Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Romance of Roses

It is one of my dreams to go to Turkey when the roses are blooming. I dream of walking amongst endless rose fields and throwing myself into the sheds of roses where they distill the oils. I can imagine few greater joys.
While I'm waiting to visit Turkey, I take the kids to the Morwell Rose Garden, and while there aren't exactly fields of roses in all directions, the roses are spectacular and the scent of them clouds around you and drifts over you and you can walk through numerous rose beds and rose draped pavillions in a delightful dream. The kids love running down the paths and climbing the walls (ahem) and I walk around joyfully, taking photos. I've tried to narrow the photos down, with little luck. I am afraid I am a rose addict. They are all so beautiful, the scent so intoxicating.
Luckily, my Sprocket left his toy behind, so we're going back tomorrow.

The problem, of course, is that I have a tendency to go - this rose is stunning. It really would look beautiful in my garden. I am trying to avoid (another) trip to the nursery. Particularly the specialist rose nursery near us. I know the best time to get roses is in winter when they're bare-rooted, but just look at them! The gardens around us are also full of beautiful blooms at present, which we always pause and admire. I am exceptionally happy with my own garden, and not a day has gone by this past fortnight when I haven't commented to my Beloved, 'have I mentioned how glorious my roses are?' to which he tends to reply 'not today' or 'not this hour.'

Are you a rose addict? Is there a cure?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Swoon - fiction & reality (okay and a bit of a whine!)

I've read a lot of books where female characters swoon or pass out with great effect at pivotal moments. The fiestier characters tend to only be be pretending to faint to gain their own nefarious aims. Lesser, irritating characters swoon at inopportune moments to cause great inconvenience to all. Characters often fall gracefully to the ground on hearing horrific news. 
All of which tends to make me cranky. 
I faint quite a bit. Not yearly, not even every second year, but enough that I'm always a little bit worried, and that I have very vivid memories of exactly what it feels like - at least for me. 
I am considering having one of my most adventurous, hard-talking protagonists (male or female, I'm yet to decide) faint, just so I can finally read a description that seems vaguely accurate. 
The first time I fainted I was about thirteen and went on a school 'fun' run and then had a violin lesson which involved lots of standing and the teacher shouting at me, while I found it increasingly hard to take in what she was saying. Hot and clammy, the edges of the world started blurring, and then the teachers rather large face (or possibly just overly close to mine) took on a greeenish tinge, and then became entirely green, and dappled, and she turned into a toad. 
And I woke up to find myself lying on the floor. 
I managed to avoid fainting for quite a few years, although remained prone to dizziness. For awhile I tended to dizziness after giving blood, but then I was banned from giving blood as I lived in Britain for more than six months in the eighties. When I could give blood, they often refused to take it, as my blood pressure was too low. 
And then pregnancy. So far I've fainted at least once with each pregnancy, and multiple times with the first two. 
The stupid thing is, I know exactly what causes it: Not enough water, not enough breakfast and standing up too much. 
The first time I was doing teaching rounds and stood in the gym through two periods of kids doing activites. I think I ate breakfast: I assume it came up . Again; losing track of what's going on, the clamminess, the non-comprehending, the blackness around the edges - and out for the count. 
Some months later - first day at a new job, in a hurry, skipped breakfast - and... out for the count. 
The first faint with the Poppet was dramatic as it was in the International Airport, just as we were heading off for our Big Trip. The rush of getting to the airport on time, not enough breakfast, standing in queue for our bags to go through... and yep... same old same old. But this time I staggered away to find a seat, got separated from my Beloved and dizzily lost in the airport. I can't quite remember if the Sprocket was strapped to my tummy, but I do remember it wasn't fun. The second was just at a Sunday market - hot day, lots of walking, not enough breakfast - and... here it comes again... 
Of course, the thing that reminded me was... fainting again... 
This time, in a shopping centre, with the Poppet having a tantrum over being denied the pink-princess-skateboard-she-can't-live-without. This time, I worked out a few minutes in advance what was happening. When the clamminess, blurred vision, dizziness, nightmare-vibe struck, I had a fair idea what was happening. I lunged for the Poppet, grabbed her, plonked us both on the floor and looked desperately around for someone to look after her while I was blacked out. Luckily, there was someone both calm and capable close by, who promised not to let Poppet run away and get lost (probably with a pink-princess-skateboard for ease of mobility) and, assured Poppet was safe... yep, all went black again. Everyone was very helpful. The staff of the shop brought me water and helped me to a chair when I recovered enough . But it was scary, distressing, and more than a little humiliating, to have to ask for help, being sprawled in the aisle of a shopping centre.
And all because in the rush of getting the kids ready for kindy I hadn't eaten or drunk enough. A finely calibrated system and low blood pressure can really suck. 
I read a lot of fantasy. Amazing characters doing amazing feats, without food, sometimes for days (hours seems long to me) and they're perfectly fine. They function. They even - gasp - skip breakfast. Let alone second breakfast. (Maybe I'm part Hobbit?) 
Just once, I'd like to read of a hero (male or female) fainting because, you know, they've forgotten to drink enough water or run out of the house without breakfast before that gruelling twelve hour training session or mad life-or-death dash through the forest or fate-of-the-kingdom-in-the-balance-horseride. 
But looks like I'm going to have to write it! 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekly Stills

