The year that was 2020…

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I went back to find my new year’s post from earlier this year and boy, did I have no idea what was coming. Wow.

Usually at the end of the year I do a little wrap up post, I cover the goals I set in the beginning of the year and how I’ve gone achieving them. This year has been a shit show in a lot of ways so let’s see how I went.

From certain points of view, I’ve had it pretty easy – my housing, my job, and my income have all stayed stable. I have been safe in my home. I have had family and friends around me, whether virtual or in person when restrictions allowed.

On the other hand, 2020 can go straight in the bin. I was hit by a car in late January, and only now, eleven months later, is my ankle is starting to behave like a normal ankle again in the way where I sometimes forget it’s bung. There were periods where I was convinced I’d never walk unaided, but I can. I thought I would never be able to do normal activity, but mostly I can. For a while I was worried I would be in pain constantly, but while the ankle still hurts sometimes, it’s manageable. The surgeons have said it will become arthritic in 10-20 years, so I have that to look forward to, but I still have my leg so that’s definitely a bonus.

I’ve worked on skills I had not spent time on before; I painted a large wall in my house with a mural, I regularly make my own sourdough bread, I make stock, and compost and I’ve recently started doing home-made pasta, which is a bit fun. I started having piano lessons and am finally using the keyboard I have had for several years. I was even able to continue with my writing.

So the goals from January:

  • Finish revising and submit My Mother’s Secret to publishers
  • Finish manuscript from NaNoWriMo 2019
  • NaPoWriMo 2020 (April)
  • NaNoWriMo 2020 (November)
  • Redraft Janine’s story (working title)
  • Put on a third Melbourne Fringe Festival show (October)
  • Keep up the blog
  • Wasted Monday performances
  • Paint mural (in my house)

I’m surprised to have crossed off almost all the things. The two I missed were explicitly impossible under the government restrictions.

Wasted Monday is still pottering along, we’ve been able to secure a lead guitarist, Aaron, and there may be some new demo recordings soon. Actually that might be a secret so don’t tell anyone.

Even without the pandemic, the car accident would have taken the Fringe show off the table for this year. I have been recovering well, but I want to be able to leap and cavort on the stage without worrying I’ll fall on my face or hurt myself.

One other thing I did this year was to be elected as the President of the LMS. I’ve been heavily involved in running the society for several years now, and it’s nice to see that work being recognised by the membership. I hope I can do the position justice and uphold the legacy of the outgoing President.

Next year is probably going to be interrupted by more COVID-19 restrictions. It would be naive to believe that we would have no more outbreaks. Just this morning we had three community transmissions after weeks and weeks of zero cases. It’s an ever-present spectre, but one I had been putting to the back of my mind.

Let’s hope 2021 is less of a roller coaster. May your projects run smoothly, may your friendships be warm, may your income and housing be stable and safe. I’ll post my new year’s goals in the next few days.

New Release Announcement

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Well. 2020 has been a hectic year in a lot of ways (I refuse to say unprecendented because, far out, that word gets used a lot). With all the time stuck inside I’m excited to announce I’m ready to release my new book baby, an urban fantasy/romance, Singular Focus.

A book cover, a white woman with short hair and an eye patch stands in front of a moon and city scape, in purple hues, with a raven and storm visible. Text reads: Singular Focus, Fleur Blüm.

When Freya loses her right eye on her 28th birthday, her life has to change. Little does she know the whole world had changed too – there is magic in Melbourne. 

Visions of an oncoming storm, victims of a mystery coma-like illness are dropping around the city, and Jacob, the occupational therapist she can’t keep out of her mind.   

Time is running out, Freya and Jacob must save the world before magic tears everything apart.” 

The ebook is available for pre-order now on Amazon and other good sellers, releasing on 1 February 2021. A paperback version will be available closer to the release date.

This book is a bit of a departure from my previous work. I was influenced by a lot of great Norse mythology and stories involving a real world with added elements, like magic. I’m sure fans of my work, and fans of the genre alike will enjoy it.

I’m taking some time off from the day job and not doing work for the LMS over the Christmas period. The plan is to lounge around, catch up with friends and family, that sort of thing. I also have a small list of projects around the house to do, cleaning the car, and other boring stuff. I hope you’re all able to have a break, or change of scenery.

