With the wonder of the modern world Daughter of Smoke and Bone has its own Youtube.

The azure-haired heroine is brave, resourceful, loyal and unique.
The plot is intricate, playful, heartbreaking and enchanting and hinges around teeth.
And daemons.
And angels.
And the war between the daemons and the angels. And forbidden love between one daemon and one angel.
I really didn't see how Taylor was going to make it all pan out. I couldn't work out at all what the thing with the teeth was all about. Teeth just lack that certain something in the romance and adventure stakes.
But not to worry.
It all pans out beautifully. All threads are tied.
Of course, there is a horrific emotional cliff-hanger, and the second book in the trilogy isn't due out for months and months and months, but the book is so satisfying, so rich and dense and lyrical. There are images in the book that will stay with me till the day I die. And I'm glad they will.
Action spans Prague, Morocco, the Daemons workshop and the world of Angels and Daemons.
I really want to go back.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting the Fizz Back

It's taken me awhile to let go.
I know you're supposed to forgive. I just find it tricky. Because you know, forgiving does not appear to be a one off. It's an every day chore, somewhat like brushing your teeth or doing the washing. At least for me, I have to keep on at it and on at it and on at it. Every. Single. Day. You can't just say 'I forgive them' and that's it. You have to forgive them the next day and the next and the next. It's a bit of a drag.
But I'm getting closer.
Until recently, I was intent on the the Evil, Evil *&^&* Woman pushing someone into a volcano and spending the rest of her life in a developing world prison.
In fiction of course.
I hadn't written it up.
But I savoured the fact the writing was waiting for me. On particularly bad days, when everything was All-Her-Fault I could smell the sulfur and knew if I really wanted I could write it up when the kids were sleeping. Somehow it made things easier. The fact she kicked us out of paradise the week I discovered I was pregnant with my Poppet, giving us 3 weeks to pack up and leave the country, just before Christmas, rankled. The fact it'll take us years, possibly decades, to get back to what we had, sort of grates.
I've given that up now. (Except on days when we're all sick with no help in sight, the kids get too much, the housework gets on top of me, the bills come in all at once... those days)
Anyway, the story I'd put the Great-Volcano-Murder in wasn't working the way it was supposed to. It was stuck and stagnating, no matter how much I loved my characters and settings and looked forward to the Evil One being suitably punished.
So... I took it out.
And suddenly all sorts of wonderful ideas burst out, blooming in a multitude of dazzling colours and wondrous hues. Suddenly, the story started working. It became whimsical and fun again. Full of mythical beasts and secret, twisty-turny staircases leading to fantastical worlds.
It got it's fizz back.
So the Evil One goes unpunished, even in fiction.
But I get my story back, pulsing with energy and full of tantalising surprises, even for me.
I think I can deal with that.
Most days. 

Moses Supposes

Oooh! New love! I've yet to watch 'I'm Singing in the Rain' (this will be remedied tomorrow!) but after watching this youtube from it I'm sure I'm going to love it. Grown men channeling their inner toddler? Gotta laugh. So much fun stepping back in time with such a zany, high energy clip.
Poppet and Sprocket loved it - Poppet said 'One more,' at least five times - leaving me to suspect we need to work on her counting! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Miss Maisie-Moo's Choice

The wonderful Felicity over at Gifts of Serendipity shared this recently and I had to pass it on as the Poppet and Sprocket totally adore it. It's pretty much the first TV the Poppet's shown any interest in - so it's sad in a way - the end of an era :(   But I'm glad the clip is so joyful and fun. My Poppet points out every time there's a crayon or someone drawing (which is a lot!) My Sprocket loves the big kids dancing and having fun.

I've had the tune stuck in my head all day - so here's to sharing it on! 


As if Pinterest wasn't enough - I've found another addiction. 
Instagram. (O? You noticed? My new banner is a bit of hint, lots of slightly out of focus iphone photos - suddenly all glowing gold!)
Now when I snap a photo on my iphone (okay, the one my beloved lets me borrow) and the light is all iffy I can Instagram it - and voila - all better!
A shot I really love but lacking that zing factor? I can pop it through to instagram and add all sorts of tints and tones and funky retro borders to it. Magic.

