"I'm just going to write because I can't help it."- Charlotte Brontë

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of the Month Report: December 2013

Rejections: 3
Acceptances: 1 (Sassanid Sands)
Published: 0
Stories out in the wild: 11
New stories completed: 0
Mood: I've got that usual end-of-the-old-year, I'm-definitely-going-to-pull-up-my-footy/writing-socks-and-kick-many-goals-in-the-new-year-no-matter-what-the-Fates-throw-at-me conviction, and am hoping I'll make good on it.

Now, time to brace myself for 2014.  Happy New Year everyone.

All my Sequins are Polished, I'm Ready to Go.

I'm up!

I've hiked up my spangly tights, smoothed down all articles of clothing spandexy, warmed up with a few back flips and pranced into the ring to strut my stuff before a hopefully appreciative audience. So, should you require a quick read before the evening's festivities, my story Winds of Change is up for your perusal over at Lakeside Circus. Slated for December 13, 2013, it has only just now appeared in the main arena.

There have been a few teething problems with the new Lakeside Circus site (must send them an email about the a certain link at the end of my piece), but after much whip cracking to bring the internet lions into line and the glittery dust settling, you can now pop on over and enjoy a new story every few days.

Monday, December 30, 2013

One Minute to Midnight Sale

It looks like my dark and sad little story Sassanid Sands has found a home, which is both a lovely end to my writing year as well as a welcome just-in-the-nick-of-time-to-count-as-a-2013 writing statistic to boost my less than spectacular sales tally.

With only a day of the year to go, I'd say that a few projects that were scheduled for 2013 but haven't happened yet will now be booted to 2014 (I hope so!) - such is the publishing industry - which will make my number of publications for this year take a sudden nosedive and give next year the appearance of being positively stuffed with stories (if more are sold, naturally).

It's been a slow year for me writingwise, but much crappy crap occurred, including another operation, treatments, and lots of energy leaking into the ether. Sometimes, to just keep moving is about the best you can hope for, and you have to make sure that you remember to be grateful for the fact that you are indeed capable of moving. I was mostly still able to do my Arvo Job duties, though with reduced hours, occasionally go horse riding, head off for a movie each week, get out and about to a few special events, visit friends, pat cats, read, and take care of day to day life. I only wrote four new stories from scratch this year, but have almost finished a few biggies that have been simmering a goodly while, and sold 5 stories.

For now, that's good enough.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What I Got for Christmas...

...was a whopping great cold.

Thank you, public transport, and all those caring, sharing, unmannerly individuals who apparently never learnt to cover their mouths whilst coughing up their lungs. I just knew they were out to get me.

This lurgy was sneaking up on me those last days at the Arvo Job, slowed me down the first few days of my holidays but thankfully behaved itself for our family Xmas celebrations, then felled me on the Thursday.

Ah well, the worst of the coughing seems to be over. And books have been read rather rapidly, lots of movies have been watched, pots of tea have been drunk, and copious amounts of ice cream have been consumed, so it's not all bad.

Still, I had plans, other plans, big plans, do-worthy plans, admirable plans...

Tomorrow. It's another day, they say. We'll see.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Egg the Second

I thought it was a one-off event. Something of a miracle, really. I wasn't expecting a repeat performance. But today, 22 sleeps after the initial surprise, as I was going about my business, I spied this ovoid beauty from, presumably, the Chook nestling in one of the cats' cuddly sleeping thingies. It's beginning to feel a lot like Easter rather than ye olde Yule tyme.

Otherwise, I've been busy relaxing, looking for new writing markets (I found a few anthos that peaked my interest) and tidying up the work board over my desk, jotting down ideas, reading, and, of course, lovingly preparing the annual Danish Xmas food for Wednesday. It's best not to rush these things.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Setting the Tone for Things to Come

So I made it through the end of the year energy management of the Arvo Job rush, and the attendant hurly-burly of officey festivities and various personal crises around me as people contemplated a brand new year coming up fast whilst wondering where the heck 2013 had gone (where all time goes - into the past), to reach the (cross fingers) peace and  stillness of my Xmas Holidays.

Two. Weeks. Off.


I'm all set for a fortnight of resting, catching up on stuff and people, writing, nursing ideas, reading, walking, horse riding, and bike riding. I'm meticulously easing into the right mood. Yesterday, after a nice sleep in, we saw American Hustle (lots of fun, though we had a chat about it with the theatre attendant afterwards because she'd heard it was good, but had also seen a lot of people walk out on it. We decided they'd thought they were going to see something along the lines of Anchorman 2) and did a bit of Xmas shopping. Today, having had another nice sleep in, I shall, in a short while, retire to a comfy chair and spend the afternoon nose deep in Mockingjay.

