A Wander in the Wild

I took my camera down to my little patch of wild today. The Australian bush isn’t always lovely. It’s often messy and rough and monotone and you have to look for the beauty. But it’s there.

Bush

 

 

Flower

 

Flowers

 

Puppy 1

 

Great North Walk

 

Puppy footprints

 

Puppy 2

 

Ghost Trees

 

bottle brush

 

Fairy scribbles

Sometimes the beauty is obvious. Sometimes you have to look for it. But it’s there. It’s always there.

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A Wander in the Wild

I’ll Be Back

Can anyone read that without an Arnie accent?

Two months from today Michael, me, and two of our closest friends will be traveling to the US. We’ll be away for two months.

Between now and then I’ll be working really hard and writing as much as I can so I can get this book done before we go.

The writing is going great, by the way. Writing my second book has been … very, very different than writing my first book. I had an idea that, after 12 months of painful revision, when I finally got around to writing the next story I would be very careful to plan plan plan. I wanted to make it right the first time. I dreamt of outlines, index cards, notebooks full of character notes.

None of that happened.

In fact, this story wasn’t even the one I was planning to write. I was going to write this YA mystery I’d been planning. Then one weekend we were away at this camp by this giant lake (actually Port Stephens, but it looked like a lake). It was rainy and windy and cold, not what we’d expected at all. But something sparked. Something about the gloomy weather, the fog and the way the wind whipped up waves on the lake. Suddenly I had this very different story in mind. A YA supernatural thriller.

I started writing that weekend. I wrote up a loose plan, but I never stuck to it. In fact, just the other day I effectively killed off a character I thought was going to be fairly integral to the plot.

From the beginning of this writing gig I saw myself as a planner, but as I grow more confident in my writing, and in myself, I find myself planning less and less.

I’ve heard people talk of ‘gift’ novels: Novels that come so easily it’s like they’ve been gifted to you. I’m thinking this is one.

Here’s where I’m up to:

 

40000 / 70000 words. 57% done!

I’m on track to getting this baby done just before we go. My only issue is time… In order to fit everything in, some things need to be left out. And until I get back from the States, this blog has to be one of them.

I’m sad to be saying goodbye, but I’m excited about the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll revamp it and have my actual name on it this time!

So adios, for now.

P.S. If you want to keep track of my travels until I return go to themysteryhouse.wordpress.com

Love!

I’ll Be Back

A Crisis of Faith

From that melodramatic title you won’t be surprised that my inspiration for this post is an episode of Dawson’s Creek. The boy and I both missed the show the first time ‘round and we’re lovers of 90s pop culture so we thought we would give it a go.

Last night’s episode hit a chord for me. In it, Dawson is filling out college applications and is having a hard time putting into words why he wants to be a filmmaker. The truth is, he hasn’t made a film in quite a long time. He’s removed the film posters from his walls. He’s not even sure he wants to be a filmmaker anymore. He’s having a crisis of faith.

My crisis is nowhere near as profound. I know I want to be a writer. I still love writing. I have been writing – if by writing you mean spending a lot of time thinking about writing. I still love the story I’m telling. But lately I’ve found it harder and harder to find that time to put aside to actually write. It’s not because I’m busy – I am, but I’ve always believed that if something’s important to you, you will find the time. I just haven’t been feeling it, truth be told.

We all go through this. Some call it writers block. Some call it a rut. The important thing is figuring out the cause, and in doing so, the solution.

Lucky for me I have a 90s coming of age story to provide some guidance.

In the episode, Dawson discovers the mean old man he’s been in indentured servitude to is actually an ex-filmmaker. Dawson realizes that could be him in a few years – bitter and alone, living in the wreckage of his discarded dreams.

But after watching Mr. Brooks’ films and learning about how he fell from celebrated Hollywood filmmaker to Capeside’s Boo Radley, Dawson rediscovers his inspiration.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of stories. Growing up reading books like The Magic Faraway Tree and Snugglepot and Cuddleby and a million other fantastic stories… well, in Dawson’s words “How can you explain the things you love? You can’t. You just do.” (Which is a pretty lazy excuse for a writer, but hey, it’s Saturday.)

