Category: life

A Halloween Q&A

A Halloween Q&A

I was tagged by Billy Owens Jr in a Halloween Q & A, so you lucky people get to find out more things about me that you never wanted to know! (Yes, I realise that technically it’s not Halloween any more, or even Halloween month, but it’s still closer to Halloween that Christmas. Not that the shops seem to know that…)

If you haven’t come across Billy yet, his website is here and his Twitter here – he’s a wonderful supporter of all writers and indie authors in particular, and is working on an intriguing-sounding superhero story. Thanks for the tag, Billy!

Onwards, then, for the spooky details…

1. Are you a scaredy cat or a horror aficionado?
Umm. When I was a kid I devoured anything horror-ish, the more gruesome the better. I adored anything that made me scared to turn out the lights. I didn’t watch a lot of TV or movies even then, but I read anything scary I could get my hands on, the more teeth and gore on the cover the better. I also slept with my light on for quite a while after reading Dan Simmons’ Summer of Night, purely because I was too scared to reach across the gap between the bed and the light switch. There was also a small incident when I was about 13 and reading Stephen King’s It for the first time – we were living on an island in Tonga, and I was in a separate fale (beach bungalow type thing) to my parents. I did manage to turn the lights out, but then became so sure Pennywise was watching me from just inside the bathroom that I had to sprint through the night and hammer on their door until they let me in. I think I slept on their floor for about a week…

These days I don’t seem to find a lot of horror I actually like. I don’t like splatter, or gore for the sake of gore, and I seem to be more sensitive to some things than I used to be. Anyone got any recommendations for a good old-fashioned supernatural scare?

2. Would you ever consider writing a horror novel?
Ah, now this I’ve actually tried, when I was younger and bleaker. They weren’t very good. My horror short stories were okay, though.

3. What is your favorite bookish costume you’ve ever worn?
When I was growing up, Halloween really wasn’t a thing in New Zealand, and I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a Halloween party as an adult. Although I did once wear a snowman costume to teach a Christmas spin class. Does that count?

4. What is the best bookish costume you’ve seen someone else wear?
I saw a small boy in a full Harry Potter costume while I was in London, which I know is hardly original, but there was no one else in costume around, and he and his dad were just wandering down the street as if this was a normal occurrence. I liked that.

K M Watt short story stories blogs writing reading author writer fantasy contemporary urban ya mg5. What literary villain is your favourite?
Ooh, tricky! ‘Literary’ always makes me think of the classics, so I’d have to go with Mr Hyde, as the idea that the villain is part of us is something that’s always been more scary to me than any monster.

6. Will you be visiting a haunted house this year?
Not intentionally. But you never know.

7. Would you rather go to a Halloween party or go Trick-or-Treating?
Go to a party and have to make small talk while explaining an obscure costume to people, or knock on strangers’ doors and ask them for candy? Why is staying home, drinking tea and reading scary books not an option here?

8. What’s the best Halloween song?
I’m putting a video in here because, predictable as it is, I love this too much not to.

9. What scares you the most about the writing process?
Other people reading it. Which is also the bit I love the most.

10. Monster Mash – If you had to say your antagonist was a mix of two traditional monsters what would those be?
I’ll go with my MG book here, so he’d be… a touch of demi-god, a touch of warlock (stretching the traditional definition here a little).

11. Would your MC be more scared of being left alone in a dark forest or an abandoned castle?
At least one of those things does happen to her. And she’s scared, but she’s also not happy with the people who put her in that situation, which helps her out rather a lot.

12. Does anyone in your WIP believe in ghosts?
Kate, the protagonist, does, because she’s just discovered cats can talk, pixies are real, and there really are monsters under the bed. So she figures the rest must be real too. Everyone else knows that even magical worlds have limits.

Do not mess with the cat.

13. What character would last the longest in a scary movie?
Chester, because he’s a scrappy cat with about five lives still left to him. Plus, like any cat, he looks out for himself rather well.

14. Good witch or bad witch – do you enjoy torturing the characters in your WIP or do you feel bad about it?
I thought I was a good witch, and wasn’t that mean to them, but my beta readers rather disabused me of that notion.

15. Pick a love interest from your WIP: would they be most likely to scream like a little kid or punch someone in the face if they were scared abruptly?
There aren’t any love interests in my WIP, because I have the romantic intelligence of a cabbage. But Kate would probably scream and punch them, then kick them a couple of times just in case.

 

Gratuitous Halloween scary black cat shot.

 

And that is it – Halloween Q&A is done! Thanks again, Billy!

What about you – what’s a spooky fact you’d like to share? Have you seen a ghost? Do you write about them? Tell me below!

You’re Doing Brilliantly

You’re Doing Brilliantly

*Sigh*

Everyone’s struggling right now.

Funny how it comes in waves.

Or maybe it doesn’t, but that’s what it feels like – everyone’s struggling. Every writer I know seems to be second-guessing themselves, wondering if they’ve got what it takes. If it’s even worth it, if they do. As if in the shift from summer to autumn (in this part of the world, anyway), from September to October, everyone’s been plunged into self-doubt.

Because it’s not easy, is it?

There’s the writing bit, which is, well, variable.