I have permission to read until I drop. So far, Suzanne Collins has pulled me right into her wonderfully politically aware world, so I might as well schedule time off for a long, unbroken read. I might even finish it - ah, the indulgence of reading from cover to cover in a single day. I saw Catching Fire a few weeks ago, and liked it better than the Hunger Games, which seemed to be a bit coy about committing to the political aspect of the books. Obviously reassured by HG's box-office success, Catching Fire dove right in. I particularly enjoyed the devious part de deux played by stalwarts Donald Sutherland and  Philip Seymour Hoffman. Anyway, I thought it was about time I finished the trilogy, hence today's indulgence.

And for anyone who thinks that Orwell was a tad oversensitive about the evils of mass surveillance and that YA dystopia novels are unnecessarily bleak and unrealistic about the future with their negative 'what ifs', I give you the ridiculousness of this amazingly appropriate tie-in link about two protesters who were prosecuted as terrorists - ah, how insecure authorities looooove to overuse the 'T' word to get their own way:


When they got to jail, they found out they were being charged with a "terrorism hoax," a state felony punishable by up to ten years in prison.

Their attorney, Doug Parr, has been involved in dozens of protest cases like this one in Oklahoma and Texas. In other arrests, protesters have faced trumped-up charges, but this is a radical escalation. "I've been practicing law since the 1970s. Quite frankly, I've been expecting this," Parr said. "Based upon the historical work I've been involved in, I know that when popular movements that confront the power structure start gaining traction, the government ups the tactics they employ in order to disrupt and take down those movements."

The abuses of power that abound these days by authorities caught with their pants down by various demonised whistle-blowers just goes to show how quickly societies can career down the infamous slippery slope. The righteous and proliferate lack of shame by the doers of outrageously dodgy acts is what astounds me the most. That, and their fragmented logic. We, it seems, should accept surveillance by corporations and governments with a smile because if we're not up to no good, we common folk going about our everyday lives have nothing to fear, yet they feverishly legislate against the release of any information that reveals deplorable abuses perpetrated by the Powers That Be. Surely, if organisations are likewise all decency and good intentions, they too have nothing to fear from transparency. But no, they want a one-way mirror.

Ah well, hopefully history will sort itself out, and hopefully in our favour. For now, I'm off to the Capitol to cheer on Katniss.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nowhere Day

After lots of flat out, end of the year Arvo Jobbing (with two more days to go *sigh*), much Xmas busyness (and more to come) and a weekend of movies and horse riding etc, I gave myself permission to do absolutely nothing today. In fact, I insisted upon it. Apart from a reading, the hanging of Xmas lights out the back, and a few household tasks, I'm proud to announce that I napped a lot and accomplished my goal!

The weather helped, I have to admit. There's nothing like a really hot and daggy day to help one maintain low performance and stay on track to achieving not a single pre-determined target.

Alas, I did slip up a little. All my floating around with an offline brain proved conducive to ruminating upon story ideas, and even though I told the half-done tales that presented themselves that I was off for the day, a few notes were jotted. But nothing major! I swear!

Oh, and I did go 'yay' to an email about a story being held for consideration, but it was a very soft cheer. Hardly audible.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Horse Riding Cures Almost Everything, Maybe.

I've had a few aches sneak up on me lately, and wasn't sure how well a day of horse riding would go down with my body, but being a great believer in not knowing how things will turn out until you have a go, I headed off with a pocket full of pills to meet my sister for a whole day of riding in Daylesford, just the two of us. If worse came to worse, I thought, I could always bail on the afternoon ride.

Good thing I did go. A couple of panadols was all I needed - which is, strangely enough, a lot less than I down to get through a far less physically exerting sit-still shift at the Arvo Job (go figure) - and a great day was had. My sister sneakily snapped this fab photo of me contentedly moseying along through the forest on my old friend M. with her phone, and I'm glad she did. See, you can miss out on much good stuff if you overthink what might happen. I actually feel really good, though tired, and I will, no doubt be sore tomorrow, and the day after. However, it's important, I think, to do things that make you feel strong when you're not well, even if you have to push yourself a bit - the positive feedback loop is worth a truckload of pharmaceutical products. My sister and I have vowed that we'll be getting back into our regular riding schedule again next year. We're over pottering along the laneways like old ladies and want to be hellions on horseback once more. It's our thing.