-Baby Scan for baby three - due next May!
-Me - trying on my wedding dress - twelve weeks pregnant. I was seven months pregnant at my wedding, but having lost weight with morning sickness and being at my lightest since pre-kid times, I wanted to see how much it needs taking in. Quite a lot!
-Beautiful rose in the front garden. The last twelve weeks have been miserable - sinusitis and then morning sickness - the roses coming out have seemed like a promise that better times are ahead. Please...
-Silkworms at my Sprocket's kindy. When I looked at them four hours earlier there were vast quantities of mulberry leaves - which they chomped through voraciously. I love the interesting things they do at the Kindy - there always seems to be something new and interesting.
-Some of the goodies at the stall my mum was manning on the weekend. Everything is made in East Timor and the profits all go to the region of Same.
-Poppet - checking out the world from a different angle.
-White roses on a red brick wall.
-Lavender and roses on a sunny spring afternoon - perfection. This is the lavender bush my Sprocket haunts, studying bees. He's been stung multiple times, but it doesn't put him off. I have explained how the poor bee dies when it stings... but the temptation to stick his nose closer is too strong!
-Bed. Where I want to be 24/7 at the moment. My Beloved has suggested that my extreme exhaustion may be caffeine withdrawal as well as morning sickness - I don't know. All I know is I would happily sleep for a couple of centuries... and then a few decades more!

Joining with the lovely Em over at The Beetle Shack for moments from our week.


Poppet - Blowing on a dandelion clock
Sprocket - in the sandpit at kindy - displaying his newest tree-climbing war-wound... 

Once again joining with the lovely Jodi at Che and Fidel for a portrait of my children, once a week, every week (nearly) in 2013.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wedding Dress...

My Beloved and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary recently(ish). It sort of disappeared in a haze of sickness. I believe we ordered takeout. But there was sunny weather, and the morning sickness means that for the first time in a long time I'm back to my pre-kids weight (almost) - but anyway, it occurred to me to try on my wedding dress again.
Which is strange, because the thing about my wedding dress is that when we got married I was seven months pregnant. However, I wanted to see how much it needs to be taken in again if my Poppet decides to wear it for her wedding or my Sprocket's future spouse decides on it, or if I decide to wear it for our ten-year -anniversary/sort-of-second-wedding/but-not-so-chaotic-when-I'm-not-gigantically- pregnant-and-can-drink-champagne.
I always knew that I wanted to wear the dress my mum and her mum wore. It's changed a lot since my grandmother wore it.

 My Granny, Valerie East, Marrying George Yule

 Granny and Grandad in the garden on their Silver Wedding Anniversary

When Granny wore it, it had a little Peter Pan collar and long sleeves. When Mum married, the dress was posted over to England.

Mum, in Cambridge. The Peter Pan collar had gone and the sleeves had been shortened.

