Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mapping it Out

                               Map of the Lands of Lost Lore

Are you a map fan?

I love looking at maps, real or made up. I love planning journeys through faraway lands or looking at fantastical realms and charting the journey of the protagonists I'm reading about. Whether I'm wondering over Tolkien's map for his world, or looking at cities I want to visit - Samarkand, Taskkent, Marrakesh, I just love maps. (Growing up maps lined the wall of the toilet, so I looked at them quite a bit!)
When I wrote my first books way back in high school, it made sense to make use of my art classes to  map my world - and my protagonist was a teenage girl whose drawings came to life in a new world... so there was a certain symmetry. Several years later when the book was published, it was such a thrill to see the old map used at the front of the book.

                                          Map of the Kingdoms of the Seventh Pool

Now, I'm having so much fun mapping new lands. I'm a little depressed to see I did a better job of it way back then and came up with better names - but I'm looking forward to playing around with the map until it sings.
One of the things I love most about my new lands is that it was created by 33 generations of women (starting with Scheherezade) who all got to chose three things no longer believed on earth, to come to life in the Lands of Lost Lore. It sort of gives me leave to throw myself into every fantasy cliche going. Winner. Fairy circles? Tick. World resting on the back of a giant turtle? Tick. Werewolf Mountains? Tick. A city of dragons? Tick. A moon king and sun queen crossing the world in their chariots? Tick. Never-ending pudding bowl? Tick. Amulets against pregnancy and period pain - okay, periods full stop. Tick. Tick. Tick.
And then of course some more personal choices.  It's not a coincidence that a humungous library sits at the very heart of the Lands of Lost Lore... my inner-librarian cannot be quelled!
Over the centuries some women made crazy choices, obviously, but others made haunting and wonderful choices. I love picking and choosing what made it into my lands, and any modifications needed. And of course deciding the lore my protagonists chose to bring in to the Lands is agonising... but thrilling. (I'll try not to let the power go to my head!)

But now to return to my maps... there's still room for suggestions... 5

Monday, February 25, 2013

Promises of Autumn

The rain is falling steadily and a cool breeze is easing through the open window and I am so very, very grateful the heat has broken. My poor heat-singed plants are starting to perk up. I can almost hear my roses sing their happy-songs as they soak up all the water.
I'm on the countdown to Autumn now. I'm prepped to make hearty soups and stews and spiced teas slowly cooked on the stove. (The pepper and fresh ginger are crucial and I'm partial to making them with sweetened condensed milk.) The fire is set (dried lavender set to burn) in optimistic hope for a slightly chilled night.
While the rosellas have denuded one of our apple trees the other one still has a crop of near-ripe apples and soon we'll harvest them and start cooking apple crumbles overloaded with cinnamon and apple sauces well spiced with cloves.
Season of mellow fruitfulness, may I just declare: I love you.
I love your golden foliage, I love the tartness of your breezes, I love the welcome rain* you bring my beloved roses, I love how you make me feel like cooking hearty, spicy yum-stuff. I love how you bring lush green back to the landscape. I love how you set my imagination soaring. I love how you empty the beaches for me, so they're mine again. I love how you let me sit beside open fireplaces and contemplate the flames.
I love how you let me wear socks again and be cosy.
So I'm (belatedly!) joining with Maxabella over at 52 Weeks of Grateful,  grateful for the rain, for the promise of Autumn in just a very few days, and for getting to wear socks again for the first time in a very long time!

*Please note, I do not want rain such as they're getting up in Queensland. My heart goes out to all those being flooded and the people being evacuated from their homes. But a leetle bit more would be good.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sunday Stills 8/52


1. The beach we went to on the weekend. When we started down the steps we had it all to ourselves. Lots of protected shallows for my Poppet and a channel for my Beloved and I to swim in.
2. A world in a rockpool.
3.  Sandpatterns in the water.
4. My Poppet lying on the beach, soaking up the warm. When I swam in the deeper water she demanded my beloved bring her in to. She loved it, but quickly told me, "Mummy, I'm freezing!" On shore she told me "I'm frozen!" and settled down to steal warmth from the sand. I'll make a cold-wave-water lover of her yet!
5. Some beach grass. Playing with camera settings.
6. With my nestlings.  Leaving the beach. O the heartbreak!
7. My Poppet with an abalone shell.
8. Sea treasures from earlier times. Yes, Christmas decorations and Easter Eggs still not put away from last year. This year I will be organised!
9. My beloved made me a new bookshelf in the kitchen. These aren't all the food books, but most of the more frequently used ones. They used to be stored on top of the cupboard so I'm loving having them so handy and easy to find!
10. A photo from the forest. We had a picnic by the stream in a state park nearby. I love the light coming through the trees.

