Friday, December 23, 2011

'Perry Bear Goes For A Walk', by Jack Mason

Perry Bear Goes For A WalkPerry Bear Goes For A Walk by Jack Mason

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Perry Bear Goes For A Walk' is a charming read, complete with beautiful illustralions that are a delight to look at. The story subtly encourages the importance of friendship and interacting with others (and he has impeccable manners!). This story is perfect to read to small children. My 2 year old niece absolutlely loved the story and we are both hanging out for more adventures of Perry Bear!

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Setting Writing Goals

There is no quick-fix way to become a writer, despite what many 'buy-my-book-and-you'll-become-a-world-famous-author' people may tell you. The truth is, in order to become a writer, you need to spend time writing. It seems like such a no-brainer to me, but it's actually something I often have difficulty doing. I will sometimes go for weeks on end without putting pen to paper. At other times, I can scarcely concentrate on anything else because I am writing, thinking and dreaming stories 24/7.

Back in the days when I was a teacher, I used to instruct my students to set S.M.A.R.T. learning goals. I told them to do this because the big bosses upstairs told me to tell them to do this. I never really thought about why S.M.A.R.T. goals are, well, smart. Your goals need to be:

Specific - If you set your goal in vague terms you will find it difficult to meet. So, rather than saying, "I will write more," you should say, "I will write 100 words a day". It may seem like it's just a matter of semantics, but you will find that it will make all the difference.

Measurable - an airy-fairy goal is so hard to measure. How do you know you have completed it? To say 'I will write more often,' is kinda silly, really. How often is more often? How do you know when you can tick that box to say that you have done it. My students used to be guilty of this all the time. They would set goals like, "I will try harder," or "I will be better". But how, at the end of the month, will they know that they have done this? You should rather set goals that you can quantify. For example, "I will write 100 words a day". At the end of the day, you can see that you have indeed written 100 words.

Achievable - You need to believe you can achieve the goal. Don't set yourself the goal of writing a chapter a day if you don't believe you would be able to do it. If you don't think you can do something, you will most often find that you can't do it.

Realistic - Don't aim to write 2000 words a day if the idea of it terrifies you. By the same token, don't take someone elses' goals as your own. What is realistic for them may prove impossible for you, and your schedule may not allow it.

Timed - your goal needs a beginning and an end. For example, 'I will finish this story by the end of 2012', or 'I will write a chapter a month'. One thing I learned with my students is, if you don't give them a finishing time, the will never finish. The same goes with writers.

Many of my 'goals' do not actually fit into any of these categories. It's time I took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror, pulled my socks up, and practise what I preach.

For example, I tried to set myself a goal recently of writing every night before I go to sleep. I bought a brand new, crispy clean notebook, placed it beside my bed, and applauded myself for my great idea. The problem is, the moments before I go to sleep are often the only precious minutes of a day that I get to talk with my boyfriend without any other distractions. Setting myself a goal to write in this time is probably one of the stupidest ideas I have ever come up with! I managed to write in my notebook two times. Silly, silly me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Scruffy the Christmas Bear

I am pretty proud of my latest venture into the literary world. I have decided to share one of my short children's stories (book one in a series) on Smashwords so that I can get to grips with the ePublishing world. Check it out here:

Coverart Copyright 2011 by S.De Niese

Join the wonderful world of life as a teddy bear. Scruffy was given to his family as a Christmas gift, and all he wants is lots of hugs and love. Journey with him as he goes on exciting adventures and learns lots of wonderful new games.

Scruffy the Bear is a quick bedtime read about interactions with the young and old that is perfect for three to seven year olds. These stories engage the imagination and gently encourages children to think about others. Perfect for spending some quality time with your children, these stories and easily accessible and convenient for parents. I hope you enjoy them and much as I enjoy writing them.

Book 1: 'Christmas'. Let me introduce you to Scruffy. He is a teddy bear who loves hugs and adventures. Find out how Scruffy met his new family, how he almost spied on Santa, and join in the fun as he plays games with his new friends.

Contact me for your free copy and I will send you a coupon!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Gift, by Cecelia Ahern

The GiftThe Gift by Cecelia Ahern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Any book that can make me cry this much has to be good. When I finished it I hugged my boyfriend close and wouldn't let him go. I think we all need to read a story like this once in a while to remind us to cherish each moment we have to spend with those we love. A great, quick read, perfect for capturing the spirit of Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cornerstone, by Misty Provencher

Cornerstone (The Cornerstone Series)Cornerstone by Misty Provencher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first stumbled across this book, I was a bit hesitant about reading it. I thought it might be like Twilight (I don't mind Twilight, but I wouldn't read it again either). I gave the story a go anyway, and instantly found that I couldn't look away from the screen. I was hooked and had to go and buy the ebook. I was definitely not disappointed with my purchase.