I tried it on periodically through all my teen years, and although there was a gorgeous Edwardian dress my Great Granny had worn that I occasionally considered, I loved that this dress had been worn by my mum and my grandmother, and that we were all the firstborn, eldest girls.
Of course, I knew when my beloved and I started trying for a baby shortly after we announced our engagement, that the dress might not fit quite so well with a baby bump. But in my (enormous) naievety I expected a. The baby would be instantly conceived and therefore born before the wedding - and that I would instantly shrink back to pre-baby size. and b. even if I was pregnant for the wedding, I would have a gorgeous little bump, while the rest of me stayed the same size.
Um. No.  While yes, I was sick during the first twelve weeks, after that I was radiantly healthy... and hungry.  Very, very hungry. Forget eating for two, I ate for three or four. The seamstress worked a miracle to get the dress to fit, and I will be forever grateful.
The dress is shorter now - material was taken from the hem to increase the sides, the neck made yet lower. The bust is considerably larger. To resize it will take a bit of work. (You might notice in the photo at the top that my hand is behind my back, pulling the dress in, and that the material is quite lose around the bust...) But it means so much that I wore the family dress, and I can't help hoping, just a leetle bit, that my Poppet wears it someday too. (Although of course if she decides to never marry or wear something entirely different that's fine too!)

O La La

Every so often I decide I'd like to be French.

I'm not entirely sure why.

 It could be something about the romance of Paris, the chicness, the elegance, the culture and sophistication... anyway, every so often it hits me that I'd like to be French. 

At the height of my if-I-were-french-I wouldn't-be wearing-ill-fitting-jeans-and-picking-up-a-hundred-million-apple-cores-a-day, but instead I'd be sitting in an office being Very Important while my little one were being carefully moulded into ideal citizens by brilliantly qualified child care professionals who fed them three course meals, I started on a reading binge. 

I made my way through French Children Don't throw Food (Gail Druckerman), followed it up with French Women Don't Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons (Mireille Gulliano), and threw in 'Paris in Love' (Eloisa James) for good measure. And raced my way through a few more that I've forgotten, but will scroll through my kindle for and probably re-read. 

The thing is, I actually lived in Paris for all of six weeks as an au pair. I dropped 'my' kid of at the maternelle, and wandered Paris's galleries with a babe strapped to my tummy. I was eighteen at the time and the little four year old I looked after would tearfully say 'I miss my mummy!' and I would blink back tears and struggle not to say 'I miss my mummy too.' 
I'd run down the stairs from my room in the attic (with a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower) at about eight am, just as the children's mum was leaving, and then sometime about eight that night the dad would get back, and then sometime later the mum would get home. Of the five weekends I was there the mum was in another country for three of them, and I, or someone else, looked after the kids. I'm not sure what the dad was doing. The couple loved their kids, it just seemed... strange that they never saw them. 

When I read French Children Don't throw Food, I was reminded of that time (just, the memories are hazy) as the author recounts what she's learnt about bringing up kids in Paris. And some of the ideas seem very sensible.  

I like the idea of a three course meal for the kids that encourages them to sit at the table and talk with the family about what they're eating - the textures, the tastes. (I like even better that the three 'courses' are a quick salad, a pasta with a light sauce and some pureed fruit - often store brought… I can do that!) 

I like the idea that children are expected to 'wait', to learn patience. All the studies say that instilling patience and an understanding of deferred gratification, is one of the most important things I can give my kids. At the moment they're looking pretty empty handed in that regard. 

I've been wandering around the house going 'attend!' (wait) and the kids have been looking confused. 

But waiting for me to explain. 

We'll get there.

 I had even less luck with 'It is I who is in command', when I tried it on my four year old. 

"No! I am in command!" 
"No, I am!"
"No, I am."
"Seriously, kid, this isn't how it went in the book."

'The pause', waiting, watching, regarding the child, starts early, in infancy. My Beloved went a little blue in the face when I read him the bit about French babies sleeping through the night within a couple of months, as he appears to think the guidelines say feeding on demand is best until later, for SIDS reasons and others, and if your baby doesn't wake to feed enough you should wake them. I never did. I figured a sleeping child was something almost sacred. But it makes a lot of sense that, before you pick up your baby in the night, you pause, wait, and see if it's a real waking or just a change of sleep cycle and the baby will self sooth if it's allowed. 

I definitely enjoyed French Children Don't Throw Food, Druckerman's style is funny, self-deprecating, and of course I love the chance to sticky-beak at other cultures. But… I couldn't help thinking that even if it were possible (which it's not, Australian culture isn't set up for kids to go into state-funded, long-day care from 3 months old) I'd miss the kids. 