Variable like, you know, English summer weather. Hail one minute, sunburned noses the next. Which is to say, some days there’s nothing I’d rather be doing, and other days the only thing stopping me throwing the laptop out the window is the fact that it has all Layla’s photos on it.

Horribly familiar.

But writing’s fun, overall. Yes, editing can be a pain, particularly when we discover that scene that we absolutely love, and which we’d be prepared to say is one of the best things written by anyone, ever, is entirely irrelevant to the story and needs to come out. That sucks. As does finding we changed a character’s name part way through chapter six, and now we don’t know which name we like better, or indeed which character we’re talking about at any given time.

But other than that, it’s all good. We build our castles in the sand, all spires and gargoyles and fanciful turrets, and we love them, because they’re ours. We get a little Gollum-ish, to be honest. Possessive and protective and terrified, all at once (and often with a similar complexion. Seriously, we don’t see a lot of daylight, and cookies can be argued to cover at least three food groups).

It’s still tough, don’t get me wrong. Uncooperative characters, panic over tropes (are we subverting them or perpetuating them? And who even knew a heavy metal badger was a trope?), vanishing sub-plots and plotlines with more snarls than the M25. It’s hard. But it’s also ours. Our precious. So, as tough as it is, we keep going. We edit, and re-edit, and re-write, and edit again, and re-edit again, and re-write, and take out the heavy metal badger, as much as it breaks our inky little hearts. We persist, because this is going to be good. GOOD, in capitals, and possibly with gold stars.

I don’t want to be a trope.

And finally, finally, we’re ready to share. Perhaps with our loved ones first, because if they want to stay loved they bloody well better tell us we’re somewhere between Hemingway and Rowling. Then, emboldened by the fact that all anyone has to critique are a few pesky typos, we decide to dip out toes into the world of beta readers. They’re going to love it. It’ll be the best book they’ve ever read, never mind the best beta read (okay, if anyone actually has this confidence, good on you and can I have some? I’m actually convinced that every beta read will come back with a “DNF – this is rubbish” tacked to the front. But, dramatic effect etc).

And instead you get, “The penguin did what? I’m confused. This is really unclear.” Or, “I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure triceratops were vegans,” thus destroying your whole storyline about a rampaging, ravenous triceratops. Or, “This dialogue is really formal. I’m pretty sure giant anteaters don’t talk like that.” Or the bits you thought were funny fall flat, and the tear-jerking bits are somehow hilarious, or it turns out that your grasp of certain aspects of the English language may be a little shakier than you thought.

He LOOKS like he’d call someone “old boy”, though.

Talk about a reality shock.

A really, really high-voltage one.

You’ve spent months on this, and someone’s torn it apart in the space of an email! Your precious lies in tatters! Your dreams are destroyed! How dare they? How dare they?

Except, then, you read it again and realise they’re right. Giant anteaters really wouldn’t refer to each other as ‘old boy’ and ‘chum’. And a quick google proves that, yes, triceratops was indeed vegetarian, at the very least.

So then you have two choices. Consign your masterpiece to become chicken bedding, or get out the editing pen. And most of us, persistent little weirdos that we are, choose the latter. We go in again. We edit and re-edit and re-write again, then (with slightly less Gollumness) ask for someone else to pick it apart. And I’m not sure I can really say it hurts a little less each time, but I can say that you begin to take it a little less personally. Call my cat fat and I’ll murder you in my next book. Tell me my story’s overweight, and I’ll probably say thank you.

This is how you do it, right?

So there’s one hurdle. The first thickening of the skin. But it’s like one of those hellish BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE infomercials. Because all through this, you’ve been doing the good author thing, and trying to be chirpy social media person, and keep your blog up to date, and instagram pretty pictures, and do all those things that eat up your days when you’d really rather be writing. You reply to comments, and you re-tweet others, and you try to be witty and clever and cute.

And then someone tells you that they hate what you write, who you are, your cat, and your second auntie twice removed. Or they proposition you then tell you that.

And meanwhile your blog stats haven’t moved for months, your posts wallow in internet doldrums, and every article you see is still screaming BUILD YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM IT’S SUPER DUPER EASY AND MASSIVELY IMPORTANT! And, really? Re-writing thirty pages of penguins on the rampage was more fun than this.

Im here for the love triangle.

But what do you do? You’ve come this far. You pull your ever-tougher author skin up around your ears and keep going.

Then comes the Big Stuff. Because either we’re going to self-publish, in which case we’re going to be running around designing covers or having them designed, and figuring out how we’re going to promote our book, and who we can beg a review from, and steeling ourselves for the inevitable one-star review by someone who thought it was a penguin-triceratops historical romance, and blatantly didn’t read the description of it as a sci-fi adventure giant anteater fantasy. Failing that, we’re going down the query path, having minor emotional and psychological breakdowns over cramming our magnus opus into a one-page synopsis and crying into our hot chocolate with whipped cream as we wait – and wait, and wait, and wait – for the inevitable form letter rejections.

And then, whichever path we’ve chosen, we’re going to have to pick ourselves up and start again. Because if we’re in the lucky elite who land an agent, they’ll probably want the penguin written into the giant anteater love triangle, and if we’re self-publishing someone’s going to send us a private message asking if we realised that penguins don’t actually live at the North Pole, and the next thing it’s back to edit, re-edit, re-write, repeat.