This story is a beautiful read. The characters are strong, identifiable and intriguing,the story is fast-paced and fascinating, and the language used is a delight to read. I am so hooked to the story of Nalena, and I cannot wait for Misty Provencher to complete the next installment of this story.

I really like the fact that the concept for this story is unique, without being confusing. I felt as if I was being tipped off the edge of the planet and into a whole new, parallel universe.

The main character, Nalena seems lovely and strong, without being annoyingly perfect. Her mum seems just like my mum, which is very endearing. And, ah, Garrett? He can invade my dreams any time!

I am so, very, very hooked to this story and will try to be patient for the release of Keystone!

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NaNoWriMo Wrap Up

It's probably a little early to be wrapping up nanowrimo, but I am rarely one to stand on ceremony. Although I didn't formally sign up for nanowrimo, I set myself some goals and did my best to stick to them. My reason for this was simple: I needed the kick up the butt a competition provided to finish a story. I am normally such a perfectionist when it comes to my writing, that I find the concept of a rough draft abhorrent.

And so, my goal was less to achieve 50,000 words, and more to finish a story, from start to finish, including character creation and all. I experienced some hurdles along the way - I began a Saturday job, thus working 6 days a week, I put my house on the market to sell, I ate tomato (which I am highly allergic to) and became very unwell, I caught a cold.

Coming to look back at those setbacks, it's a miracle, really, that I achieved anything this month! And yet, I did reach my goal. Although just reaching the 20,000 word mark I, for the first time in my life, completed a story in full. I can't tell you how excited I am! It's not pretty, at times the writing is so bad it's shameful, but it's a full story! YeeHaw! I had my lovely, supportive boyfriend print it out for me so I could hold it in my hot little hands. And then what did I do? Did I set it down and walk away? Noooo. Did I stare at it in disbelief for hours? Noooo. I picked up the pen and re-wrote the entire first chapter.

Talk about motivational! How did everyone else go with their NaNoWriMo? I hope you achieved some, if not all, of your goals.

To me, nanowrimo is not about writing a vast amount of words. It is about achieving a goal to further motivate me in my writing journey. For some, 20,000 words is something to sneer at. You may pooh pooh it, but I revel in it. Because, for me, forming words is easy. Creating flowing sentences is a breeze. But finishing what I started? That's the hard part, because I too often let life carry me along on new tangents. I have now learned that, if determined enough, I can achieve whatever my little heart desires.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks - Review

The Black Prism (Lightbringer, #1)The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book took me a while to come to grips with, as it is completely immersive and requires an understanding of a complex world. That being said, it is definitely worth the extra brain power. The characters are neither good or bad, but somewhere in between, they are likeable, interesting. And, my goodness, they are funny! The story is gripping and intelligently written, and has left me begging for more.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 21, 2011

Inspirational Blogs

I don't usually comment on other people's blogs - each to their own, I say - but today I thought I would share with you a blogger who I almost always find uplifting and motivational.

That is to say, I really enjoy reading blog posts by Les Floyd over at This man is astoundingly compassionate and, whether he knows it or not, has challenged me on some of my thought processes.

When I am angry, frustrated, upset, grieving, disappointed, jealous, guilty...all those negative emotions that trap you within your own mind... it can be difficult to take a step back and view things in a different light. Les points out the obvious, common sense stuff that we can't see when our minds are clouded.

One thing he wrote recently really 'spoke' to me, so to speak:

"If you're going to remember her, remember all the good times and the love she was lucky enough to receive from you. Who would be happy to know that those who remembered them did so with agony?" (, retrieved 21.11.11_)

Please note: This post is not an endorsement, just my personal opinion :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Characters Should Be More Than Stick Figures On a Page!

Things that happen to you in childhood truely effect who you are as an adult. Sometimes I catch myself doing strange things without even thinking. For example, this morning I was really fidgety. Unconsciously I sat on my hands, just as my parents suggested to me when I was little. It wasn't until my phone rang that I realised what I was doing. I also have a reflex action to jump back whenever anyone approaches me with a teaspoon. My friends think it's a funny quirk, but really it's a left over from my practical joker father who used to place a hot teaspoon on my hand after stirring his tea. It was never hot enough to burn, just warm enough for me to start back. To this day I still do it.

