Kicking Goals for the Start of Summer

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This year I decided to do a reduced word count goal for NaNoWriMo 2021 – I aimed for a measly 30,000 and I managed to get over 3000 more than my goal, which I was pleased with.

My writing habit has certainly improved over the ten years of NaNoWriMo participation. I feel like my drafting and editing have both developed. The most important aspect to this is the ability to do one task at a time – when drafting our critical brains need to be turned off, so the creative and possibly wild parts of the story can pour out.

The editing process is about being critical, so we want to turn off the creative brain and focus on the plot holes or weird sentences we came up with during the drafting phase.

My manuscript for Singular Focus 2 (working title) is now at over 80,000 in the first draft. I aim to have the story finished in the next month, but we’ll see how we go with all of the end of year/Christmas gatherings that seem to be happening now we’re finally allowed out of lockdown.

I have two manuscripts back from my editor that will need revisions before being published in the first half of next year. I wasn’t game to look at the scope of suggestions the editor made while doing NaNo so I’m not sure exactly when the books will be released. I also haven’t settled on titles for either of them, which is a bit of a problem!

Summer here in Melbourne has kicked off with a bang, we had thunderstorms this afternoon. Who knows what the weather will do, or what the new COVID-19 variants will be, but I’m hopeful I’ll be out seeing friends, catching gigs, and generally making merry. I look forward to some new release announcements soon, in the meantime, take care of yourselves.

‘Consider the Watchmaker’ New Collection now available

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My new poetry chapbook Consider the Watchmaker is now available in ebook format from Amazon and other good retailers.

It’s a collection of eleven poems, some of which have appeared here on the blog, others which have not been published. I would encourage you all to head over to your preferred ebook supplier and purchase a copy.

I am selling printed zine versions, but these will be only available from me directly, feel free to email me for a copy at 99c (Australian) plus postage.

If you enjoy my poems, I have another poetry chapbook, My Body. No Apology. also available in ebook format from all the usual places.

NaNoWriMo 2021

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Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every year since 2012. This year will be my tenth year participating. The stats on the NaNoWriMo website say I’ve written 466,945 words as part of my NaNo projects, which seems amazing and doesn’t include the words I’ve written outside of the November challenge months.

When I first started doing NaNo I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no writing practice, had a lot to learn about plotting and drafting and editing. Since then, I’ve done a lot of learning, both through courses, and reading, and my own writing practice. I will continue to learn throughout my writing career, one never stops gathering knowledge and if you do then surely the spark has gone.

The idea of doing 50k words in November seems overwhelming. In past years, NaNo has taken between one and two hours every day to win, and I don’t know if I can commit to that. After being in lockdown for so long I crave being out and taking on a challenge which will necessitate being inside seems like going backwards. Not to mention I’ve taken up a few other hobbies like piano and other things that I want to be able to make time for. So this year I am setting a goal of 30k words. A thousand a day. If I’m on a roll, I might get through in 45-60mins. It will still be a challenge for my time management, and I will probably have to make some sacrifices, but it also means if I skip a day I can make it up the next day without struggling too much. My brain can’t produce much more than 2000 words a day at the best of times, so my margin for bad or busy days in previous years has been pretty slim. Part of me feels as though this doesn’t count as doing a NaNoWriMo project, but I am going to count it none the less.

I’ve been working on a sequel to a previous book that I’ve published, but I won’t give away anything yet. I received two manuscripts back from my editor this last week and I will be looking to publish them together in 2022. I can’t tell you their names yet, since I’m still struggling with titles for both of them. I don’t want to do covers until they have names either.

I hope you’re all doing well, if you’re in Melbourne maybe you’re venturing out slowly (or quickly) into the world out of lockdown. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress, and as soon as I have titles for my two new manuscripts, I’ll announce them too.

What’s in a name?

Fleur de lys
Fleur Delacour
Floriade
Florida

French. Noun. Popular in the Netherlands
misheard as Laura or Claire
my name evokes many moods
saccharine, feminine, delicate

Brings to mind
old wallpaper, couches
vintage polyester dresses
plastic plant arrangements

I like my name, especially the double
with Eloise between them for contrast.
Despite disdain towards my father
I keep his name; it suits me

Grown from the dirt to bloom in the world
there is something in a flower’s nature
that resonates. I create beauty
attract others to my presence despite insecurities

I like being the centre of attention.
Am yet to produce fruit
merely decorative with a hint of danger
with thorns to prick if held wrong

To bloom and eventually fade
my flower changes over time
A legacy of joy, or perhaps
contentment will be my gift.