So, yeah. I get why so many people I know are having a hard time. I get why some days I think I’d rather go be a cashier at Poundland.

It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, there are hurdles that can’t help but feel personal. There are criticisms we must take, if we want to get better, and sometimes they hurt. And there are things that are so far out of our hands that all we can do is shrug in despair and promise to sacrifice a Lesser Green-Splattered Butterfly to Lady Luck.

Some days we want to give up.

Maybe one day we will.

But this is my shout out to all the writers out there, whether I know you or not.

I know it’s hard.

I know it can suck.

I know sometimes it doesn’t even feel worth it.

I know sometimes it feels like it’ll send you mad, but that it’s too late, because you must’ve been mad to even start.

I know that sometimes you swear to yourself you’ll punch the next person who says “You write? How cute!” (And I’m absolutely behind you if you do. I’ll even be an eye witness to the fact that it was self defence).

But if there’s still enough joy in it for you to keep going (and answer this honestly, because if not, if it’s become something so horrible and draining that you find nothing but horror on the page, you stop. Maybe you’ll start again, maybe you won’t, but remember this – there must be joy. It’s too hard a thing to keep going if there isn’t, and bollocks to anyone who tells you otherwise), if there’s still enough pure pleasure in the knit and punch of words and scenes and characters, then I’m cheering you on. If you’re earlier on than me in your writer’s adventure, if you’re further on – I love your indomitable little heart, and I’m cheering. And waving pompoms and blowing curly whistles and throwing confetti.

And if not, I understand that, too.

But either way – you’re doing brilliantly.

 

I send you cupcakes, confetti, and cute little rodents.

How are you doing at this whole writer’s life thing?

 

 

Dragons, & the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Dragons, & the Stories We Tell Ourselves

It’s short story week, and we’re joining Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly dragons and barbecue aficionado. Jump straight to the story here, or read on for a chat! (And if you’ve not encountered Beaufort before, there’s a Q&A with him here, or you can ask me about his other short stories!)


Dragons don’t swim! That’s a truth.

One thing I have always known, is that I am terrible at drawing. I failed art at school (somewhat like PE (sports), I doubt anyone knew it was possible to fail art until I came along). I have a terrible sense of proportion and no spatial awareness whatsoever. Hence, I spend a lot of time measuring and using spirit levels before drilling holes anywhere, as eyeballing it is not an option for me (and pictures are still usually wonky, because even if I get the holes in the right place, I can’t sit them straight), most of my photos have horizons with more angle than the Tower of Pisa, and cakes are never cut evenly.

And this generally doesn’t bother me. Drawing has never been a passion for me. I love other people’s drawings, and admire anyone who has the talent to create such beautiful things. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to do.

But. I have a dragon. And of all my characters, he’s the pushiest and the one I’d most like to see. Plus I can only illustrate his stories with so many cups of tea and slices of cake, especially as the latest one has no tea or cake in it. (Sorry, Beaufort.)

But I can’t draw. This is one of those truths I know about myself.

Like, I can’t dance. I’m no good at maths. I’m terrible at sport. I’m even at worse at small talk.

All these things I know, although, when I think about it, I’m not sure how I know. I dance at home and scare the cat, because I’m not one for going out. I haven’t had to do maths since I was at school. I haven’t played sports since I was at school. And I go into every social occasion so convinced that I can’t talk to people that I’m stressed out before I even begin.

The only one of these truths I’ve tested is the drawing.

Hands up, they’re not brilliant, and I’m not digging for compliments there. I can only draw his little dragon face at one angle, and it’s best you don’t look too closely at his paws. However, he is recognisably a dragon, which was more than I’d hoped for. So maybe I’m not as terrible at drawing as I thought.

Maybe I can still learn these things.

Of course, high levels of motivation will be required before I tackle sport or small talk. And I’ll probably keep the dancing at home, and the maths to my phone. But, y’know. I could try.

Truths. Aren’t they funny things, sometimes?

And, on that note – Beaufort looks at a truth he thought he knew about dragons in this week’s short story. Enjoy!

Beaufort Scales & A Rather Difficult Flying Lesson

PS – the drawings are actually mostly of Gilbert. I’m still working on Beaufort.

 

 

Do you have any truths about yourself you’d like to test out? Let me know below!

Friday Frivolities – Aging Gracefully

Friday Frivolities – Aging Gracefully

As you already know, I’m not the biggest fan of aging gracefully. It seems a little overrated to me, and I figure I may as well continue as I mean to go on. However, there is some sage advice to be found in this video.

I particularly love: “Cultivate younger friends, otherwise yours will all die off.”

 

 

What are your thoughts? What piece of advice would you impart to your younger self? Mine would be – and probably still is – you don’t have to know what you’re doing in life. No one else does either.

Happy Friday!

 

Life & How To Cat

Life & How To Cat

Are you ready to take notes, humans?

Layla has made her mark on this blog more than once, and she’s insisting that she be given her chance to shine again. Having ladled out life advice for cats and humans alike, she has some observations on human behaviour that she’d like to share with us.