So yeah, beautiful weather, scenic countryside full of rolling hills, happy, green forests full of colourful parrots, good horses, fine food, fun company, a much appreciated lift home (thank you, Cindy) AND I snapped a few pics for my much neglected Foalwatch:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Methinks We Might Be Living in a Mike Myers Movie

And while we're on the topic of surveillance, how about this masterful piece of Friday fun, or at least I truly wish it were - the logo for the latest launch by US National Reconnaissance Office, the agency in charge of America's spy satellites.

So let's break it down: a grouchy looking octopus, tentacles gripping a globe, and the mantra "Nothing is beyond our reach." Yep, that really sounds like a great logo for the good guys.

Surely someone snorted out loud when whoever came up with this design presented it for the first time? Surely there was just one sane person in the whole room of military/Peeping Tom types who burst out laughing and yelled 'Pull the other one'? Someone who discerned a slightly dodgy message in the image? Someone grounded in the real world? Someone with a sense of perspective? Someone who'd seen just one James Bond movie? Or an episode of Get Smart?

Anyway, the NRO obviously thought it was okay, and as said, they've stuck it on one of their rockets. You can see the pictures of the launch here. I hope the NRO doesn't get too attached to this logo. It's almost too embarrassing to contemplate the possibility of scores of grumpy, mean-looking octopuses orbiting our planet, their grabby tentacles lined with surveillance suckers reaching out for us the bad guys while they take snaps of us the bad guys as we they go about our their business and eavesdrop on our everyday conversations the bad guys' evil plans.

The world just gets weirder by the day.

Oh, for the good old days when only evil geniuses intent on world domination indulged in such pictorial megalomania. And had fluffy, white cats.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Writers Get Political

Yesterday, which was International Human Rights Day, Writers Against Mass Surveillance set up a petition to launch an appeal in defence of civil liberties against surveillance and information storing by corporations and governments. As someone who has been following the whole sordid and often surreal NSA affair (see this article about the Information Dominance Centre - yep, really, that's what they so benignly called it - with your surveillance-loving types courting funding by using a Captain Picard chair to milk funds from congressmen. It's scary stuff if you like to believe politicians are grown ups), I can only cheer. It's a worthy international cause supported by a very impressive bunch of writers from all over the globe. You can hardly argue with their stance:

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested.
This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.
A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy.
To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.
* Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion. 
* Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical  triumphs, the presumption of innocence. 
* Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.
* Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.
WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.

I just hope citizens in general haven't been too trained in handing over all their personal information to be outraged at what has been happening all over the world, and too accepting of what they perceive to be a fair trade-off for the technological goodies they so thoroughly enjoy to see that such passivity leaves us vulnerable to the vagaries of politics. It's all good if your government has no busybody, fascist tendencies, adopts zen-deep calm in the face of calamities, is rational when faced with irrational suspicions, is transparent, kind to old people, children and animals, and has sterling anti-corruption policies in place. However, Orwellian powers are less fun in the hands of ruling bodies who decide they need to know and control everything because their own citizens are actually the real enemy, who are in government purely to accumulate wealth and power for themselves and their cronies and family, or who are a collection of sociopaths who simply like to keep people in a permanent state of fear and paranoia for the fun of it.

Personally, I prefer to err on the side of caution. Checks and balances, please, really big ones, because people mostly have a very hard time not abusing power. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Kids Will Be Kids

I love it when archaeology gives us a glimpse into the everyday lives of past peoples and show us that some things just never change, thank goodness.

In the 1950s archaeologists made a great discovery near the city of Novgorod, Russia: they dug up hundreds of pieces of birch bark with all sorts of texts written on them. The 915 items are mostly letters, notes and receipts, all written between the 11th and 15th century

In the 13th century, young schoolboys learning to write filled these scraps with alphabets and short texts. Bark was ideal material for writing down things with such a short half-life. Then the pupils got bored and started to doodle, as kids do...

One of these doodling kids was a certain Onfim, who had dramatic daydreams indeed. You can read more about his artwork here: http://www.goldschp.net/SIG/onfim/onfim.html 

Onfim was being taught to write, but he was obviously restless with his lessons and when he could get away with it, he intermixed his assignments with doodlings. In this first example, he started to write out the first eleven letters of the alphabet in the upper right corner, but got bored and drew a picture of himself as a grown-up warrior impaling an enemy with his spear. To remove any doubt about the identity of the warrior, he even labelled the person on the horse as "Onfim."