Enjoying the last days of Summer and joining with the lovely Emily at The Beetleshack for Sunday Stills. I hope you're enjoying these last Summer days as well.


1. The kids at the beach. They loved the slabs of sand and how they could pick up sheets of it and then break it apart. The de-stresser before bubblewrap?

2. I loved this photo of the kids playing with the sand together and how you can see the individual grains fall from their hands.

Joining with Jodi over at Che and Fidel for a portrait of my children once a week for 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

Of Monsters and Men

We've been watching this youtube recently of "Little Talk" from the Icelandic band, Of Monsters and Men. Every time I watch I see new things and I love the imagination unleashed and all the mythical creatures. My Sprocket has started requesting 'the dragon ship', which is his name for it.
It reminds me of... so many strange and dreamlike things. And the music catches at me too, I keep finding myself humming.

It's giving me ideas.

What's inspiring you at the moment?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Banner

Look, look up.
See my new banner! Painted by yours truly.
Okay, drawn in water coloured pencils and then splattered with water. The cheats way, I know. But I've been wanting a new banner for awhile and I fixated on wanting a dragon. This is only take one so expect changes! I'm also going to keep tinkering with other drawings from my WIP Dragons' Nests. I'm finding it helpful for solidifying scenes and working things out.
Of course, in the scene I attempted drawing, the building being carried has three towers, not two and the dragon is purple, not red, but red looked better and three towers was too hard to fit in. I am having more sympathy for illustrators!
I'm already having a lot of ideas for more drawings, which is a blast. I want to draw the wolf queens fort and a map of the Lands of Lost Lore for a start. And I really think the emporium (with it's secret staircase into the Lands of Lost Lore) needs it's own drawing, and not just my rough little scetches.
I'm not happy with my drawings now, but I figure if I keep drawing in another 10,000 hours I should be able to get a rough approximation of the images in my head!
I'm loving drawing because we can do it as a family. My beloved draws misshapen organs (he's a med-student and it helps him learn his anatomy), I draw magical lands and my Poppet and Sprocket draw masterpieces needing long explanations.

Can a Leopard Change it's Spots (Or a Pantser become a Planner)

Are you a pantser or a planner?
I hadn't come across the term 'pantser' until I joined Scribophile, the online writing group, last year, but discussions about 'pantsers and planners' come up frequently in the forums.
As I understand it a 'pantser' is someone who writes 'by the seat of their pants', ie. without a plan. They just sit down and type. As opposed to a planner, who (as the name suggests) has it all planned out.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently as I write (and re-write) my synopsis for my Work In Progress,  Dragons' Nest.
There's something about condensing a novel into a page that brings out all the plot flaws.
The kind you look at and go. O. Hmm. And then hmm, again. And then, why don't I just go and have a cup of tea. And then another. Maybe some wine. And horrible phrases like 'Deux ex Machina' reverberate rather badly.
Now, I'm not saying I'm upset to spend more time with my delightful characters in my perfectly delicious world, because let's be clear, it's a heap of fun. (Hello, fortress of the werewolf queen, I'm here to stay!)
But it's a little worrying when you truly think you're finished, and have been thinking you've finished for a good few months, to realise there's plot holes big enough for a container ship to disappear into, requiring a good three extra chapters to fill.
And I got to thinking maybe if I'd written the synopsis first, and you know planned, that wouldn't have happened.
As it is, what is now one of the crucial plot lines only sprang itself on me one delirious night when I was approaching the finishing line. Now, fleshed out and bristling teeth, it's an integral part of the story.
Which isn't to say I don't write a lot of notes: because I do. I have hundreds (literally) of notebooks all filled with almost illegible writing of snippets of scenes, character descriptions, research and chapter outlines.
But... in the heart of writing strange things happen and I end up on unexpected voyages into the unplanned and unknown. Unfortunately these voyages sometimes contain detours into the land of Gaping Plot Holes.
I can think of at least three manuscripts I have sitting in forgotten folders that all have a sweet little hole... about eight tenths of the way through.
Yep. I love the characters, love the setting, lots of tension. But... there's that dang hole again.
So I'm wondering. I'm starting my next book soon (cue excited shiver of anticipation) and as usual I know (and love) my protagonist well. I know the names of her great grandparents and her favourite childhood pets. I know her main conflicts, flaws, weaknesses and bugbears. Mia just wants to run her cafe and concentrate on making the best coffee in the world... but instead she has to deal with her ancestral legacy of a magical world of mythical beasts. She can ignores the fantasy world pretty well until a werewolf pack (which happens to be the one her long dead dad came from) holds her sister hostage until Mia takes her rightful place as Queen of the Wolves.  
Problem: why, exactly, do the pack want Mia to be Queen?
I want the pack to want Mia to be Queen (or at least contest for the Queenship) because that's where my story goes and it suits the images in my head. But why do they want her to be Queen? They've never met her, didn't think much of her sister, and know she has no interest in them.
Will I write the whole book... get to... o yes, eight tenths of the way through where, in the denouement, some explanation needs to be made for this irrational behaviour and um...fudge...and then put it in a folder for a few months hoping the issue will miraculously resolve itself? Or will I try to write out a complete and satisfyingly believable synopsis first?
I believe... I believe I'm going to try to write the synopsis first...
I think nature intended me as a pantser, but that bit.. that bit eight tenths of the way through a manuscript?
It's really getting to me.
So goodbye to my old pantsering ways.
Henceforth, meet the new, improved planner.
Stay tuned to see if a leopard can change their spots... or a pantser become a planner...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Treading (not so) Gently