I say humans, but really, it’s just me. She’s judging me. Which is what cats do, but she could be at least a little subtle about it.

Over to the little furry muse.


Greetings, inferior beings. I’m going to take this chance to enlighten you on a few things, in the hope that my human will also learn. I don’t hold out much hope, though. She’s terribly slow. (K: HEY!)

It seems to me that you two-leggers do dance around things an awful lot. You call it politeness and courtesy. I call it unnecessary. So let’s get a few things straight.

 

Always know your safe places. And escape routes.

1. Hiding is okay.

No self-respecting cat feels social all the time, and if people are going to be pushy, you should feel free to hide under the couch. Or wherever it is you fit, since you’re all a bit over-sized. You get all wound up about being social, but do you do anything about it? No. I went and sat on the roof for half the night when more than the two permitted humans were in the house the other day. The Significant Human kept trying to get me back in, but I wasn’t having any of it. And did she join me when she got tired? Ha! Silly creature.

 

 

Observe: The human has not observed correct petting etiquette. I bite her.

2. Respect your boundaries, and make sure others do, too.

I am a cat of advanced years, and before adopting the SH life was a bit rough. This means that I have no patience for fussing. I will allow the SH to pick me up once a day for a brief cuddle, and for the rest she knows to limit things to some petting and head rubs, strictly on my terms, of course. I am not comfortable with more than that, and I make this clear with a some assertive tail sweeps and, if pushed, an admonitory bite. If you don’t listen, on your own head be it. The SH tries to explain this to guests, so it’s really their own fault if they push things.

 

(K: The conversation tends to go like this:
“Best stop now, she’s had enough.”
“Oh, she’s just playing.”
“No, she’s not. You really need to leave her alone.”
“But she’s sweet really, you’re just – OW!”)

 

You will not touch me with your poison drops.

3. Express your displeasure.

The SH, for reasons known only to herself (K: it’s called politeness, Layla), rarely makes a fuss when things don’t go her way. She sighs a bit, but then continues as if nothing is wrong, although I hear her muttering sometimes. She never seems to actually say, “I don’t like that,” even when, for example, there are people being loud outside her window when she’s trying to sleep. This is, of course, entirely her own fault as she sleeps at ridiculous hours, and always at night. Humans. Anyhow, if I were her size, I’d throw cans at them from the window. Or potatoes. I’m not sure what else potatoes are good for.

To demonstrate how you can be more proactive in expressing your displeasure, here are some real-life examples:

If I am bored with my food, I will stop eating until the SH provides a decent alternative.

If she insists on putting that stinking poison (K: flea treatment, Layla. Flea treatment. You don’t want fleas, do you? L: Don’t be vulgar, I never get fleas. K:…) on the back of my neck, I will retire to a high shelf and glare at her for at least two days.

If she buys the wrong sort of sand stuff for my indoor toilet, I will use the bathmat.

And if she will insist on sleeping past 5am and not responding to the gentle touch (K: ha!) of my paws on her face, I will fart on her pillow and leave.

Make your feelings clear, people. How else will you be relaxed enough to sleep all day?

 

It is not a real mouse, but I will express mild pleasure.

4. Bring gifts to those you love.

The SH does her best, as does the Other Human. They can’t help that they will never be as beautiful, gifted and intelligent as cats (K: can I insert a face palm here?). I do love their big clumsy selves, and to show my appreciation I will on occasion bring them a nice mouse, or a lizard. These critters take some catching, and there is usually some bloodshed involved, but I persist and try to always bring them in alive, so my humans can learn a little about hunting. They normally jump around and shout a lot while they try to catch the gifts, so I feel they do understand how special these little gestures are.

However, they’re not very good at reciprocating. They keep bringing me fluffy mice and fake birds, stuffed with herbs. I know the real ones are tricky to catch, but they could at least try. It’s very lazy.

 

I don’t WANT to sit in this weird room. But someone has to make sure you don’t drown.

5. Look after yourselves.

You don’t sleep enough, particularly during the day. My humans spend all their time out, or rushing around, or tapping on the internet machine, then expect they’ll get enough sleep by lying down in one special room for about seven hours. That is not enough, and besides which everyone knows that night is the time for adventures and playing, not for sleeping. And what’s with the one room? How can you have slept properly if you don’t sleep in every room, every day?

Then there’s the matter of grooming – I never see the humans grooming themselves. They splash water all over the place instead, which I have to supervise closely in case they need rescuing. Worse than kittens.

They also never chuck up hairballs. I know they eat some odd varieties of grass, but it doesn’t seem to work very well. I hate to think of the amount of hair they must have in their tummies.

So, there we go, humans. Please try and emulate cats a little, and your lives will only be the better for it. You can contact me through my human with any questions, or to express adoration and send treats. You’re welcome.


Hard work, all this catting.

There you have it. Layla speaks, and I’m not sure all of it was entirely rubbish. What do you think? Kitty behaviours we should embrace or resist?

 

Catnip, Marmite, and Whittaker’s Chocolate

Catnip, Marmite, and Whittaker’s Chocolate

It’s short story time, so head on over to this week’s offering here, or read on for some background, and a ramble about the things we miss when we move away.