The end is near*

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*or nearer than before.

Next Monday will be my birthday. The second to be celebrated in significant restrictions as a result of COVID-19. Back at the start of all of this, in March of 2020, people said it would take two years to get through and out the otherside. We’re already well into a year and a half and I’m not confident we’ll be out the other side into COVID-normal in another six months.

On top of the usual pandemic nonsense, Melbourne has been hectic the last few days. Yesterday we have people protesting in the city, where everybody involved seemed violent, shouty and not wearing masks, and this morning we had a 6-magnitude earthquake which was unsettling to say the least.

Chocolate bundt cake with coloured smarties and candles on top.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

On Monday I’ll be having the day off work (which I do from home) and am heading out to a local park for a coffee and cake date with my mum, who I haven’t seen for several months. At least we’re allowed to sit down to have a chat now without breaking the law.

The good news is I’ve managed to have two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, with minimal side-effects. Sadly my 5G is not improved, and I am not magnetic, however I’m confident my resistance to the plague has increased.

My birthday will consist of making myself a cake (possibly cupcakes), and ordering take-away to eat while having a catch up online with friends. What a world we live in! I’ve been drafting a new novel and I found myself writing all of their scenes at home. I’ll have to send them out to see a band or something, since the book is set in a non-COVID world.

A friend suggested lockdown birthdays don’t count, and I have therefore not aged. I love the idea, but at the same time, I feel like I’ve aged ten years since January 2020. So much (and yet also so little) has happened. Part of me thinks this will be a defining era in my lifetime, on the other hand, everything changes all the time, and maybe we’ll forget the whole thing and get back to living our lives.

Until then, it’s Happy Birthday to me from inside my house. I hope you’re all safe and maybe I’ll see you in the real world one day soon.

Anniversary Gift – New Release

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Time in the last year or two has become meaningless in a lot of ways. 2020 started with being hit by a car (I refuse to call it an accident), and then we all went into the long lockdown. Things were looking up in early 2021 but we’re back in long lockdown again, perhaps we’ll be able to get out by November? It’s hard to know and I’m not holding my breath.

It dawned on me yesterday (possibly the day before, again, time is weird) that November will mark ten years since I started this blog. I know, what the actual hell, right? I have my thinking cap on for ways to celebrate the anniversary. If it were a wedding anniversary it would be tin (sounds very Kiwi if you ask me), perhaps I’ll work that in somewhere.

The project I can announce that will be ready for November is the release of my new poetry chapbook: Consider the Watchmaker. It is a collection of poems, some of which have been featured here on my blog, and others that are unpublished.

Consider the Watchmaker is available for pre-order on Amazon and various other platforms. At the moment it is only available in ebook format, however I will probably put together print copies, zine style, one day when I’m allowed back into a print shop.

I think of this collection as my anniversary gift to myself, and to you, my loyal fans. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so glad you’ve been there to experience it with me. May we continue to evolve and adventure for many more years (hopefully with less car collisions and pandemics, thanks all the same).

Here we are again

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It’s probably not news that COVID-19 is still a thing. In Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia are all in lockdown. We’re not allowed out except for the five basic needs; food, medical care, caregiving, essential work, and getting a vaccine.

In a little over two weeks I’m supposed to be going to the Gold Coast for a writers conference, but it’s unclear whether Queensland will even let my into the state – and that’s assuming our lockdown is lifted in time in order to leave Victoria. It’s not clear at this stage whether the conference will be able to go ahead, even if it’s moved online as it was last year.

It’s disappointing to be back here again, it’s disappointing to still be unvaccinated – though hopefully I’ll be on the way to that by the end of next week.

In the meantime, I’ve been able to work from home. I’ve been toiling away at various indoor projects, including piano practice, and a mural in my apartment. It’s based on a tarot card design by Matt Hughes for The High Priestess, a card that particularly resonates with me.

A black, white and purple stylised mural of a woman holding a book. she is surrounded by art nouveau border designs.
The High Priestess

My latest writing project is editing a novel I’m planning to release in 2022. Part of a two-book series about a mother and daughter, as yet both are unnamed, but perhaps my editor will have some ideas in October when she has a look over it.