One of my New Years resolutions was to tread more gently on the earth.
I want to think more about my consumption habits and try to cut back on my family's share of the landfill.
More concretely, I decided to only buy handmade or secondhand, except for food, for 2013.
Of course, some things are harder than others to find secondhand or handmade.
So, seven weeks in, here's to being accountable - how am I doing so far?
Well, I soon realised that when I wrote 'food' I meant general groceries and health stuff as well.
You'll be relieved to hear we're buying new toilet paper. And toothbrushes. And you know, all kinds of toiletry stuff. And while I intend to slowly migrate to more earth friendly products we're still using a lot of super-market cleaning stuffs, although vinegar and eucalyptus oil are playing increasingly large roles.
I'm starting to fudge on things like... pencils and glue and paints. I'm telling myself it's in order to make handmade stuff, which it is... but if I spent long enough scouring the op-shops and e-bay I could pick them up secondhand (probably, eventually.)
I'm also fudging on 'health' stuff. So far I've brought 4 pairs of new sunglasses for my Beloved and I. None were over ten dollars, but...I know I could have found them in an op-shop if I'd just looked longer. Sunscreen is a clear must have... but the kids used my solitary lipstick to paint the bathroom, so... I'm thinking... lipstick is a health product, isn't it? All UV protective. I'm thinking if I get one of the skin cancer council ones that makes it all health-product-y. Doesn't it? (Hint: You're supposed to say yes, of course it's a health product.')
And then there are those couple of books I 'accidentally' brought new. (Yes, you can accidentally buy books new!) And I'm not counting e-books here because, lacking physical form I'm putting them down as 'handmade'... But now I'm thinking it's my duty to support other authors and buy new books, so maybe books should be an exception... but then e-books... but then picture books...
So, to sum it up, I'm not going particularly well.
But I am thinking more about what I'm buying and I think I'm getting better as I realise the pitfalls and how I need to plan better.
At least I'm hopeful that by the end of the year I'll have it all worked out... maybe.

Did you make New Years Resolutions?
How are they going?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sunday Stills