I’m sure my nana had those glasses.

One of the things that you don’t think about, when you’re eighteen and heading out into the world, is that not everywhere will have Marmite. Not New Zealand Marmite, anyway, and as I’ve discussed at length before, any other form is nothing but a treacle-coloured imitation. Whittaker’s chocolate, for some strange reason, is another product that has failed to travel. Inconceivable, really, when you consider they’re just giant slabs of chocolately bliss.

These days, it’s not such an issue – you have all these delivery companies that will happily post you everything you might miss from home, even if you’re weird and like pineapple lumps and burger rings (seriously, I tried those when I moved back to Australia for a while – they’re awful. Evidently teenage me had no taste). This was not the case when I originally left New Zealand, so for a while there my every trip back ended with me dragging an almost-but-not-quite overweight bag through the airport, laden with supplies to last me until the next trip. The first time I went back after being away for probably six years, I discovered 1.2kg jars of Marmite. 1.2kg. Oh yes.

They taste of dust and sadness. What were you thinking, teenage me?

I’m not quite such a hoarder these days, partly because it’s easier to order things on-line than to hope your bag of chocolate and Marmite doesn’t get either squished or left in the sun, and partly because things start tasting different. I don’t know if Whittaker’s has changed its recipe, or if I just remember it differently, but ever since food hygiene was invented and they actually started to wrap their bars, it doesn’t taste the same. It’s still the best chocolate around, but I’m not quite so obsessive over it.

However. Layla is one of those cats that isn’t fussed about catnip, in the normal course of things. Yeah, she’ll have a snuffle of the leaves, but it doesn’t send her silly. And then we discovered a certain brand of Australian catnip.

Gold. Yes it is.

This particular brand is some crazy strain that Layla likes a lot. As in, rubbing it all over her face while crying in delight a lot. And she’s destroyed all the toys that we brought back with us, so I figure this trip my luggage on the way home will consist of Marmite, Tim-Tams (biscuits of joy), and as many of that particular brand of catnip toys as I can find. Which, on reflection, might look a little weird coming through the airport.

“Anything to declare, ma’am?”

“Ah – cat toys, yeast spread, and sugary snacks?”

It’ll be worth it, though.

Read The Smuggler now!


How about you? What do you miss when you’re away from home? Anything you remember loving as a kid that now doesn’t taste the same?

Happiness is Australian catnip.
It’s Not About The Journey

It’s Not About The Journey

Is that – that’s not straight, is it?

By the time you read this, I will be slumped over a cup of tea, deliriously jetlagged, in Australia. Or I’ll be asleep or something. I don’t know, I get the time zones mixed up. But whatever the details, I will be over there, which requires thirty-odd hours on planes and in airports, and I’ll be cursing myself yet again for not stretching the trip by making a stopover halfway, or at least getting a heavy-duty prescription from a helpful doctor.

Once upon a time, when I was a small person… Okay, not that long ago, but when I was younger, at least, all travel was ridiculously exciting. Airports were full of shops to explore, and people to watch, and even flights were amazing, because you get little meals, with mini cheeses, and biscuits, and cute little sachets of salt and pepper, and socks! They give you socks! Not with the meal, obviously. After. Although some of the airline meals I’ve had could’ve been improved by being served with socks.

Ah, the innocence of youth.

Or something, I don’t think I was very innocent. I read far too much to stay innocent for long. But travel really was much more exciting. That whole, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” made complete sense.

Yeah, okay, but not all flights are this nice, okay?

Now – interminable queues. Held up in security because I always choose the line where the person in front has seven sorts of electronic devices, twelve half-finished bottles of water, a dog and a metal arm. Overpriced, under-flavoured meals in soulless airport cafes that are styled to look like street cafes, and why would you bother because you’re overlooking a waiting lounge full of delayed backpackers sleeping on bags and humphing businessmen. Vegetarian in-flight meals that consist of mouldy-looking peas and lukewarm rice. Someone’s child kicking me in the back for seven hours, and someone with terrible BO falling asleep on my shoulder (I’m not making any of these up)(Okay, maybe the metal arm).

Allow me to welcome you to the world of the grumpy old woman traveller (GOWT. Has a ring to it, no?).

Seriously, whoever said it was about the journey, not the destination, hasn’t been held on the tarmac for three hours at the start of a fifteen hour flight, knowing you’re not going to make your next connection, or the one after that, and wondering if you’ll be given a hotel or end up sleeping on the airport benches. They have not had small twin boys sat next to them on a long-haul flight while mum sat in an entirely different row, ignoring the fact that her children were drinking their bodyweight in coke from the free trolley and jumping on the increasingly irate but painfully over-polite woman trapped in the window seat (”They’re just excited,” she told me when we landed. Yeah, sugar shots for eight hours will do that to you). And they certainly haven’t sat through 27 hours of flights and airports with a steadily worsening kidney infection.

Yes, alright, that’s nice too. But Im making a point here, okay?

When you’re talking air travel, it is most certainly not about the journey (this may be different if you’re in business or first class, and if anyone would like to provide me with an upgrade so I can test this theory, I’d be happy to accept. For research, obviously).