I know I'm way behind the times in getting into Instagram, but moi? I still think I get points for finally finding and using it! I admit I'm not creating avant guard artwork that speaks to the soul - it's still just the family snaps, but it sure is fun. 
I'm not exactly sure why it was brought and sold for so much money recently - a billion is the rumour I heard, as while it's true many people use and love it - it's free. At present it is earning zip. Zero. 
So cool as it is, I'm a little perplexed. On the other hand, I'm used to being perplexed by the world of IT and I'm sure it'll all work itself out without my intervention. 
However... as with Pinterest, Instagram is something that I'd miss if they decided to take it away. I wouldn't curl over and cry (as I might if Pinterest collapsed - all my beautiferous, carefully hunted and gathered images gone? - non and non and non!) but I'd be sad. There would be frowning. And snuffling. And forlorn-ness. 

Are you on top of your social media addictions? Or are they eating you up? (and please don't say you don't have any, I'll just be depressed!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Princess and the Pea

You know you’re in a bad state when you’re getting riled by fairy tales.
Unable to sleep one night last week, waiting for my beloved to return from a late shift at the hospital, the kids curled sleeping around me, my mind somehow got caught up in fairy tales that bugged me.
Now, I know people often have it in for Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, one for needing a prince, another for being rather… passive (the whole sleeping through most of the story)… (Please see Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley for a completely un-passive and brilliant re-telling, also Enchantment by Orson Scott Card) but for my money the Princess in the Princess and the Pea takes the cake in bad fairy tale role models.
For those that don’t know the story – it’s about a prince looking for a wife who rides east and west and all over the place looking for a bride and none are right. He returns home in despair and one stormy night a young woman knocks at the door seeing shelter. He likes the look of her and gives the wink to his mother who decides to check if she’s a real princess.
So instead of checking out if she’s kind, intelligent, joyous, well-read, displays good judgement, courage, honesty and persistence in adversity (hey, even fertility would be more useful), she decides to check… how … delicate she is.
As such when the bed is being made for the young woman the Queen hides a pea under the first of a three score of mattresses.
The following morning the Queen and Prince ask the princess how she slept and she says terribly, she’s black and blue from a shocking lump in her bed. And they all rejoice that the girl is a real Princess and she marries the Prince. 
As a (hopefully) future mother-in-law, I would not be enraptured to find my future daughter in law got bruises from a Pea buried under 20+ mattresses. How would she survive pregnancy, let alone childbirth? And the toddler years? Not a chance.
That Queen was DENSE.  An ability to bruise easily is not what you want in the person responsible for supplying you with grandchildren.
Not to mention it being an indicator for some rather nasty diseases. (Um, yep, there speaks the wife of a med-student...)  If someone you love falls ill, that’s another matter – but to go looking for heatbreak? Masochistic.
And how rude! Surely there was a more tactful way to suggest maybe new bedding was required. 
Anyway, this is how I spent my tossing and turning.
I could have been thinking up solutions to world poverty… but

Is there a fairy tale that just bugs you?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mina Kari

Many, many years ago. In fact nearly half a lifetime ago, I went for a swim one crisp blue sky day. Impatient to be in the sea I stripped off and left my clothes on a handy piece of twisted, silvered cast up tree. About to run into the water, my hand went to my throat. I was wearing a little blue cross – metal with an enamel painting of lovebirds and curlicues on it, that I was very fond of. It belonged to my mum, but she let me wear it. 
Blue is my colour.
Not wanting to lose it, I unclasped it, and carefully draped it over one of the branches of the driftwood tree.
You can guess what happened next.
When I got out of the water, freezing cold, exultant, shivering and snot-nosed, I threw on my towel, scooped up my clothes, and hurried home to a scalding hot shower.
And although I returned to the beach when I realised my loss and although I scoured the shore for hours I never found the cross again.
I’ve been looking for a cross like it for about twelve years now.
As has my dad. He brought the cross for my mum in a shop in the Edinburgh Grassmarkets when they were first married.  He’s referred to it ever since as ‘the Cross you threw away’ or ‘the Cross you threw into the sea’, and he’s looked in every antique shop, second hand shop and jewellers he’s passed. When he went back to Scotland one time he looked in the shop he’d brought it in, but it had turned into a Goth shop and was not helpful.
Awhile back I gave up thinking I’d find another cross like the one I’d lost in a shop. I just hadn’t seen anything remotely like it. I decided to search on line. I did a google search under images – starting with ‘blue enamel cross’ ‘blue enamel jewellery’ and finally, after three or four hours of scrolling through weird and wonderful blue stuffs, I found a perfect match. 
It’s a style of Persian art called Mina Kari – a special way of using enamel and many of the examples of vases and bowls made my eyes go wide with covetousness – o those blues – those blues!
But best of all…. the Cross.  Just like the one… well… I didn’t throw away. But I left on the beach.
We ordered two and they arrived yesterday – now mum has one and I have one.
And this one, I won’t take off. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

By the Sea


It is so very, very lovely to be home.