I might not be bringing my kids up to know their cheeses, and they might not sit like little angels in restaurants, but I think it's good for them to have impromptu mud-dances, to climb trees, to fall out of trees, to get bored and decide to draw on the trampoline in chalk... 

And yet... 

'It is I who is in command ...' feels quite nice on the tongue. Our semi-democracy is a bit free-wheeling and chaotic. 

Maybe I'll try harder to be French.  'Attend! Attend!'

Monday, October 21, 2013

Baby Three... Due in May!

So. I'm delighted to (finally!) announce that my Beloved and I are expecting our third baby in May next year. Our Baby is twelve weeks old (as of today!) and, after a rough few months, I'm starting to feel human again. 
To those of you who I've said 'no' to delicious looking home-made goodies - this is why! The Fusspot baby has had very decided ideas about what I can, and mostly, what I cannot, eat. Luckily, Fusspot  the baby seems to have stopped fussing, and I am dreaming about steak. Lots and lots of steak... 
The kids are very much looking forward to the arrival of their new sibling. Poppet tells me she will look after "the Princess Baby" while I'm at work, (no, we don't know the gender yet!)  and Sprocket tells me he's very proud of me for growing a baby. (I'm pretty proud of me, too!) 
I'm going to try my very hardest not to fill my blog with pregnancy/baby stuff, or Too Much Information stuff. But I have strong doubts as to my success. Because, you know, there's a gorgeous ittsy-bittsy baby on the way ... with the darling little toes, and the tiny fingers and the ... well... yes.  Look forward to normal brain functioning sometime in oh, maybe 2016? 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Stills - Floral

Various Blossoms and Roses of Spring. I have been so excited about my roses (finally!) coming out, and have recently noticed that the local rose garden is in full and glorious bloom. These roses were actually at my mum and dads, but rest assured, mine are just coming out as well! 

My Poppet - climbing in my bedroom window. Sometimes it seems the kids spend all day going in and out of my bedroom window, either going to search the front garden for bugs or returning with 'cute, darling, baby millipedes' or 'the biggest slater in the world.' 

My Poppet - holding one of her favourite cups. For her first birthday my mum got her a tea set of La Rosa from the op-shop, as Poppet and I share the same middle name 'Rosa'. She's devoted to it, but not particularly good at being gentle. We've been shifting a lot of furniture around on the weekend and Poppet managed to get hold of one of the hidden tea cups. "See, mama, I won't break it." 

The most exciting and wonderful arrival of spring - my little nephew. He is completely adorable and his big sister is devoted. 

Joining with the lovely Em from The Beetle Shack for moments from our week.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


My Poppet - Holding her Baby Box. She has long since removed all the treasures I carefully saved.
My Sprocket - Lying in bed, playing with a robot.

I've missed a fair few weeks of a portrait a week, every week in 2013, and while I considered trying to catch up, I just haven't taken enough photos. The weeks will have to stay skipped. Today has been the first truly hot day of the year, and we celebrated with a Spring Clean. Give the kids some wet cloths and some dirty walls and they're happy for hours. Who knew? They want to do it again next week...

Joining with the lovely Jodi over at Che and Fidel for a portrait of my kids once a week, (okay most weeks,) in 2013.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Family Games - Mah Jong

Unique Wonders - My Beloved won with this hand shortly after I taught him to play, back when we were still living in the Solomon Islands. In all my (um, thirty) years playing he's the only one who has got this hand. He was very proud. 

I think most families have games they always come back to - with us, it's Mah Jong.
In the late 1940's my Great Aunt and her family went to China, where they lived for four years, only returning to Australia when the Communists took over (the boat they left on was shelled). She returned with a Mah Jong set. While my Great Grandmother also left a Mah Jong set (which was possibly older, I'm not sure) it was Great Aunt Jean's set that we played with throughout my childhood. Every time we went down to the beach house, out would come the Mah Jong.

Mah Jong is a lovely, tactile game to play. There's the gentle clack of the tiles as you shuffle, the making of the four walls, the dealing of the hand. First to east, second to south, third to west, fourth to north, and then again, and then again, then first and third to East and one each in order around the table. Tiles are sorted and flower tiles are retrieved from the Flower Wall.

The tiles are solid, cool, the suits and honours engraved in them. 