Whinge, whinge. Well, don’t do it then. And don’t complain, most people don’t get to travel so much.

I know. And I love it. I do. I hate airports, and I hate flying, and I hate airline food, but I love travel. So I do it. Because the destination – ah, that’s the thing, isn’t it? Somewhere familiar, where you know the feel of the sun and the smell of the earth, or so exotic that you’re bewildered and delightedly, intoxicatingly, lost in colours and scents and noise. Somewhere that makes you feel you’ve no right to ever be stressed again, or somewhere that awakens inspiration and quickens the heart.

Going home as a tourist. It’s pretty fun.

I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere I hated. I’ve been places I’ve been ready to leave when the time came, and places that almost made me misplace my plane ticket. I’ve gone home as a tourist and called new places home, because they fit my skin so perfectly. I’ve been an adventurer in places just the next village over from me, and found the familiar halfway around the world. Travel’s what you make of it. It’s not limited to planes and trains and exotic locales, which is all good. With every flight I can feel my tolerance withering and the GOWT growing.

But the thing about travel, it that it renews. Not for everyone – I know for some that it’s more stress than it is joy. But you not only get to peek at other lives (even if it is just in the next town over), you come home and look at your own place anew again. You bring back ideas, and tacky souvenirs, and sand from the beach and dust from the streets, and somehow that makes our own place better. It makes it more home.

I’m lucky. I travel a lot, and for every flying horror stories, I have half a dozen stories of the adventure at the end that more than make up for it. So, for all my whinging, it’s worth it. Bring on the airport queues.

Although the next time I end up trapped by small children, I’m bribing the cabin crew to get me out.


How about you – any travel horror stories – or happy stories – to share?

Although, this is my preferred mode of travel. Just with more wind, because this is pretty, but…
Friday Frivolities – Black Books

Friday Frivolities – Black Books

 

Now, I’ve been sticking to the once-a-week blog type thing, because honestly, being organised enough to blog once a week is already plenty for me to handle. Plen-ty. However. This week seems to have been a long week for everyone. I’m not sure why – end of summer, back to school, just one of those weeks, take your pick. So it seemed to me that a little Friday pick-me-up was in order. And what could be better than a dose of Black Books?

 

It appeals to the grammar nerd…

 

The introvert…

 

The bookworm…

 

And the writer.

 

Which is all of us, right? If you haven’t seen it, it’s brilliant, ridiculous, and you can make Friday immeasurably better by watching now.

 

 

And if nothing else, you can think, well, at least I’m not that bad.

What do you watch when you’re feeling a bit down? Any favourites?

 

7 Mildly Interesting Things

7 Mildly Interesting Things

A mysterious looking island, because it’s prettier than an award, anyway.

The wonderful A.S. Akkalon nominated me for a Versatile Blogger Award, which is both very nice of her and very confusing as I’m not sure what it is I’m supposed to be versatile at. Writing about cats, dragons and cake with equal enthusiasm, perhaps?

Oh, wait – there are details.

“The Versatile Bloggers Award is an award given by bloggers to other bloggers whom they believe deserve recognition for their high quality standard of writing, uniqueness of content, passion and love displayed throughout the site, and amazing photos.”

I think it’s possible that she may have me confused with someone else, especially on the amazing photos bit (although Layla-cat is terribly photogenic). But I’m just going to take it and thank her very much, smile graciously and refuse to give it back, ever.

The rules of the award are that I must thank A.S. Akkalon (thank you again, lovely hat-wearer!), link to her blog (which is funny, clever, and you should read it now. Well, after you read mine), then nominate up to 10 other bloggers, link to their sites and inform them. You’ll find those talented people at the bottom of the post.

Finally, I need to tell you seven things you don’t know about me. I decided to ask Twitter about this, because it is, after all, the font of all knowledge, and my favourite muse after Layla. And thanks to the wonderful people on there, here are seven things you may or may not know about me.

I must have been banned from reading for the photo.

1. When/Why did you first become interested in writing? What was your first story about? – Michelle Winkler
I actually can’t really remember. I was an absolute bookworm as a kid, to the extent that I used to sleep with books under my pillow in the belief that the stories would seep into my dreams. I was also an only child, growing up on a boat, so spent a lot of time telling stories to myself, and having Adventures, either on my own or with a battalion of stuffed toys. Writing was just an extension of those stories, I think. My first clear memory of writing was when my correspondence schooling hadn’t arrived, so I decided that writing a book of short stories would cover most of the missed lessons. I was probably about eight, and they were ghost stories. Which I illustrated. Naturally. And no, even if I find them again, I’m not showing you.

The bits that take the time.