My point is, if I had a normal, happy childhood and I am daily influenced by events that occured when I was young, shouldn't the same be true for the characters I write? I have recently been partaking in NaNoWriMo, and something I have really noticed is that my characters, in my hurry, have been really two dimensional. One of my protagonists is a tortured soul and has been held in slavery from a young age. And yet he has no quirks, no strange reactions to ordinary situations. Really, he's just my personality in a man's body. I have to ask myself, what was I thinking in creating such a character? Before I edit this story I really need to think about who this slave is as a person. How would anyone act after living such a hard life? I need to stretch my imagination just that little bit further so that my characters are believable, likeable, and three dimensional.

Last year I wrote a blog post about this very issue. So much for ignoring my own advice! So, I am setting myself some ground rules:

  1. Map out the character's life. How were they raised? Did anything traumatic happen? Did they have many friends, few friends, no friends? Did they have any siblings, caring parents? Were they rich, poor, stable? All of these things will have an influence on the character.
  2. Get to know the character before beginning to write the story. Imagine conducting an interview, or holding a conversation with him/her. What would the tone of their voice be? Would they have an accent? Would they frown a lot, or are they happy and bubbly? Any nervous giggling, shifting in their seat, fidgeting? Are they graceful or loutish? Knowing these things, visualising the character as a solid, will make writing scenes with them flow better.
  3. Figure out how much needs to be spelled out to the reader, and how much I will leave to their imaginations. Personally I like to allow the reader to form a picture in their mind of the character. I need to give them enough information for them to be able to do that, without specifying the nitty-gritty.

I will try my best to hold on to these rules. I think, once I have completed this story for NaNoWriMo I will start from scratch and develop my characters much, much more. I will then perform a complete re-write, and no one ever need see the mess that the story currently is!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Battle Against Procrastination - Tip Number One

Something I have discovered with my writing lately is that, after a long, long day sitting behind my desk in my day job, I absolutely cannot sit down at home, open my manuscript, and type away at the keyboard. My brain cannot, will not function. It point blank refuses. Procrastination steps in and takes control until I find myself curled up in bed without so much as a scrap of writing to my name. I have tried many, many things to combat this, and very few things seem to work. Going for a walk would be good, I suppose, except that I do not wander the streets once it gets dark, which it invariably is by the time I get home. After much searching I have found a task which lifts my spirits and helps me rediscover my energy and brain power. This is the much maligned activity of dancing around the house like a lunatic. Half an hour of vigorous toe-tapping and butt-wiggling sets me straight and lets me concentrate for the rest of the evening (with a break or two thrown in every now and then).

There is no song in the world that lifts my spirits and gets me dancing around the house like a maniac so much as the song "Don't Stop Me Now", by Queen (a fact which no doubt my neighbours can attest to).

Haven't heard it? Take a listen and I challenge you to remain stoic throughout this song:

Tonight I'm gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive and the world it's turning inside out Yeah!
I'm floating around in ecstasy
So don't stop me now don't stop me
'Cause I'm having a good time having a good time

I'm a shooting star leaping through the skies
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I'm gonna go go go
There's no stopping me

I'm burning through the skies Yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man of you

Don't stop me now I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time just give me a call
Don't stop me now ('Cause I'm having a good time)
Don't stop me now (Yes I'm having a good time)
I don't want to stop at all

I'm a rocket ship on my way to Mars
On a collision course
I am a satellite I'm out of control
I am a sex machine ready to reload
Like an atom bomb about to
Oh oh oh oh oh explode

I'm burning through the skies Yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic woman out of you

Don't stop me don't stop me don't stop me
Hey hey hey!
Don't stop me don't stop me
Ooh ooh ooh (I like it)
Don't stop me have a good time good time
Don't stop me don't stop me
Ooh ooh Alright
I'm burning through the skies Yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic woman of you

Don't stop me now I'm having such a good time
I'm having a ball don't stop me now
If you wanna have a good time
Just give me a call
Don't stop me now ('Cause I'm having a good time)
Don't stop me now (Yes I'm having a good time)
I don't wanna stop at all

La la la la laaaa
La la la la
La la laa laa laa laaa
La la laa la la la la la laaa hey!!....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So Long Procrasination, Hello Productivity (I Hope)

Procrastination. It’s a beautiful word to me. After all, I’m actually pretty good at it. I recently had an assignment due, whereby I had to write an essay on the merits of social media for museums. I had completed all the set readings for the essay, conducted my research, written up an essay plan…and yet I couldn’t bring myself to write the essay itself. Anything and everything else seemed like a better way to spend my time. I spent time gardening, reading, baking, cleaning, playing video games… I kept telling myself, “Oh, it’s okay, you have the whole of next weekend to complete it. She’ll be right, mate!”

