Monday, July 29, 2013

Planes and Trains and Automobiles, O My!

The thought of going to an airport, even when I'm not getting on the plane, makes me slightly heady.
I love the idea of all the different 'big' stories colliding. I love thinking about families meeting up after long separations, backpackers setting off on life-changing journeys, lovers reuniting.
I'd like to say it's because my Beloved and I met for the first time in an airport, but truthfully, I loved airports long before that rather inauspicious meeting!
My Beloved and I caught the plane up to Sydney last week, and it lived up to all expectations. As we caught the ferry across the bay in the early morning I found myself nudging my Beloved and saying, "You know, for a place that isn't Melbourne, Sydney's not half bad, eh?"
And there's something about the vast space of the bay, the houses all tumbling down to the sea, the clear light, that is little short of intoxicating. Fuelling my love of travel we also caught trains (be still my heart!) and a bus! We even passed a Central Station, although not NYC central station, it held reflected glory!

I was a little infatuated by the ferries. I have always thought the Melbourne trams particularly appealing, but ah, ferries! And look, look, moi, with the opera house! I always feel a bit odd posting photos with me in them, so please look beyond at the iconic!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekly Stills: Brown

1. My Poppet, climbing a dirt pile. She's the Queen of the Dirt Pile!
2. Deep in earth.
3. The light falls on her feet. Socks and gumboots were quickly discarded.
4. A caught feather.
5. A marsh reed.
6. A wooden angel at my desk.
7. Pen and writing book, at my desk. I write differently, long hand. (And I don't just mean illegibly, although that too.) The words seem to come from a different place. I write differently at my desk than I do slouched in bed...
8. Quince blossom from the garden.

Joining with the lovely Em from The Beetleshack for weekly stills. Once I shot the photos of my Poppet in the dirt pile, I couldn't resist a 'brown' theme for the week, celebrating the rich tones of earth and wood, one of the delights of winter. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013


1. My Sprocket. "It's a secret. Nana's going to email me a robot..."
2. Nana putting in my Poppet's 'Princess Crown'. The very last treat.

My beloved and I had a whirlwind few days up in Sydney this week and my Beloved's parents flew down from Brisbane to look after the little ones.

These photos were taken just after my Beloved and I stepped off the plane and we'd adjoined to the closest petrol stations for farewells. My beloved's folks were heading off to the other airport to fly home, and we were about to start the long drive home. It'll be Christmas before the kids see their Nana again. While I love the ease of travel now, and it's nothing like how hard it was when I was growing up - when five years of more would go by between seeing grandparents, it's always hard.

Joining with the beautiful Jodi for a portrait of my kids, once a week, every week in 2013

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A 'Good' Villain is Hard to Write

I'm working on my villains at the moment. A protagonist can make or break a book, and I fear mine have always been somewhat lame. Of course, a novel doesn't necessarily have to have a villain, depending on the genre, many don't. But as my favourite genre to write is fantasy, villains are pretty much de rigour.
My last 'big' villain was easy as I just based her on someone who really screwed my family over.
You know what they say - never upset a novelist or they'll write you into their novel?
Totally true. With fiendish, cackling delight. She didn't get thrown into a volcano (or throw  another villain into the volcano and end up rotting in a third world prison for the rest of her life, my initial thoughts) but she did get turned into a werewolf and banished to a wasteland-beyond-the-world for the rest of her life. *
This time around 'the villain' is based upon a real (well, mythological) character. The terrible one eyed Balor. Whose dreaded single eye kills all it falls upon. Who demands a tithe of firstborns from the lands he conquers. Who, hearing a prophecy that his grandchild will kill him, incarcerates his only daughter from infancy and murders his own descendants. He's a pretty scary guy. And it's fairly easy to just write him up 'straight' and end up with a decent villain.
But... then I saw Andrew Scott's wonderful portrayal of Moriarty in the BBC's Sherlock, and I was completely blown away. His intellect, his playfulness, his randomness, his plotting and scheming and pleasant voice and mobile face were just brilliant. I have to use it.
I'm still wondering if I have to use it in this book. Or if he deserves his own special book. (Dear Lord, no, I have a queue!) Can I have a playful, random, plotting, scheming, pleasant voiced Balor?
Hmm. Tempting. Tempting.

*Ooops. I'm sounding a little villainess-y  here. Maybe I should write myself in as the next villain... author as role model for villain... what do you think? And yes, I'm still working on the forgiveness thing. However, I think the writing was cathartic. I'm pretty much over it now. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Musical Interlude (Acquired taste I expect!)

I'm falling a wee tad behind in Camp Nano again: nothing irredeemable, but enough to make me think of stopping procrastinating. I have seventeen thousand words to write before next week. Bleah. It'll be done.
I've been writing piecemeal, jumping from scene to scene using the writing program scrivener, but I think I'll stop now and go back to a more linear style as I feel it's more momentum building.