Sometimes when the inspiration is low, when you’ve lost your way, you have to go back to where you started your journey – rediscover why you started on the path to begin with. My reason is that I love books.

Reading is magic, it’s as simple as that. I write because I love to read. Somehow in the past few months I’ve lost sight of that magic. I’ve been reading out of obligation, not love, and I haven’t been doing a lot of it. And how can I introduce someone to the magic of the story if I can’t find it myself? How can I write if I don’t read?

And so my vow is to rediscover the magic of the story. I’m going to put aside that horrible voice that tells me I should be doing something more productive, because what’s more productive and important than opening your mind to other worlds, other people, other stories? What’s more important than passion and inspiration? What’s more important than purpose?

If something is important to you, you make time for it. The way you spend your time defines you. I want to be enthralled in the magic of story, and then I want to share that magic with the world.

A Crisis of Faith

My First DIY Project

(Cross-posted from The Mystery House, the travel/DIY/house blog I’ve started with my husband and our good friends)

I didn’t grow up in a household of DIY-ers. Well, we did try, but after having to pay for a professional to repaint over our own house painting efforts, I grew to believe doing-it-yourself was for crazy people or people with way too much time on their hands.

But after discovering this guy and this blog, I started to rethink my anti-DIY sentiments. Maybe it wasn’t so crazy to want to save a bit of moolah. Maybe, with a bit of research, some elbow grease and a great deal of care, not all DIY projects end in disaster. Maybe we might just get something unique and all our own out of it.

Being the total n00b that I am, I figured I should start small  – with a bookcase and a tin of white paint.

I was given this bookcase for my birthday two years ago, and as you can see, it needed a little customisation.


So why white paint? Why not stain it? Fred and I have a bunch of wooden furniture in a range of shades, and we’re honestly not sure what look we will be going for in our future house. This particular bookcase will end up in my study, next to a desk I haven’t bought yet, and it would be nice not to have to find a desk that colour co-ordinates – white goes with everything, yes? Plus, I love how bright and bold white-painted wooden furniture looks. It’s exactly the feel I want for my future office.

So off we went to Bunnings to buy some paint, some primer and a paintbrush (yes, we are such total newbies that we don’t even own a paintbrush).  We looked at a variety of paints, and paint/primer mixes but we ended up buying Taubmans semi-gloss white and a separate Taubmans primer. Anything less than an eggshell or semi-gloss can end up looking chalky on wooden furniture, and the glossier paints are much easier to clean, which is important when we’re talking about white paint.

Because I was starting off with a completely bare surface, I was able to skip the sanding step, but if the bookcase was pre-stained or painted, sanding would have been a must. Instead, I started off by giving the shelf a good wipe-down with a damp cloth, and then waited until it was completely dry to apply the primer coat. Taking the YHL advice that several thin coats produces a much better result than a couple of thicker coats, I was very careful to get a very small amount of paint on my brush, and then used it until it began to feel ‘dry’. Of course, I had no idea if I was doing it right, but I was choc-full of that DIY give-it-a-go spirit.

This is what it looked like after the primer coat:

Not much, right? I wasn’t worried, though. I had a whole can of white paint to use and the guy at the store told us that an extra coat of paint can make up for a lack of primer, in case I used too little.

After each coat I waited 2 hours before I applied the next. Even if the paint feels dry, it can still end up looking ‘streaky’ if you don’t want long enough – or so I’m told. I wasn’t sure how many coats I would end up needing. It’s really a personal preference thing. It looked fine after the second coat, but I figured one more couldn’t hurt and it would allow me to go over those bits I may have missed the first couple of times (believe me – it happens!).

And – tada!

One coat of primer and three coats of paint later… my masterpiece.