1. Valentines Present - watercolour pencils. I love just looking at the colours - but playing with them is even more fun!
2. Rose Candles - Oxfam
3. Poppet eating a Valentines gingerbread heart. The kids and I are working on our baking. We need to find a new gingerbread recipe - this one was pedestrian. (There was a jamaican recipe involving rum, sultanas and allspice that made me hungry just looking at it... but not very kid friendly!)
4. My Poppet painting at the kids painting wall at the Fiddlehead Festival. Such a great idea!
5. Poppet giving me a hug. Little arms around my neck... so precious.
6. A goat eating Poppet's hat at the Fiddlehead Festival. We've pretty much decided the Sprocket is too rough for guinea pigs or rabbits... and are considering hermit crabs. But goats seem fairly indestructible. Although my Beloved is worried for his garden (I am worried for the goat if it ate his chillis) and the one I had as a kid was a terrible escape artist. It kept getting onto the railway line in front of our house and chasing after a goat along a busy railway line is not fun. Mum, dad, are you up for goat-sitting when we go on holiday? (Don't worry I'm kidding - no pun intended. We are working out crab names as we speak. Harry is a hot contender. As is Jeffrey.)
7. I'm loving lots of new ideas at the moment. Just when I thought I'd finished I started working on the synopsis and realised I needed to write two more chapters!
8. My Poppet painting. We have been doing lots of drawing and painting this week and it's been so much fun.
9. My Sprocket - he chose the 'scary-man' face paint at the festival... but I think he looks like a very sweet scary-man.

Joining with Em over at The Beetleshack for Sunday Stills. 


1. My Poppet - in a shady playground on a hot day
2. My Sprocket looking young and thoughtful and chubby-cheeked. He is looking like such a big boy now I am trying to hold on to all the remnants of babyhood!

Joining with the lovely Jodi of Che and Fidel for a portrait of my children once a week for a year.

Friday, February 15, 2013

you got me dancing...

On Valentines day my Beloved put on some of my favourite music.
And my Sprocket said "Dance, mummy, come and dance."
So we all danced. My Beloved and I took turns picking up the little ones and swooping them down and spinning them around and they squealed and stomped and giggled.
I'm happy to know there'll be another generation of kids dancing to music none of their peers have heard about. Silly Wizard anyone? No? Never mind.
Today we're off to Fiddlehead Festival at Yinnar, for more dancing and already I'm humming.
So I'm joining with Maxabella at 52 Weeks of Grateful so grateful for the joy of dancing, for the thrill of the fiddles and for the wonder of music, and the happiness of sharing beloved bands with my kids.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

drawing dragons...

I've decided I need a new banner.

And I know how I want it to look, but not being an artist or done any artwork since year twelve (an aeon ago) I've been perplexed about how to go about getting it.

In the end I took the plunge, got me some new watercolour derwents and set down to create.

An afternoon, some candles and several cups of tea later and voila, one emporium-carrying dragon. The result is far from the picture in my head, but it's what I've got to work with so I've been playing with colours and crops, of various severity and luridness.

What do you think? Do you have a favourite, or a 'anything-but-that-and-don't-make-me-throw-up'? Back to the drawing board? Maybe fineliner with a watercolour (or pseudo watercolour) wash?

Gotta say I love playing with it all... but I find myself all indecisive in this old/new medium!

 Take One.

 Take Two.

 Take Three
The Original

Cropped and Lurid Take Four

Mistress of Spice

Wandering through the city last week we reached the Block Arcade (opposite the Hopetourn Tearooms) and I stopped short and let out something like a squeal. Because... a new shop had opened. A spice shop.
I promptly dragged my reluctant friend inside and set about exploring because...
My present book is about someone who opens a spice shop.
And I've never actually seen one.
I've swooned over pictures in National Geographic and Pinterest of big woven baskets of colourful spices in suqs and bazaars, and I've always loved all the spice goods available at Oxfam - spice drawers and unground spices and mortar and pestles... but I've never been in a shop solely devoted to spices.
A few people have asked when reading the book and discovering that Nell, my beloved character, opens a spice shop 'so what does she sell?' and I have refrained from hissing at them, and instead replied 'all things of wonder and aromatic delight!' but it was very lovely to walk inside and view an actual spice shop in it's rather pricey flesh!
This spice shop specialised in different mixes, such as hot-cross-bun mix and apple-cake-mix and various mixes for fish dishes and chicken dishes and all sorts of exotic salts. Looking at how this shop was laid out made me think more about how Nell's shop is laid out.
Dragons' Nests and Fire Birds is the first in a series of five, and Nell's  four sisters, who each get their own adventure and book, open respectively a cafe, a tea shop, a silk shop and a coffee shop. So I'm having a lot of fun designing 'dream' shops and researching.
Not being at all restrained by anything approaching reality (the emporium is a gift from grateful dragons, powered by the dragon sleeping in the basement and all the goods come from the magical Lands of Lost Lore) I can let my imagination spiral unchecked.
So... in my spice shop (ahem, I mean Nell's spice shop) the spices will all be sold unground (to keep the flavour longer and because I love the shapes of star anise and nutmeg, vanilla and cinnamon) while there will be ornate spice drawers and delicately made spice bottles, carefully carved boxes containing frankincense and myrrh (especially around Christmas) and of course spice treats and goodies. Spice scented candles and soaps and of course gingerbread houses and hearts. Mortar and pestles will be neccessary for spice grinding (as all goods come from the Lands of Lost Lore electric grinders are out of the question.)
Downstairs in Nell's sisters cafe, tasty spiced  will be sold... sticky spiced puddings, vanilla macaroons, highly spiced crumbles and rice puddings, while there will be spiced teas in the tea shops and melt in the mouth cinnamon truffles in the chocolate shop...
Now I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