Anyway, here are some of the songs I've been drawing inspiration from and which (may) play a role in Fosterling.

Niamh Parsons singing Fear a Bhata (the boatman). There are a million versions - I think I heard Capercaillie's first, but I'm partial to hers at the moment.

Silly Wizard and The Queen of Argyll, written by Andy M. Stewart and performed... awhile ago. I first heard it covered down at the Port Fairy Folk Festival at least a decade ago - you know, when I still camped. (I'm not sure if that was the year our tents flooded and I had to spend most of the last night in the car, along with my brother and three of his sodden mates... there are reasons I hate camping!) and I thought even back then the song had potential for story. Anyway, I'm fairly sure my central character, Jack/Lugh is going to sing this for his foster-mum just before he goes back to the Otherworld for good. Maybe at the Port Arlington Celtic Festival?
Still to be decided.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Best Toys (A Moment)

We grabbed the essentials - a golden ball, an all important teddy, the family hound, and headed out. While I ran the hound (okay, leisurely strolled after the first twenty paces) around the oval, the kids and my beloved played with the ball. And I got to thinking that (after the trampoline!) the three dollar plastic ball has seen the most use and the most fun of all the toys. Weird, huh.
Baby Cubby (clutched in Poppet's hand in one of the photos) has also recently come into near constant play. Baby Cubby is being constantly dressed, undressed, brought to me for milk, put to bed and brought everywhere. The cry of 'where's Baby-Cubby' is a constant and woe betide us all if we lose track of where he is.

A moment in time. Two favourite toys. And from nearly a year ago - the same golden ball.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Weekly Stills - From the Forest

-My Sprocket on a little bridge. I love looking down to see the small trickle of water over the sandbank. But seem to have forgotten a photo of it.
- Wild greenery.
- Green velvet moss. Can you imagine a dress out of this stuff? Although it might be a little damp...
- Weird white fungi stuff. Any takers on a name?
- Orange/yellow saucer fungi - again, any takers on a name? I am sadly lame at knowing fungi names.
-Wombat Poo. Or kangaroo. Or wallaby. Or echidna. Anyone any good at identification? We spend a lot of time looking for, and then studying, animal poo and trails and scratchings - in the absence of actual animal spottings. I have discovered a gaping hole in my education when it comes to identification of animals through their droppings.
- Poppet and Sprocket on the bridge. Note Poppet's cautious eyes and her carefully clutched treasure!

We try to get to the sea or the forest at least once every week. I find it greatly improves tempers (alright, my temper!) There's something about being in a place where the air is thick and rich, moist and eucalypt laden, where you can hear the birds call and the breeze, where there are always entrancingly strange things to look for and animal tracks to wonder at. This is my favourite 'close' spot. A little bridge in the Morwell National Park (where the hero of Sebastian Lives in a Hat comes from) that is surrounded by mosses and mushrooms, fungi and the sound of flowing water.

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

Saturday, July 20, 2013


1. My Sprocket, wearing what my beloved refers to as his 'old-man cardie'.  He has been asking lots of philosophical and theological questions recently, most of which leave me stumped. It is very deflating!

2. My Poppet, carrying treasures from a forest walk.

Joining with the lovely Jodi over at Che and Fidel for a portrait of the kids, once a week in 2013.

Friday, July 19, 2013


I confiscated a hatchet from my Sprocket this week. It feels like we've chopped down half a forest in the past few days and he wanted to help chop up the logs. I had visions of missing toes. As I took it away and searched (rather despairingly) for a place he couldn't get it, he scowled at me.
"I'm not your baby-boy any more!"
And I smiled at him and told him "Darling, you will always be my baby-boy."
And he will be. No matter how big he grows, or how far he goes (although let's be honest, if he choses to live at home till he's in his nineties, I'd be very happy) he'll always be my baby.

Yesterday we picked up my Sprocket's enrolment pack for school next year. We peeked into the prep-classroom, said hello to the prep teacher and drank from the big-kids water fountains. It's a familiar school - we've gone there every Friday for playgroup for the last two years, so my Sprocket knows the grounds, some of the teachers, and some of the rooms very well. He'll be going up with a group of kids from his kindy and the playgroup. And I'm repeating all this to myself to assure myself my little tornado will be just fine at school. I may be a blubbering wreck, but he'll be fine.

But he'll always be my baby boy. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thoughts from the Campfire*

So I'm halfway through Camp Nano July in which I once again attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. And I've finally, as of about two hours ago, caught up. I'm officially past the half way mark and not lingering way, way behind on my word targets.
Sickness and sad stuff had me (and the house) in a mess for awhile, but now we're back on track. It doesn't hurt that all the holidays - my beloved's and kindy and playgroup are over. Thank goodness. Back to lovely, plan-able routine. As someone living in the centre of self-created chaos, routine imposed from the outside is greatly appreciated.