I especially like the doodle with Onfim as a mini-warrior with his warrior Dad:

 Ah, kids. Give them a stick of chalk or a piece of bark...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Oh, What a Tangle of Cords We Weave

Today I recharged me with a sleep in and a couple of naps so I won't conk out at the Arvo Job over the next couple of days, and added some power to my iPod to prevent a catastrophic inability to access sanity-saving, mind-expanding but gentle-on-computer-strained-eyes audio books during my breaks. Strange to think I once scoffed the notion of listening to books.

 I also juiced up my mobile phone, mostly so I can receive texts as I hate talking on the thing in public, and topped up my notebook lest I find myself working away on a story on the train, tapping words in a rush of inspiration only to have the dreaded 'battery low' warning pop up, bringing on a mad scramble for old fashioned paper and a pen so I can capture a few shiny sentences before they disappear into the ether. And to think that once upon a time, I could only write in my non-moving study at my very own keyboard with no-one in the room and absolute silence around me. What a wuss I was.

 Last, but not least, I uploaded a new collection to my e-reader, and left the device to siphon energy so I can keep up with my now habitual daily intake of short stories (usually 2). It's turning out to be a real gem that e-reader. I'm getting a real feel for the work of different writers, and love the way I can now easily access collections I'm curious about.

So, I'm all powered up (and I'm a relative Philistine compared with many device-dependant people I know) and ready to hit the commuting trail again tomorrow.

Aaaaaah, only 2.5 weeks to the Christmas hols....

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Because the World Also Needs Little Girls Who Can Lift Horses

Over at io9 there's a post about Pippi Longstocking (or rather, to give her her full name, about Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking, or, in Swedish, Pippilotta Viktualia Rullgardina Krusmynta Efraimsdotter Långstrump). Apparently:

In 1971, animators Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata began preproduction on an adaptation of Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking books, but in the end, were unable to secure Lindgren's permission. But we can still see Miyazaki's watercolor concept art of the strongest girl in the world.

They provide a link to the Miyazaki and Studio GHIBLI LiveJournal where you can see said concept art.

Whether or not you think Miyazaki would have done a good job of portraying Pippi - and there are many who don't think he would have remained true to the character and would have imposed too much of his own slant on things, which might explain Lindgren's vetoing of the project - it's fun to look at the images and wonder about what might have been.

I love Pippi. She's strong and revels in her strength. Not for her the fluttering ways of hiding her innate talents to make herself less threatening and more acceptable to an unimaginative world. And I think the world needs her more than ever, because not all girls are the same, and not every little girl fits into the sparkly, pink princess box that is getting a tad too prevalent and "must do" popular in a peer pressure way for my comfort, which I've mentioned quite a few times over the years. If you want to get into the pink, sparkly box, fine, but little girls shouldn't have to if they don't want to, and that should be more than okay too.

So yay for Pippilotta, the strongest girl in the world, animal lover, competent cook, courageous adventuress, sailor extraordinaire, the scourge of bullies and most loyal of friends.  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

End of the Month Report: November 2013

Submissions: 9 (3 to the same antho)
Rejections: 6
Acceptances: 0
Published: 1 (Winds of Change)
Stories out in the wild: 11
New stories completed: 1 (has already been sent out and rejected for the first time)
Mood: Slowly but surely, I'm getting more done writingwise. Will now slowly but surely get on with doing some more :)

Eggstraordinary Surprise

I've just come in from a morning of being in the backyard and out and about and enjoying the fabulous weather to do some writing, and I found this gift from the chook on the spare couch-bed in my study, still warm. Not wearing my glasses, I thought it was something less savoury at first. Colour me surprised when I realised what it was  - I didn't think she had in in her. And it's a biggie from such a small chicken.

She's been coming and going for over two years now, and just when I think I've got her figured...

After my last post about her back in August 21, sure enough, she went completely vagabondy on me and I barely saw her for over 2 months. She became, yet again,  FIFO Chook, off having adventures, and returning every now and then to check we were still here, fill up on food, and grumble about the state of the world. I didn't worry about her this time, just muttered harsh words about her ingratitude and opportunistic nature. Then three weeks ago, she turned up and I knew immediately she was back for another round of domesticity. It's a real Jekyll and Hyde thing. That night, she popped back onto her usual roost just outside the kitchen, and has spent her days since sneaking into the house whenever possible, either hanging here in the writing room with me or sunning herself in the lounge room with the cats.

And now an egg. I'll no longer be able to accuse her of freeloading if this continues. I'll have to name her Productive Chook. I just wish she'd use the nesting boxes I've set up for her in different places. But no, that would be too common, too normal. Ah well, we'll see. This might be a one off performance.

I'd better watch where I step/sit for the next while until I've got this new state of affairs figured out.

Now, to my writing keyboard. No, November writing report first.