What would you sell in a spice shop? Do you have a shop you dream of opening? 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Big City

There's something about a massive conglomeration of people all bustled together in glorious profusion that's oddly attractive. I've been a country girl now for awhile, and going to the Big Smoke is always such a buzz. I love all the ideas, the imagination, the liveliness of it all. I love the shops, the shoes, the coffees. On an everyday basis it's overwhelming - as a holiday it's intoxicating.

I hopped on a train last week and had a day 'on the town' with my oldest friend. We've known each other since we were four and I have a clear memory of hiding behind my mum's skirts when we were first introduced. We haven't seen each other for awhile so we talked solidly for ten hours. I missed not one, not two but three trains home.

We followed our old routines: meet under the clocks at Flinders Street Station, make our way past  all the cafes up Degraves street, through the gloriously ornate Block Arcade out to the far laneway for a coffee in the sun, a quick drop in at Oxfam for fair-trade essentials, a glass of wine on a balcony looking over Swanston Street, then on to the Cafe at the State Library (a sop to my inner librarian) before finishing with green tea and spring rolls at a fluoro-lit Vietnamese place.

The characters I'm writing about now live in the city and I kept craning my head around to take in every detail: the sparrows that hopped into the cafe, the haphazard mosaic on the wall, the fighting colour in the street art along the narrow laneway we stopped to take photos. The people... I'm still digesting all the people... (not literally!)

I've come away brimming with ideas to ponder, books to read and promises of meet ups soon.

This week I'm grateful for old (obviously not age-wise, as far as I'm concerned mid-thirties is young!)
and dear friends, catch-ups and coffees. Okay, and the odd glass of wine.

 I'm joining with Maxabella for 52 Weeks of Grateful, thankful for summer in the city and catching up with friends.

Goodbye Melbourne, I'll see you soon! (Skyline from Flinders Street Station just before I hop on my V-Line train home)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weekly Stills

1. Beach bags. A carry-all bilum my mum-in-law's workmates made in PNG for my Sprocket when he was a baby. It carries everything and then some
2. I found a crab floating around Tidal River and scooped it up for my Sprocket before I realised it was still alive. He carried it around until he found the perfect crab home. He's just checking the rocks for good homes
3. My Poppet making off with the car keys...
4.Putting her hat on back to front...
5.My Poppet crossing Tidal River
6. Sprocket and Crab
7. Poppet hiding behind a boulder
8. Sprocket's feet as he surveys the world
9. Squeaky Beach. The sand really does squeak!
10. Islands at Wilson's Promontory
11. A wallaby. We had a lot of discussions about whether it had a joey or not - and then realised it was a boy wallaby!

Once again a little late for Sunday Stills - I'm thinking of calling it Weekly Stills! I finally took my Beloved (a Queenslander) to Wilson's Prom National Park this weekend, after telling him he'd love it for the past seven years. Tidal river was perfect for my Poppet who loved lolling in it's stillness, and my Sprocket climbed the boulders like a mountain goat.
It was a completely magical day of white sand, sparkling sea and happy children. We followed the river to our own private river beach (unfortunately displacing a couple who took one look at us rounding the bend and fled, the guy shooting us an accusing look as they hastily donned clothes - but come on, it was broad daylight with gazillions of people swarming around! My Beloved was a lot more sympathetic to their plight)
We went to the main beach and frolicked and built sandcastles and climbed boulders, before heading for Squeaky Beach where we played hide and seek in more boulders and lolled in a sandy river.

Salt, sand, sea, stone (oh, and icecream) bliss. We'll be back very soon!

Joining with the lovely Em of The Beetle Shack for weekly stills.