I completed this whole project on a learn-as-I-went basis, and here are some things I figured out around the second coat of paint:

–       Paint the hardest to reach surfaces first – underneath each shelf and the inside walls in particular. Trying to reach these after you’ve painted the shelves themselves can produce a messy, drippy result. Plus, these areas are harder to see, and if you accidentally cut into them later it isn’t as big of a deal.

–       Paint in full daylight, if possible. Yes, this is basically just common sense, but I painted the second coat of paint at around 5 o’clock, and even with all our outdoor lights on, I felt like I was painting blind. Another reason why I decided a third coat couldn’t hurt.

–       The rough edges of the wood will require twice as much paint as everywhere else. It’s almost as though they just drink up the paint. I’m still not completely happy with mine, but, as I say to myself: “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” (I hope you get that reference).

Rough edges

I’ve totally caught the DIY bug, and it seems my fellow Scoobies have, too. Here are the projects we have planned, or are already in the process of completing:

–       Fred and I are planning to re-purpose an old lounge set to create some outdoor furniture we call all enjoy at the new house

–       Fred and Shaggy are planning on building an outdoor table to go with the above

–       Velma and I are planning to build a dog house for our future Scooby

–       Shaggy is currently building a bed frame using his hands and… pretty much just his hands. Tools are for the weak.

Stay tuned for more DIY geekery and some progress on our travel plans.

My First DIY Project

Good News!

I have some good news.

I’ve just been given the official ‘okay’ from work to go overseas in October. This means we can start planning and dreaming much more seriously because in five months we will be hopping on a plane to LA!

Here’s a very basic itinerary:

30th Sept – 16th Oct =  California & the desert

17th Oct – 28th Oct = Pacific Northwest (including Vancouver)

29th Oct – 10th Nov = Florida & the South

11th Nov – 1st Dec = New England (including Washington, New York & Toronto)

To celebrate I’ve started a new blog for the express purpose of documenting our trip and our house adventures. It can be found here:

http://themysteryhouse.wordpress.com/

I plan to do a lot of cross-posting in the coming days, but I have to warn you that because the trip is only 5 months away the majority of my posts will be travel-related. I can’t wait to share our plans with you in more detail!

Good News!

Easter Writing Check In

I know I promised to check in a couple more times over the weekend, but on Sunday I was hit hard by the flu (i.e. that dreaded lurgy) and have been sleeping it off ever since. Just call me Sleeping Beauty (except there’s nothing beautiful about mucus and puffy sinuses).

So my Easter Writing Marathon progress kind of stalled. As in, I did okay on Friday, met my word count Saturday, and pretty much haven’t touched Scrivener since. So this is where things stand at the moment:

 

16276 / 70000 words. 23% done!

I’m hoping this coming weekend will get me to my Easter goal of 20,000 words, as the husband is running a LAN and will be away all weekend.

I’m also hoping I’ll have the energy for a longer blog post and will FINALLY be able to post the before and after pics of my first DIY project.

But now I’m off to eat pizza and sleep some more so I can kick this thing in the butt once and for all.

Easter Writing Check In

Richard Castle and Me

One thing I cannot resist is a mystery show with quirky, lovable characters in which the relationships are just as important as the crime-solving, i.e. Bones, Castle and Veronica Mars. In fact, I can’t resist any show with quirky, lovable characters. Gilmore Girls, Office, West Wing, anything by Joss Whedon. I loves them all.

That was a long way of saying Castle is one of my favourite shows.

I mean, come on. Who can resist Nathan Fillion?

But more than Fillion’s quirky lovability, the character of Castle and I share some very similar qualities, beyond the crime-solver by day, writer by night life. (Unfortunately I am yet to solve any crimes working at a PI office, but I’m certain that day will come). (Although I will always remember the day my brother in law told me "you’re just like Castle!").

No, the reason Richard Castle and I are basically the same person (other than our liberal use of hyperbole) is that we both buy into the romance.