See you for my annual new year goal post in a couple of weeks.

Let’s talk about why that isn’t a compliment…

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Yesterday I attended an end of year picnic with some people from the Life Models’ Society. A person approached me:

Them: You look like you’ve lost weight.
Me: [laughing] I really haven’t.
Them: Then why do you look like you have?
Me: [awkwardly ignores the comment and goes back to my previous conversation]

Let’s break down why this conversation was fucked up.

Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on Pexels.com

1: Commenting on my weight is never a compliment
Regardless of how well-meaning you are, commenting on my body shape, weight loss, or gain is not a compliment. I am more than the sum of what I weigh, and whether I currently fit into Western ideals of beauty. It also implies there are people unworthy of your compliment/respect/value based on their bodies, which is not cool. All bodies are good bodies.

What can I say instead?
Nothing;
Hello;
You look well;
You seem happy;
I’m pleased to see you;
That outfit is smashing.

2: If I correct you, accept this.
When I said I have not lost weight, and indeed I have put on a fair amount what with the injury and COVID restrictions and lock-down and stress and the like, the person in this conversation argued with me. This could be considered gaslighting, a practice where you habitually deny the reality of another person in order to undermine them. Part of my also wonders if people have a concept of what I look like that is a lot fatter than how I appear in person, given how often I get told ‘you’ve lost weight’ and the fact that I have not, in fact, lost weight.

What can you I instead?
‘What I meant was you look well/happy/great in that outfit’. Or maybe going back to the above idea of not commenting on my body in the first place don’t say anything. If I correct you, don’t ignore that correction, especially when it is about me, my body, or my life. I’m the expert in that field, and you have no right to doubt me.

Women in particular are subjected to appearance based judgement frequently and I, for one, would be happy to see it go in the bin.

This year has been particularly difficult for my relationship with my body. For a period of time it was severely broken, it is now only mildly broken. I have had a lot of intense pain, and still have ongoing mild to moderate pain and restrictions in my mobility.

I don’t consider myself permanently disabled (yet); time will tell whether my ankle injury (and the associated back pain which has become more of an issue now I’m more active) is permanent and to what extent. I have good days and bad days. I limp in the morning and when I get up from a long period of sitting.

In six weeks it will have been a year since the incident. I’m surprised, frustrated, and disheartened by the amount of work still to be done return to full functionality. Then again, I look back at the time when it was too much to walk to the coffee shop (ten minutes away) and back, and I’ve come a long way.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this experience. It’s always uncomfortable when people compliment me for the way my body looks; sometimes when I’m modelling artists will say I have a ‘real/natural’ or ‘womanly’ figure, which makes me uncomfortable not only because I’m being objectified, but because it implies an ‘unreal/unnatural’ or ‘unwomanly’ figure.

I welcome compliments on my creative posing, my stillness, my use of shadow/shape/foreshortening, my theatrics, but whether or not my body is highly consumable is not a compliment. I’m sure I do it too, it’s a cultural norm, but I’m working on it. Maybe we all need to spend some time cultivating new ways to tell people we value them.

NaNo-Success

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Well, November felt like it took several years, but I’vecome out the other side with another NaNoWriMo successfully under my belt.

Woohoo!

For this year’s project I rewrote a story I started in 2014. I had done a full manuscript, 78k words with rewrites, but I didn’t like it; it was in several different points of view and my style has improved since then. I thought why not rewrite it from scratch?

Now I’m hurriedly trying to finish reading a book for book club which was neglected in favour of NaNo. Once I’ve had a few days off writing, I need to start on edits.

I’m planning to release my new book on 1 February, 2021. It’s a stand alone ubran fantasy/paranormal romance. I got it back from my editor in late October and I have final edits and proof reading to go, then it will be ready for sale. Keep your eyes on this space for my launch.

NaNoWriMo 2020

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This year will be the ninth time I am attempting NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. My first time was in 2012 and I have won, reached my goal of 50,000 words, every year since then.

I work best with external encouragement and deadlines, and while NaNoWriMo is an (almost) entirely self motivated endeavour it still feels like there are stakes.