I think I began playing at three or four, pretty much as soon as I could recognise numbers. I still remember the excitement of playing with the big people, the dark surrounding the small shack, the sound of the sea, the click of the tiles and the great anticipation of what the tiles would bring. 

Mah Jong is very much like Gin Rummy to play. (A fact I discovered on one of the hop-on-hop-off buses going across Eastern Europe. A nice New Zealander taught me to play Gin Rummy - then stopped speaking to me when I won the first four games ...) There are three suits - bamboos, characters and circles and then the 'extras.' The aim is to get four sets of three and a pair, but then there are the fancy hands... the Unique Wonders, the Heavenly Twins, the One to Nine... 

As a child I thought the pinnacle of happiness was to win with an All Green Hand. This would be a hand of two, four, six and eight bamboo, with a pung (or better a kong) of my beloved Green Dragons thrown in for good measure... and if I managed to get a bouquet or a pair of flowers ... all the better. Of course, a one-to-nine is always a lot of fun, as there's the tension of having to pick all the tiles up from your hand, rather than the board, and the dread that a tile will go 'dead' before you get it.

Most places I've gone around the world I've brought a Mah Jong set. Not a lovely old, aged bone or ivory one, but a cheap plastic one, and taught the people around me how to play.

Thus it was that shortly after we started going out my Beloved and I moved into a share house on the shoreline in Honiara, the Solomon Islands and, pretty much simultaneously, I taught him how to play Mah Jong. The house was (is) still, pretty much my dream house. It was all exposed wood and polished  boards, a tree grew through the verandah, the rambling garden was full of basil and chilli, aubergine and tropical flowers, the trees along the sea-line had hammocks to loll in and look out at the-island-that-made-me-sick and the canoes easing by, and there was a leaf house.

When we voted on what to call it, I obviously opted for Green Dragon House. Most people scoffed, but that's what we ended up calling it, Green Dragon House, White River, Solomon Islands. While poker was the main game, Mah Jong came a close second.

Now, the next book I'm writing has a Green Dragon House (indeed a River Valley resting on the top of a sleeping Green Dragon) and a magical Mah Jong set. I am looking forward to ordering the Winds and Dragons about, although of course, my first love is reserved for the Green Dragon.
I'm looking forward to describing the clack of the tiles, the building of the wall, the families coming together.

I got my Mah Jong set out recently when my sister-in-law came to visit, and taught her how to play. While my kids only showed marginal interest in the game, my Sprocket was very good at putting it away, and matching all the tiles together. (Seriously, I even like putting the tiles away - there's something about looking at a tray of Flowers, Winds and Dragons, all neatly ordered, that is intensely satisfying, and even the Characters, en masse, look very orderly. The rest of the house may be a disaster but the Mah Jong set? A thing of beauty.

Maybe not this year, but soon, hopefully next year, the kids will become the next generation to play. I can't wait. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

In Gratitude for Fiction - and Family

The kids and I recently spent a week at my parents.
To be honest, I don't remember a lot of it, as I spent most of it either sleeping or reading. 
Not long ago I whined to my Beloved, "It seems like I've been sick forever," to which he bleakly replied, "That's because you have." 
And while it hasn't been forever, it's been a good few months and I'm over it. So is my Beloved. And as for the poor kids ... let's not go there. I can almost grasp wellness, hell, I can almost remember it. But not quite yet. There's still a bit of time to go, although I really think the end is in sight. At least, it better be. 
Anyway, my Beloved deposited the kids and me at my parents' and I promptly tottettered into bed and pretty much stayed there, with a few trips to the living room to loll on the couch, for the week. 
Now, my dad is a historian and my mum is a scientiest, my dad loves detective and murder stories and my mum loves kids books and fantasy and the walls of the hall are lined with books and most rooms have at least four bookshelves and a few unsteady towers of tomes. So I wasn't short of reading material. I found the Eva Ibbotson book that I recently read an enticing review of (Journey to the River Sea) and the Patricia McKillip books I'd been meaning to read for awhile, (Bard from Bone Plain, Alphabet of Thorns and The Riddle Master of Hed trilogy, which I had quite thought I had read previously, but I either grotesquely misplaced it somewhere in the forgotten vaults of my tunnel-ridden mind-bank, or confused with another trilogy). And Mum had just had an arrival of books I'd suggested for the kids from Better World Books, including the gorgeous 'matching' books by Jeannie Baker, Windows and Belonging, which always make me happier just looking at them. 
So I dived into fiction. Into worlds far away, countries and times far removed. I'd emerge blinking, smile vaguely at the kids, read them a story (okay, have a tissy fit the time they climbed out of the attic and began trampling about on the roof. They are only three and four and I'm fairly sure my brothers and I didn't do that until we were at least seven. Okay, Pat might have been four or five,) drink the cup of tea in my hand, realise I still felt lousy, and fall back into fiction. Or sleep. It became a little hard to tell the difference between the two.  