It’s been awhile since we were last here  - a little blue house tucked away by the sea.  It seems like aeons. Already I can feel my breathing deepen as I settle down and send out damaged roots.
I have come to be very fond of our little Gippsland shack, but it’s not the same.
The space is different here, the smell of the sea, the sound of the sea. Even the wind sounds different. I can hear great gusts of it blowing in off the strait, rattling the doors and windows.
Lying in bed now, listening to Capercaillie, the wind easing through the open window, bringing with it the smell of brine.  The house is empty but for me and Issy. My Beloved has taken the kids to drop my mum off at the train station in Geelong.
And it feels a little like stepping back in time.
A little like the night before our wedding, when my Sprocket was still summersaulting within. A little like those months my Beloved and I spent here while I studied for my Teaching Grad Dip (and dreamed and puked as the Sprocket grew within me) A little like the year I spent just writing, me and my dog – a different dog, although equally tempermental. My beloved and I were married here and both the Sprocket and Poppet were Christened here. Their memories of here are not yet strong  -it’s been too far for us to come regularly - but they will be.
It is so easy tonight slip within a story, slip within a dream.
The world outside seems very far away. As always, the house seems disconnected from the world. Just me and frail wood afloat on the elements.
After a hot day spent driving, we went to the beach in the late afternoon and were caught in the storm as we returned. My Beloved put the Sprocket on his shoulders and carried the Poppet on his hip and we ran up the clay road to home with the lighting flashing and the rain belting down and the kids squealing with laughter.
And it was good to be home.
Home. Already my heart is breaking at the thought of leaving.
Although… it is true. The sea air is horrific for roses.  And I doubt I could plant my tulips here. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Making Me Smile

One The Holidays have started. My beloved gets a week off. Yay. The washing is now officially his business.

Two We're off to the beach for six days tomorrow. Double yay. Not just any beach, but our special beach. You know, the good one. The one all others are just pale imitations of. (Okay, except the beaches in Scotland. Up on Iona, Harris, Lewis...) 

Three My wonderful sister-in-law is coming down from Queensland. Triple yay. I foresee big fires, lots of merlot and many teas! 

Four We have finally stopped with the tag-team of various tummy bugs and flues. (Touch wood) Don't you just love a morning when you wake up and you don't have vomit in your hair? Only a  few lingering coughs remain. 

Five My roses are blooming again. Seduction and a lovely pink creeping country rose are both in flower. I have hopes my Peace rose will come out again soon. So so beautiful. Never fail to smile every time I see them. 

Six. Packets of jonquils, hyacinths and tulips are just waiting to be planted. I look at the pictures and just hum with pleasure. 

Seven. This didn't make me smile. But my beloved sure laughed. My Poppet and I were minding our own business sitting on the woodbox on the verandah. The Poppet having a nurse, me having a tea and checking the weather for the next week on my laptop. Suddenly we're drenched. And there's the Sprocket with the hose. 
Wisely, he ran and hid in the car. 

Eight. Last night when I was giving the kids their bath the Poppet wanted her new doll in with her. I said no, as the doll has a stuffed cloth body and she'd get all soggy. The Sprocket immediately got out of the bath to fetch her. "Give bubba back her dolly, mama!" 

Nine. My Poppet. Every thing she does is just magic. From the tips of her copper-gold curls,to her little toes (she's just started walking around on tip-toe,) her cheeky grin, her little stamp, every little thing she does is just enchanting. She never fails to make me smile. There's not a minute of the day when I'm not thankful that she's mine. 

Ten. My Sprocket. Those few moments when I'm not incoherent with rage or shaking my head in perplexed amazement? He's pretty funny. And sort of cute.