I’m rewriting my 2014 novel, I have reread the synopsis but I am going to avoid reading the text as much as I can. I’m sure I’ll change a lot of details, but the story and character arcs will remain the same.

photo of sand and shallow waves on a sunny day in late evening with blue skies.
Mordialloc Beach, November 2020

It’s a weird time to be writing. I had a conversation earlier about how much the pandemic will appear in culture, writing, film and TV in the future. For myself I don’t want to read or write about COVID-19. Living through it was plenty.

Yesterday I went to the beach. It was a public holiday (for a horse race I disapprove of but that’s another issue) and there were a lot of people around. I wore a mask, many others didn’t bother, or were wearing them incorrectly, in spite of laws requiring them.

Our numbers are way down, which is great, but I hate to think that our numbers will be back up after people stop taking this dumb virus seriously.

I will continue to be cautious, but I will be really upset if we get sent back into lockdown. At least doing NaNoWriMo I have a good excuse to stay home.

Share-house Woes

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I haven’t written here for a while, what with work, the pandemic, and everything else, I’m busy but not interesting.

Earlier today, going for my government sactioned daily walk to a local coffee shop, I was listening to Josh Earl’s ‘Dont You Know Who I am?’ podcast and they were walking about crappy housemate stories.

I have several but one I thought I’d share was the time I came home from an overseas trip to find a stranger sleeping in my bed.

Let’s back up a little. I had given notice I was moving out; six weeks as I was going on a trip I’d already planned and paid for to India, and didn’t want to have to rush to move out in the days after I got back.

Little orange flowers from my walk

I did some packing before I left, but had a lot still do to. I let my housemates know I was happy for them to show my room while I was away, and when I’d be back.

During my trip, I didn’t hear anything from any of them. There were three; an Australian, a German, and a Chilean (plus the Australian’s Italian boyfriend who stayed over a lot).

I arrived home, get lagged, at nine on a Sunday morning. My flight had been delayed by 24 hours because of a missed connection, and I’d eaten something which didn’t agree with me in the hotel I stayed in while waiting for the flight home. I was in a foul mood and just wanted to shower and relax at home.

When I walked into my bedroom to find a person sleeping in my bed I was livid. I told her she needed to collect her stuff and leave immediately. The poor young woman in my room was deeply shocked. I can’t blame her, my housemates had told her I wasn’t coming back and now she was homeless.

My mum had picked me up from the airport and brought me home, because she’s a legend. Mum was more rational than me, having not just been on a long haul flight, and suggested we give her half an hour to collect herself and we go for coffee down the road.

I felt violated. All my stuff was still in my room, some of it in boxes. I was also still paying rent. I moved out of there as quickly as possible and into the new place but I was so angry.

The thing is, of the three housemates (plus one pseudohousemate) only the Chilean seemed to want to speak to me about the situation. His story was they had believed I’d already moved out and had left all my stuff there.

They have phone service and internet in India, so they could easily have called or texted or emailed or Facebooked me to ask what was happening to all my belongings and furniture. They did not. They also were not charging this unsuspecting back packer to stay in my room while I was paying rent, which makes me believe they knew I was coming back and thought they could get away with it.

After I moved out, I worked out how much they owed me for the share of the rent when the backpacker was staying in my room, along with some miscelaneous other expenses, and made the decision not to pay any further bills until I had recouped my expenses.

I felt this way fair. The housemates apparently did not. The Chilean tried to call me 27 times over the space of half an hour once to try to get me to speak to him about it. I wasn’t able to answer the phone at the time and given he hadn’t left a message I didn’t call back.

The whole thing left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. Everyone I’ve told has been on my side, agreeing my housemates were in the wrong for having someone stay in my room without my knowledge or consent. I’m sure everyone who hears the story from their side will believe I was in the wrong.

It has led me to conclude human beings don’t like to be the bad person in a situation. No one wants to be the asshole. I wrote a whole novel based on this idea later that year. I might rewrite it as my NaNoWriMo project this year, that’s still TBC.

Despite the subjectivity of ‘being in the right’ I don’t think I was the asshole in this particular situation.

Virtual conferencing

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I bumped into a real estate agent in the supermarket yesterday who I had some dealings with about eighteen months ago; she recognised me behind my mask from my earrings.

‘How are you? Are you working from home?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I’m getting used to it now after a couple of weeks.’