So I'm writing this in deep gratitude for parents who are there when I most need them, for rooms full of books, for time out when it's most craved. For sleep and dreaming and the intricate delights of well constructed fantasy. 

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Great Green Editing Pen, Em Dashes, Ellipses & the Belgium Genocide

I'm still working away with the Great Green Editing Pen at the moment. 
A green pen seems a little less ruthless than a red pen. It doesn't look quite so harsh on the page. I have a massive pile of manuscript pages in front of me,(mostly out of sync since my eldest savage child threw them about the room in a fit of pique) and I'm going through them again and then again. And oh yeah, again. I'm finding myself looking up things like em dashes and ellipses and their correct spacing. And sending emails to my parents about them. 
I'm sure I wasn't taught the correct ellipse spacing at school. When reading other people's novels now, I find myself stopping and staring at all the ellipses and em dashes to work out what the editors have decided upon. Unfortunately, I haven't come across any great conformity. I'm considering just deciding on a style and sticking with it. Probably one from an Australian Style Guide, as I am, after all, an Aussie. Or the one my Mum emailed me. Let's be honest, that is the most likely option.) 
And at the grand age of thirty-five I've just discovered there's a difference between an en dash and an em dash. Or in fact, that that's what they're called. Picture me blushing. 
I feel almost as embarrased as I did by my recent discovery of the nineteenth century genocide in the Congo that the Belgium King Leopold supervised. How could I not know about the slaughter of so many people? Or about Em and En dashes? Sometimes it seems the older I get the more ignorant I realise myself to be. 
It is lowering. 
And then of course, while I'm marking out all the em and en dashes and ellipses I need to standardise ... I begin thinking ... there really are rather a lot of these. Maybe I need to cut some. 
Maybe -- just maybe -- I overuse them. 
My Papa, whose PhD was on James Connolly, an Irish Socialist executed after the Easter Rising in 1916, is fond of telling me about another Irish rebel, (Peadar O'Donell) whose writing was littered with semi-colons. When brought up on charges, and trying to deny that seditious writing was his own, his accusers said "Peadar, anything full of treason and semi-colons was written by you." 
I don't think I overuse my favoured punctuations to quite such an extent. But I do find myself worrying about it. However, I've still another dozen chapters to edit. I'm sure I'll find some other obscure(ish) point to obsess about soon. (Maybe italics? Or parentheses? Oh the options!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

It is often difficult, when one novel is finished, or at least in the editing stages, to work out which novel to start on next. There are generally two or three, or three or four, floating around in embryo, all with decent claims.
With Nano starting in a few weeks I had to nuckle down and make a decision. 
I had thought to use my Nano time to complete the novel that I half finished in Camp Nano in July. With 50,000 words done and the manuscript half complete, it seemed only sensible to finish the thing off. 
But no. That one, Fosterling, is too weighty, requiring too much research and (yes, I'm craven) too much emotional involvement. I will finish it ... soon. Maybe next years Nano? For this year, I want (need) to work on something light, and easy, frothy and fun. I had two possibilities: the third in my Emporium Sisters' series, about serious Caro and her tea shop, or a one off, steam-punk, flapperesque, apocalyptic novel set in an ancient library and the search for magical Golden Book that can Save the Known World. With zeppelin-pirates and a mechanical tiger familiar. 
I, of course, opted for the easy book.
I'll be working on Caro's story. The world is known (at least to me) the research is minimal, and it's the story that I presently spend my not-quite-waking-not-quite-sleeping-hours plotting out. I'm having fun with it. There's a fantastical green river delta floating on the back of a sleeping green dragon, a magical mah-jong set, a true-dreaming jade bowl, and a love story betweeen a (carnivorous) and slightly wild were-wolf, were-cat cross and an OCD vegan. 
So far I've plotted up to Chapter Fourteen on scrivener - only another eleven chapters and I'll be ready to start seriously writing. 
I think, I could be wrong, but I think the kids and I will get out the paints tomorrow and do some painting in the garden as its supposed to be a beautiful dragon. While my Poppet paints princesses and my Sprocket paints worms and robots, I intend to paint the Green Dragon Delta and the Kittubs' Fort. I suspect it will be messy. (Just a warning, Beloved. Expect to return to a house covered in green hand prints ... ) 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Preparing for Nano