I was really looking forward to the conference, and to the break in sunny (or at least sunnier than here) Queensland. Perhaps I’ll be able to go somewhere in Victoria instead, or later in the year if all else fails. Until then it’s stay inside, wear my mask, do my bit, and hope the situation improves soon.

Indoor Passtimes

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It’s winter in Melbourne, we had the shortest day of the year yesterday and the weather is getting chillier. I have always like cooking, and the cold weather seems to be bringing out my European peasant roots (my Dad’s family is German and I’m going to pretend that’s what it is).

I ordered a box of ‘make at home pretzel kit’ from Pretzel Australia a while ago when Victoria went back into lockdown after a rogue COVID-19 positive person was wandering about causing spikes. We’re still under restrictions but they’re a lot more relaxed than they were this time last year that’s for sure! But back to the pretzel kit, it took a couple of weeks to reach me which meant I was still waiting for it after we were let out of lockdown.

Last week I made them, I kneaded by hand because I don’t have a fancy dough hook type mixer. It was a good ab workout that’s for sure. They turned out even better than I had hoped, the first one straight from the oven was so delicious, but the subsequent ones were also tasty.

To serve, I have been eating with mustard, or pickle, and sauerkraut and polish sausage and cheese. It’s a very German version of a ploughman’s. Some photos of the process are below (note I do have a mirrored splashback on my stove).

Prior to my adventure into pretzels I made a beef stroganoff, which was really yummy but super rich. So much creamy stew. Next on the list is something with red wine; coq au vin or ragout.

There’s something about cold weather and slow cooked food, soups, and home made bread. I’m sure it’s not just the peasant in my heritage but something about cocooning and storing calories.

I haven’t been doing much writing the last few weeks. I have a manuscript on which I have done one pass of edits. I hope to have it ready to publish with it’s sister manuscript in early next year, though I probably need to get a wriggle on with booking the editor.

I like being at home, but I don’t like being trapped at home. I used to enjoy going out a lot and I’ve dipped my toe in the water a couple of times when Melbourne restrictions allow and it’s been fun, but also confronting. Being in crowds isn’t something I’m used to anymore. I hope once everything settles down and the vaccinations are all rolled out we will be able to go out and feel comfortable in crowds again.

I hope you’ve been able to keep going with your projects and life, whether you’re working from home, home schooling, going to work even with the lockdown or trying to keep yourself entertained at home because you can’t work. Nourishing the body is worthwhile, especially in times of stress, and I like cooking.

Café Gummo

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I stand on stage
Cables at my feet
Can’t move far
Lest I fall over the edge

Beats a bit out
The drums slow
The guitar fast
I’m in the middle

I look out at the faces
All turned to me
Some seem tired
Uninterested

Will they regret it
Too loud, too country
Too slow, too rude
What do they think?

Last week I enjoyed it
Being in front of people
Revelled in their gaze
Today I’m in my head

I can see more
And hear better
But my mind is not quiet
Shift my feet

A stranger approaches
After we pack up
Says he enjoyed the show
I’m glad, but tired, hungry

I head home
Get a burger on the way
Rest my feet and
Look forward to next time.

NaPoWriMo Wrapped Up

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Just a short post today to say once again I have finished up my annual challenge of National Poetry Writing Month – NaPoWriMo. Modelled after National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, the idea is to write a poem every day over the month of April.

I wrote every day, some of the poems were even moderately good. It seems writing every day is good for producing quantity, and theoretically some of it will be quality.

In Melbourne we’re back to almost pre-pandemic levels of socialising, so I’ve been going to work in my city office, going to see bands and out for dinner, modelling for art classes and all the other things I filled my time with before the car accident and lockdowns. It means my ability to find time for writing has been tested; I’ll have to be more strategic with my time.

I’m enjoying getting out there and seeing people, and unlike last year, my poems this month weren’t all just about being in quarantine! I’m sure to post a couple of poems here as I work through them, but now I turn my attention back to my latest novel manuscript. I have a set of two books I hope to release next year so I need to get a wriggle on.

I hope you’re all dealing with the colder weather okay, I’m certainly enjoying the excuse to have a knee blanket and hot water bottle. See you out in the real world soon!