‘A couple of weeks? I’ve been working from home since March.’ I laughed. She was pretty blown away. I didn’t even tell her my work life is now least 30% video conferencing.

I’ve mostly settled into the restricted lifestyle we have here in Melbourne although I do get a bit stir crazy every so often. Trying to find a balance at the moment is tough.

Last week I took a few days annual leave from the day job to attend the Romance Writers of Australia virtual conference. It ran Wednesday to Sunday, some of the sessions were great, others less relevant to me. I struggled to give my attention to my screen all day, especially in the pre-recorded sessions.

woman working at home using laptop

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

In a virtual conference some death by powerpoint is inevitable but I came out of the week feeling pumped about writing and more confident in describing my current work in progress. 

The writing community is so encouraging and warm, I am hugely thankful to be a part of it. I’m glad the conference was able to go ahead in the face of a pandemic, hats off to the organising committee. I was disappointed not to be able to see Perth, or meet everyone in person. I guess I’ll have to wait till next year on the Gold Coast (fingers crossed).

I can only hope we come out the other end of this period of history wiser, kinder, safe and healthy. Breathe deeply, drink more water, get some sunlight, and remember you’re a like plant with complicated emotions.

Six Months Later…

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Global pandemics, like grief, affects each person differently. Some people in my circle have been able to produce a lot of work during the pandemic, others have produced almost none at all. I completed a survey last night on the effect of the pandemic on mental health which included an array of psychological test scales. 

blue, purple and green time care with yellow text. Text reads '6 months later...'

As seen in Spongebob Squarepants

One scale measured body dysmorphia* which tapped into a few thought patterns I hadn’t been aware of. It’s just over six months since my accident and I’m still attending physio several times a week. My ankle is strong enough to walk to the local coffee shop and back, about 30min round trip, but not much further. The mobility of the joint is still  compromised, especially after sitting for a while or getting up in the morning. It’s also much bigger than the other ankle.

Part of me has always known my left ankle will never be the same, but another part of me thought if I tried hard enough it would recover. I’ve had my final surgical review, and finally got to see the x-rays (I think they were hiding them in case I was upset) and I have a couple of pieces of metal in my ankle which will stay there permanently. The surgeons also informed me that in ten to twenty years I would be arthritic, so I have that to look forward to.

The coronavirus has affected people in very different ways. I remind myself I’m doing  well in comparison to some – I still have a job, my income is stable, my housing is stable and safe, and I’m not unwell (injury not withstanding) – but I can’t help feeling down at the idea of repeated waves of increased transmission, going into and out of lock-down, and being worried every time I go out into the world until we find a vaccine.

I live in Melbourne, our city and state has been doing much worse than the rest of our country lately and it doesn’t look like it’s improving. Days blur into one another. The view of my terrace/balcony is lovely, but I’m getting sick of it.

I’m tired. It feels like I’ve been tired for a while and it’s hard to know whether it’s really tiredness or just boredom, or stress. I worry we’re going to come out of this period of human history and all be total weirdos.

What have I been up to during lockdown v2? I am working the day job (from home), editing a manuscript, attending physio rehab, doing  trivia with friends on Zoom, baking sourdough bread, reading, watching a lot of streamed TV, procrastinating doing work on the mural in my hallway**, yoga and other exercise at home. I try to keep myself busy but it often feels like an uphill battle.

I hope you’re staying safe and keeping up your mental health routines as much as possible. It is comforting to know that everyone is in the same boat, but it’s also okay to acknowledge a hard time to be alive.

 

*A quick Google shows it was the Dysmorphic Concerns Questionnaire

** The mural is quite large and quite complicated, based on this image by Christian Waller, and whenever I think about doing a bit of work on it I become overwhelmed and do other things, like writing blog posts.

Cabin fever

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I sit, my belly boils
with nervousness
dissatisfied
with the smallness of life
with loneliness
with my poetry

Outside, everything is dark
hide inside, afraid
or not afraid enough
I watch people walking around
anxious on their behalf

I am a worrier, overthink
everything, don’t know how
to turn it off. How will
I stay sane here alone?
How will I stay healthy
when everyone is a
walking infection?
It wouldn’t happen to me
Until it does.