So it's October again, which means I'm beginning the countdown to National Novel Writing Month (International Novel Writing Month to be precise) in November, and beginning to prepare.

For those of you who haven't come across it - NaNoWriMo is when a whole heap of people sit down to write a novel, or part thereof, in a month. Fifty-thousand words is the official target, and if you make it to the fifty-thousand you get a cute little banner and certificate, the smug satisfaction that you've done it and fifty-thousand words humming contentedly at you from your computer.

This year I've also done two 'Camp NaNos'. The Camps have the same aim, a novel (or fifty thousand words) in a month, but lack many of the perks, although the campfire graphics are nice. The cabins never really worked for me and they just lacked that vibe. Obviously, I'm happy to have the bulk of those stories done, but the Camps were really just tasters for the main event of the year. The original, The best. NaNoWriMo.

I'm looking forward to the city meetups (people like me! wow! be still my heart). I'm looking forward to seeing all my buddies' word counts steadily rising and spurring me on. I'm looking forward to the pep talks by famous authors pinging into my inbox. Really, you're writing to me? You shouldn't have.

I'm looking forward to the deadline.

The online writers' group, Scribophile, that I am part of and love dearly, has a whole forum* which I have read (okay, skimmed; it's presently up to twenty-two fraught pages) with delight, about the evils and perils of NaNoWriMo. Basically, it's seen as a mechanism by which millions upon millions of semi-related words are dredged into the world and either released, unedited, onto an innocent audience, or destined to obscurity in a thousand dusty hard-drives.

And, yes, the posters are a hundred percent right. I'm sure a lot of the manuscripts will end up doing exactly that. But even if only a small proportion of the books produced get published (successfully, in fully edited formats) thousands of people have had fun. We've played with word and story and juggled ideas and met up with other people doing the same thing, not just in our home city or state, but online across the globe. That's gotta bring a tingle of joy to the most hardened spine? Doesn't it?

And o the joy of the deadline. The wonder of really-needing-to-get-this-done, putting off inessentials until the end of the month, to focus with whole-hearted-determination on The Story.

So I'm preparing now. Past NaNo months have painfully taught me that planning and research should be done before the month starts. Getting halfway through a month and realising you need to read a couple of dozen academic books on Edinburgh in 1801, and probably have a go at getting through the complete works of Sir Walter Scott, is lowering.

The story I've chosen to write for this November's NaNo is a fantasy based on a completely imagined world, so I don't need to do much research. I hope. But I do need to flesh out my antagonist (always my weak spot), and draw a detailed map of the Green Dragon River Delta. And maybe the plans for the Lair of the Kittubs. Okay, definitely, damn it.

I'm busy writing a quick outline of each chapter into the writing program Scrivener, and hoping that I won't have to read (too many) histories of Ancient China. And that the hankering I have to start reading about the Ottoman Empire doesn't mean anything. (Please, pretty please, don't let it mean anything!)

I'm enjoying seeing the structure coming together into something solid and strong. I'm aiming for 75,000 words all up for my novel, so twenty-five chapters (Scribophile prefers people to post their work at or under 3,000 words and I have fallen into line). Already I can see the story coming alive, as previously blurred sections clarify. Here is where I need the first assassination attempt. Here is where the major reveal takes place. Here.

My story calls. I'm away. I worked out a new chapter last night in the moments between waking and sleeping, and I want to get it down before it goes.

Is anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or considering it?
Have you started preparing yet, and if so, what are your preparations?

*Many of the writing forums on Scribophile afford me hours of entertainment. Who would have thought people could get quite so vitriolic about adverbs or semi-colons? It's refreshing to see people so passionately engaged with words and grammar.