2. Why are you a #turtlewriter? – DrewMichaelsWrites
#Turtlewriters, for those of you that don’t know, is a wonderfully supportive twitter group for those of us that aren’t exactly speedy at churning out the words. For the record, I can actually be pretty speedy. I’ve been known to have a 10,000 word day (okay, it was a really long day), and writing a 5,000-plus word short story in one sitting isn’t that uncommon for me. But it’s all the stuff around it that makes me a #turtlewriter. I tend to let ideas sit for a while before I start digging them up, and it can take me a few attempts before the story starts to sit right on the page. With a short story, once it’s ready to be written I might not have an awful lot of editing to do. For a longer work, however, things are not so simple. I’m a pantser, so what I end up with at the finish may not be anything like I had intended. Which means going back to the beginning and starting over again, after which the end may have changed. And while the middle’s looking okay, because the end changed the beginning is once more out of kilter. So back I go and try again. Now the beginning and the ending are solid, but the middle’s all upside down. Back again, only to find the ending’s impossible now I’ve re-written the middle, and now I don’t like the beginning anyway, so…

You get the picture. And yes, I’ve tried outlining. That’s kind of hilarious in its own right.

3. Which fictional character (not your own) would you like to be? Would you have acted differently? – John B and Rosetta Yorke
Ugh. I don’t know why I chose this one, because it’s really hard. Except two people asked it, so it must be important, right? Right. So – I would be Little My from the Moomintroll series by Tove Jansson, because she does exactly what she wants, says exactly what she thinks, and is small enough to float around a flooded theatre in Moominmama’s sewing basket, using needles as weapons on anyone unwary enough to approach her. (I may have made the needle bit up, it’s a long time since I read them). And the only thing I’d do differently is to be a little bit less direct in the offering of opinions.

Vavau, Tonga. Pretty idyllic, really.

4. Billy Owens Jr, A.S. Akkalon and Tamara R. Bower all asked about the places I’ve travelled to and lived in, plus what it’s like to be a pirate.
I’ve lived almost three-quarters of my life, and all my adult life, out of New Zealand (although I AM still a kiwi, and if anyone says different I’ll force-feed them Marmite). In that time, the longest I’ve spent in one country is three years, although that may be stretching it a bit – I’m not sure I ever actually made it that long. This is all entirely accidental – I took a gap year after my first year at uni, went to work in a dive shop in Tonga, and somehow kept falling from one job into the next. Best job – either diving in Tonga (while it’s very unspoiled still, in those days we were the only dive operators. Plus humpback whales mate and calve there, so we got to swim with them pretty regularly), or teaching sailing in Greece, because Greece and sailing and being 21. Worst job – either working in a commercial kitchen in Greece with a stereotypical screaming, pot-throwing head chef, or certain parts of working on a superyacht (i.e. the parts where I was the smallest member of the deck crew and had to crawl into the bilges to sponge out stale water riddled with weird bugs that gave me sores on my legs for a month).

It’s all fun and games till someone starts vomiting.

Most incredible experience – either the aforementioned swimming with whales, or a perfectly moonless night in the Bay of Biscay, sailing downwind on a delivery with dolphins covered in phosphorescence playing across the bows. Worst experience – probably in the Caribbean, cleaning an absolute lake of seasick vomit off a bunk, two walls and the floor while everyone else was on deck having a fantastic sail, including the vomiter. Scariest experience – being on the bridge in a superyacht with a steel superstructure, doing a crossing to Barbados in the middle of a massive lightening storm. Which is also up there with most incredible. I can’t name a favourite place, because I love all of them for different reasons. Same with worst place – they all had certain things that weren’t great, but I didn’t hate any of them.

And I can’t tell you about being a pirate, because I might incriminate myself.

Mmm. Not actually brownies, because I didn’t have a photo. But still.

5. Favourite meal and favourite dessert? – Sandra.
This ties into Anna’s question about what my last meal would be – although hers was preceded by asking how I’d kill someone, and what I’d do with the body (I’d get the cat to knock a hairdryer into the bath, then add piranhas once the power was off. Obviously.).

This is really hard, because I like food. A lot. But probably veggies on the barbecue – red onions, aubergines, corn, red peppers, courgettes and baby gem lettuce. Take them off, chop roughly, and toss with homemade veggie ceasar dressing, then eat immediately with warm fresh bread and butter. I could eat that every day and not get bored. Dessert? Brownies, nice gooey ones that are barely cooked in the middle.

Now I’m hungry. Hang on while I go get some chocolate.

6. If you could be an instant expert at anything, what would it be, and why (not writing)? – M.L. Moos
I feel the exclusion of writing is kind of unfair. Okay – I would be an expert at not being distracted, so my every glance at wikipedia to check a minor sub-sub-plot fact wouldn’t turn into an hour-long trawl that ends up on the eating habits of elderly female gnu. And so I’d actually stop checking twitter every time I get stuck on a tricky sentence, resulting in falling down the rabbithole of the #cats and #amwriting hashtags. (Have you tried that? Cats! Writery cats!)

Don’t mess with the penguin.

7. A penguin wearing a trilby walks through the door. What does it say? – KitchenCounterAuthor
“Evenin’. I’m lookin’ for a penguin. About so high, black and white, flippers to die for and webbing on her feet like you never seen. She been through here?”

You apologise, admitting that one penguin looks much like another.

The penguin slides his hat off, fixing you with one narrowed yellow eye. “Seriously?” He looks around, as if playing to an audience. “You believe this?” he asks the invisible watchers, then re-seats his hat, shaking his head in disappointment. “Learn some manners before someone learns you them,” he says, surprisingly threatening for a small aquatic bird.

As he leaves, he takes a sardine from the display. You don’t stop him. Some birds are nothing but trouble.