This may be the worst structured blog entry I’ve ever written, and I totally understand why you are confused. Let me step back for a moment.

As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to understand some fundamental truths about my personality, about what makes me tick. And I’ve found the more I understand myself, the more I can use that understanding to my advantage. One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I find my motivation in story.

I like to think of life as a series of grand social narratives that we all subscribe to, more or less. Narratives like ‘coming of age’, ‘high school milestones’, and ‘starving artist/student’. Now some people remove themselves from the narrative altogether, not liking being told how to feel. Think of the people who refuse to go to formals/the prom or celebrate Valentines Day. These people don’t like being manipulated, and I totally get it. But I like being manipulated in that way, because I recognise that I’m the one doing the manipulating by the very act of ‘buying into the romance’. I’ll get back to that.

Another thing I’ve learned about myself is that I need purpose. I cannot do something ‘just because’. I need a reason to go to work everyday, to study, to go for a walk. I was that annoying kid in school who whinged about having to take Maths because ‘when would I ever use that in the real world?’ (For the record, I stopped studying Maths after year 10, and while I value knowing the basics, like how to use a calculator, I in no way feel disadvantaged for not having studied Maths in year 11 and 12. But that’s just me.)

It can be very frustrating, because sometimes the answer to ‘why do I have to do that?’ is ‘just because’. Or the answer is incredibly mundane like – ‘you need to work so we can pay rent this week’. But in recent years I’ve learned that I can motivate myself to get through the annoying parts of life if I buy into the romance. And no, I’m not talking about the harlequin kind of romance, although that is definitely a grand social narrative I’ve chosen to buy into.

I’m talking about the romance of everyday social situations. For instance, as I’ve gone on and on about recently, a few months ago I got my first full-time job. Now, for someone who needs a purpose for everything she does, spending 40 hours a week in an office – time I could be writing, or studying, or adventuring, mind you – can be a little bit crazy-making. But I’m able to get through it by finding the story, the romance, of the situation. In my story, I’m the 20-something city girl climbing her way up the corporate ladder. In my story I’m the struggling artist, who spends all day at a hum-drum office job, in order to go home and spend a few hours on her art. In my story, I’m the private detective, solving crimes and making the world safe and just. Of course, none of these things are altogether TRUE but they each have elements of truth, and elements of romance, that I use to get  through the boring parts of life.

I do this in every area of my life. It’s how I convince myself to stay up that extra hour to write a few hundred words. It’s how I keep my house tidy. It’s why I get so over-the-top excited about holidays like Christmas and New Years, and the seasons, and major life events like friends getting married and having babies. Because I choose to buy into the romance.

It makes life more fun.

You can see now why Castle is my character alter-ego. He, too, gets exited by everyday things. Remember the episode at the archaeological museum, in which Castle pretended he was Indiana Jones? He, too, uses the story to inform his experience of the world. Remember every single Castle episode ever, in which he’s certain that guy didn’t do it because ‘it wouldn’t make a good story’? Castle uses the story to enhance his enjoyment of life, just as I use his story to enhance my decidedly more mundane life.

Because in my imagination, this is me:

And this is me:

 
And this is me:

And this is me:

How awesome am I, right?

Just kidding.

But I love the story. And I will always buy into the romance.

So how is my Easter Writing Marathon progressing, you ask? No so bad:
 

 

12402 / 70000 words. 18% done!

It may look like I didn’t achieve much but yesterday was probably my busiest day of the whole long weekend, what with church, doing the bulletin and THREE different groups of visitors over the course of the day. In the end I got a couple of hours and I finished chapter 5, so I’m doing a happy dance. It does mean I need to get about 1900 words written per day for the rest of the break, but I’m down with that.

I gots my tea and I gots my chocolate, the husband is out shooting paint bullets at his brothers, and I’m all set for a perfect writing day. I may even take a break later and go for a walk in the glorious sunshine we’ve got at the moment.

How’s your Easter going?

Richard Castle and Me