Notes on the Nano Journey so far:

*The removal of the internet greatly improves productivity.
*If I wake too early in the morning (say 2am) not only does not a lot get done (except valuable, research-oriented pinteresting, ahem) but the next day I turn into Dragon Lady. It's not pretty. 4.30am is a much better time to wake up to get a solid two hours of writing in before the kids awake.
*Coffee (thank-you, my most wonderful Beloved) is necessary for brain function at 4.30am.
*It is much warmer in the small hours of the night if we have lit a fire the night before. Yes, big fires (and marshmallows) really are crucial to Camp Nano.
*A really productive writing day (shamefully) involves the absence of children. Today has been my first proper day writing day ALL month, as kindie started back this week. A writing sprint at the Uni cafe saw the crucial seven thousand words under my belt to see me back on track. Yesterday, all was despair. I'd lost momentum. I'd never catch up. All was doom. And gloom. Today, all is happiness.
*I am maybe a little fixated on the graphs on the nano homepage. You put your current word count in the little box and it tells you how far you've come, how many words you've written today, and how much you presently need to write each day to finish in time. You get the picture. Cute little writing graphs. We loves them.

And... I think I can do it. I really think I'm going to get the bones of the beast down. There have been moments (mainly desperately researching mythological Irish genealogy that in No Way makes sense at some ungodly hour in the morning) that I have had strong doubts. But... now, flush with a good, solid roll of writing, all things are possible. Cue happy dance.
In a wonderful example of confluence, Laini Taylor had a great blog today about Writers with Kids. We do what we have to do, but I fear I cannot be like the writer Laini quotes who looks after his four kids during day... and then writes all night! Hats off. Seriously. Awe. Wonder. In fact, I don't think there are words for it.

Anyway. Halfway through. Things are on track.

If you're doing Nano, how are you going? If you're not how do you deal with deadlines? Deadlines with kids?

*The metaphorical campfire. The one with hot water and flushing toilets and soft-sinking-into-beds close at hand. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Wintry Weekly Stills

1. An echidna beside the road. I tried to move it further from the road, as we also saw a flat echidna, but it burrowed itself in, and my attempts to transport it to safety were stressing it. I'm hoping it moved itself! Echidnas are my very favourite Australian animal and I was so excited we all saw it!
2. My Sprocket, running in the hills.
3. My Poppet, happy by sea.
4. Poppet & Sprocket running on the shore like swift footed birds.
5. Cold, sandy feet.
6. Cold, icy windscreen. It's been so cold here lately! This was the windscreen one morning recently. Oddly, the car refused to start!
7. I left the kitchen window open overnight and my lemon squeezer filled with rain!
8. My Poppet 'expecting'. Her baby was somewhat furry, and quite brown, but a very endearing baby bear!

Joining with the wonderful Em over at The Beetleshack for weekly stills.


1. My Poppet examining a chunk of washed up sea-stuff. It was a perfect little island and very enchanting.
2. My Sprocket making off with a good portion of our picnic lunch. Kabana in one hand, bread in the other. There was too much to see and do to stay still!

Joining with the lovely Jodi of Che and Fidel   for a portrait of my children once a week in 2013. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cooking by Blog

I very nearly used an actual recipe book for the first time in memory today. But then I realised we didn't  have eggs, so I ended up on the internet as usual. Eggless pancakes, hello!
Nearly all my favourite but-not-quite-remembered recipes are now bookmarked on my computer, and I've found I'm increasingly cooking by blog.
Tried and tested recipes include this truly divine Honey and Lavender cake I swooned over at This Brown Wren. How can you possibly go wrong with a recipe involving honey, lavender, lemon zest and cinnamon? Not to mention a decadent caramelling process. I've already made it once and will be making it again for my mum's birthday and then my Poppets. Chocolate delights always go down well with the kiddies and this gorgeous Choc-Orange Pudding recipe from Happiness Stuff and Nonsense - just like the one my mum made when I was a kid, but with orange, has been used ridiculous amounts of times.
Sticky Date Pudding? Yes, I have it on my bookmarks bar, courtesy of Slightly Organised Chaos. (Sweet tooth, moi? Never!) And what would the world be without brownies? Far less sweet and sticky, that's what. The only problem is getting the kids to leave enough mixture to bake.
On a savoury note, our favourite un-sugary recipe is far and away this one for Thai Green Curry from the BBC site, which has a link to making your own curry paste. The smells of lemongrass, ginger and coriander never fail to make me slightly heady. And hey, anything with coconut milk is an automatic win.
Already bookmarked for future use are another recipe from the BBC, this time for Oat Cakes and this gorgeous recipe for Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, which looks beautiful and seems to be gluten and lactose free (major win!) much thanks to Seana Smith and Nigella Lawson! (What, a chocolate-y theme? Merely research for a book I'm aiming to write next year - Death By Chocolate - working title. Although of course, dragons, an arrogant-magician-in-disguise and scheming relatives of a long-lost-dad share top billings with the lashings of luscious Chocolate! NOT an addiction. Honest!)