Super bonus question: What do you do with a drunken sailor, and are there sea monsters that deal with those? – A.S. Akkalon and Anna
Yes, there are sea monsters, but they normally like sober sailors. Which is why the sailors are drunk. Didn’t we watch a movie about this?

And that’s it for me. Thanks again A.S. Akkalon for the nomination! Now, The Recipe Collector, AJ Watt, Billy Owens Jr, Lisa Sell and Debbie Jinks – tell us your secrets!*
*Only if you want to, of course.

And ask away if you’d like to know anything else!

The Art of Procrastination

The Art of Procrastination

This is how we look when writing. Honest.

Writing’s a tough gig. It is. I know, we spend our time in made-up worlds in our heads, telling our characters what to do (theoretically – in my experience, they normally do what they want), drinking caffeinated beverages and occasionally writing a few choice words in a beautifully bound journal. But, you know, when we’re not wafting about the place in flowing white clothing, we do Other Things.

Generally I find that I get a lot of Other Things done when I should be writing.

These can include but are by no means limited to:

1. Reading. It’s research, obviously. I mean, I don’t sit at the desk with my latest bedtime read (well, not all the time, anyway), but, you know. Books about writing, or books about mythology, or books about pretty much anything that’s remotely related to what I’m writing, even if at the most tangential angle. Failing that, wikipedia. Or various internet searches that have probably put me on a watch list. There’s so much to read online. So much.

Hair? What hair?

2. Cleaning. For a two-bed apartment, it’s amazing how much cleaning needs doing. I’ll be getting in the zone, you know, thinking about characters, untangling plot points, really writery stuff, then, BAM. Look at the dust on those shelves. I only cleaned two days ago. Or I’ll notice cobwebs on the ceiling (uninhabited ones, the others are allowed to stay). Sometimes it’s laundry. Sometimes it’s the tumbleweeds of cat hair that galvanise me (one cat. One. I think she’s borrowing hair from the neighbourhood strays). And then nothing will do but to clean whatever it is that’s caught my attention, followed by everything else in the general vicinity. Depending on the day, I’ll find myself two hours later, scrubbing tea stains off the cutlery.

3. Shopping. This is one of my least favourite activities ever, but a general disorganisation when it comes to household stuff, combined with a tendency to forget lists, means I’m lucky to last a day without having to go to the shop for something. Luckily there’s one just down the road, but I always choose the queue where someone’s paying for their weekly shop in 5 cent coins, and the person in front of me invariably forgets something halfway through checkout, and has to go find it. At the other end of the shop. So shopping can take up a disproportionate amount of my day.

Offerings to the muse. Honest.

4. Cooking. I love eating. I really do. But preparing things to eat is time that could be better spent writing (in theory). I can usually get around this for most of the day by eating fruit and nuts, but eventually it’s either make something or fall into a packet of chocolate biscuits. It can go either way. And, not to forget that the muse must be bribed with chocolate and woven moonbeams, so regular baking is also in order (I still haven’t worked out the moonbeams bit, so I just add more cake).

5. Everything. Layla-cat doing something cute. Needing a cuppa. Checking the post. Deciding I desperately need yet another reference book on obscure monsters (research!). Social media (obviously). Needing to find that one song whose name I can’t remember that was popular about ten years ago. Discovering I need to do laundry. Deciding to answer a two year old email. Everything.

In my defence, she does physically get in the way sometimes.

This is also known as procrastination, of course, and I used to spend a lot of time and headspace berating myself about it. I could have got that chapter finished, if I hadn’t checked a fact on a common garden plant on wikipedia and found myself two hours later reading about the breeding habits of the lesser spotted green-eared skink. I could have finished that blog post if I hadn’t noticed that there were fingerprints on the sliding door and therefore had to clean all the windows in the house. I could have finished that short story, if I hadn’t decided it was vital to clear out my winter clothes, right this minute.

It’s astonishing, considering how much I want to write, and how much I actually love it, how many things can distract me from it. But then, writers are meant to be endlessly inventive. I guess that’s why we’re endlessly inventive when it comes to procrastinating, as well. And I have no solution to this, other than the ever reliable “switch off your wifi” (but, phone).

Yeah. You can’t call that a process.

The only thing I can say, is that I’ve come to accept it as part of the “process” (quotation marks, because, really. I have no process). And sometimes it feels less like an avoidance, and more like a continuation. That in the time spent away from the computer, with my mind on one level occupied with how to reach all the hair ties the cat’s stashed under the washing machine, little things are settling into place. Problematic plot points, twists in scenes, recalcitrant characters – you sit back down, and suddenly the solution’s, if not clear, at least within reach. So maybe a little procrastination isn’t the terrible thing everyone says it is. Maybe a little procrastination is just another part of writing, albeit an, um, indirect part.

Plus sitting at your desk for hours straight will apparently kill you, so this is now my excuse for getting up and going to the biscuit bin every half hour or so. I’m actually making myself healthier.

How about you, writer people? Do you procrastinate? Do you accept it, or have you found ways to work around it? If so, please tell me, so I can pretend I’m at least trying to minimise it.

Gratuitous cuteness shot, so you can see what I have to put up with.