How about you? Do you still use real, solid tactile recipe books, or is the internet your friend?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Black is the Colour...

A while back my wonderful sister-in-law came to visit and we sat in front of the fire, scoffed sipped red wine and watched music videos. Perfection. We both have a bit of a thing for Passenger at the moment and, while idly looking through clips, we arrived at this song. (Okay, I think that's what happened. It was a few days ago.) Anyway. I saw it and I knew.

Isobel Anderson (who has the remarkable good taste to share my surname) sitting in a pub, opening her mouth and letting the most amazing sound pour out. Jealousy, awe, wonder and 'Aha' rolled together.


Number One. My present protagonist, Cat  (lead singer of a celtic-rock band and foster mother of the god Lugh) is absolutely going to sit in a pub and just open her mouth and sing. Don't know how or when, but it's going to happen.

Number Two. Isobel has a very different type of voice to Cat, and looks very different, but she does look incredibly like how I'd always imagined a character called Carrie to look, and if Carrie could sing, (which she can't) that's how she'd sound. I have to re-write Carrie's book to bring her alive. But... ideas are stirring.

Number Three. I am now determined to use Black is the Colour of My True Love's Hair in (at least) two pivotal moments in Fosterling, my current work in progress. Firstly when Cat sings to her love just before she returns from the islands with a completely unexpected baby she won't explain, and secondly when she's been kidnapped by One Eyed Balor, and Lugh realises she's in the wrong world when he hears someone re-singing the song and asks who they heard it from. Yay. Love it when pieces just fit together.

Black is the Colour is a song that's been used many times before - most notably in Ellis Peter's wonderful novel of the same name. (Although in that case the singer changed the words to Black is the Colour of my True Love's Heart, when she believed she'd been betrayed.)  But I think it's up to it.

Here's the Passenger mix that lead to it. There's an excerpt from Isobel singing Black is the Colour at the beginning, but don't worry, it's not the same!

And can I just say - I love the clip. The sea. The birds. The shore. An old wooden boat and three people just singing. Love. (And she so looks completely like Carrie. I don't have room, time, headspace to re-write Carrie. But damn it, I'm just going to have to do it.)

The Cove

I was desperate to get to the sea these holidays. I'd been promising myself a few days falling asleep to the sound of the sea for the longest time. But our holidays got eaten with sickness and sadness and in the end the thought of all those hours in the car was too much for me.
We couldn't go to our coastal house, far far away on the other side of the Big Smoke... but we could steal an afternoon at one of my favourite 'close-up' beaches - the cove.
I fell in love with the cove the first time I saw it, and each time we go my love only increases. The hidden sweep of sand, the clear water, the in-rolling waves, the green surrounding. Magic, pure and simple.
My Beloved started back at university today - he has a psychiatry rotation and a paediatrics rotation and then exams worth so much I come out in conniptions just thinking about them. This is supposed to be the most intense semester of the whole course and I am already dreading what I have been told of his hours on his paediatrics rotation.
But... we had a perfect afternoon yesterday: a picnic on the shore, crab-searching, sand-playing... and on the way home we saw an echidna.

It felt like the most beautiful gift. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Weekly Stills 27/52


1. My Poppet has been tenderly caring to her baby dolls. I love watching her tuck them in and sing them lullabies.
2. The first blossom of Spring. Sort of. I know it's still mid-winter, but the plants don't seem to know it, and I've been so excited to see the first blossom, the first violets, the first sprouts of the bulbs poking through. Just after I took the photo out on a walk I saw that my very own quince was in blossom. Next week!
3. Poppet lining up some of her teddies to look out the window. A second-hand type, Scottish photo. The little Scottish Teddy with the flag of St Andrew on it was sent over for my Sprocket's birth, and Poppet is wearing the jumper we got Sprocket in Elgin, Scotland. The book I'm working on is set in Scotland (and Ireland) so I'm calling it a lucky chance!
4. Wood for the fire. Love me a man with an axe and my Beloved has been busy most afternoons getting wood ready for the fire!
5. New curtains. One of my finds on a recent op-shop binge. I love the way the light catches in it.
6. Keeping warm and cosy. An old blanket and warm boots!

Joining with the lovely Em of The Beetleshack for some wintery weekly stills!