The problem was everything was not alright. The Friday before my essay was due saw me completely sidelined by a sinus infection. I couldn’t even contemplate opening my eyes for more than 30 seconds, let alone staring at a computer screen for hours at a time. After two days of complete and total incapacitation, I had to spend my Sunday evening tapping away on my laptop, hoping against all hope that what I was writing would make sense. Thankfully I had researched the topic fairly heavily over the weeks, and so I didn’t have to waste time looking for useful resources. But still, I regret all those hours I spent procrastinating. I wasted those hours I spent doing the hard slog because I didn’t have the mettle to force myself to complete a task which I found tedious.

I have learnt a valuable lesson through this sinus infection. I have always been told: “Do not put off until tomorrow that which you can do today.” But really, it should read: “Do today that which you may not be capable of doing tomorrow.”

So, please, if you see me on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, or curled up on the couch with a good book when you know I should be completing an assignment, please inform me that I need to pull my proverbial finger out of my proverbial butt and get going with the work I need to do. 

Procrastination, I love you. You have given me hours’ worth of entertainment. But now, I am afraid, it is time for us to part ways.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Seeking Inspiration: Gwen Harwood

I take inspiration for my writing from the works of many different people. I have hit a wall in my writing lately and have been reading widely to try and spur myself on. As I was rifling though my hundreds-upon-hundreds of books, I came across a book of poetry that I had to read for high school literature. My Literature teacher, Mrs Fletcher, was the type of teacher who could inspire a passion for almost any book for almost any student. Before I had her as a teacher, I had no time for poetry. Through her I can now appreciate the subtlties in poetry.

But I digress. The book I stumbled upon was a collection of poetry by Australian Gwen Harwood. At first I didn't like her poetry - she seemed to whine a lot about her kids - and my Literature teacher struggled to make me understand the beauty behind the words. The thing you need to know about Gwen Harwood is that she really struggled to have her poetry published under the name of a woman. She had to take on a pseudonym. She seemed like such a pleasant, well mannered house-wife. Until she got her revenge. She sent a pair sonnets to The Bulletin (I think?) under the guise of Walter Lehmann. They were published without the editors realising that she was giving them the old 'up yours'. See if you can detect what might just be a teensie bit rude about these sonnets:

Eloisa to Abelard
Solace and hope depart. Gods finger traces
on fields of frozen darkness: You shall find
loss, absence, nothing. Walking on the wind
Our lord speaks to a crowd of foolish faces,
no face that is not mine, while filtering through
gaps, honeycombs of memory you seem
but the faint ghost of a remembered dream.
Unveiled by pain, I bleed. My wound is you.
Lost in the well of space, my spirit hears
Lucis creator optime The choir
entreats God, out of tune. I join my voice
to theirs. Nightfalls immense. I taste my tears.
I reap the harvest of my own desire.
No heart escapes the torment of its choice.

Abelard to Eloisa
Far above memorys landscape let the fears
unlatched from thundering valleys of your mind
carry their lightning. Stare the sun up. Find
kinetic heat to scorch your mist of tears.
All that vision limned by night appears
loose in dismembering air: think yourself blind.
Louder than death in headlines the unkind
elements hawk my passion: stop your ears.
Deny me now. Be Doubting Thomas. Thrust
into my side the finger of your grief.
Tell me I am an apparition frayed
out of the tattered winding-sheet of lust.
Recall no ghost of love. Let no belief
summon me, fleshed and bleeding, from the shade.

(Source:, retrieved 07.09.2011)
Since finding this nugget of information about Gwen Harwood as a person, I re-read her poetry with a keener eye. I was able to pick up on so much more in her works, and I now love the stories she weaves. I will frequently be in an unpleasant situation, and have an apt line or two of Harwood's poetry pop into my head. Above and beyond all others, my favourite is about cat fights that women can have with each other. I think that all women can relate to the situation. It is called 'Chance Meeting'.

"no one who knows what friendship is
chooses and picks the virtuous;
we love where we must love; so when
we showed ourselves without disguise
friendship itself had chosen us.
I could have hidden from you then
all you reproach me with. You suffer
that knowledge as I suffer still
the self that made my tongue my own
to speak the love I still must offer
whether you wish me well or ill.
You drop me. I walk on alone."
Excerpt from ‘Chance Meeting’, by Gwen Harwood

Friday, September 2, 2011

Spring Is In The Air

 Image source:
Dear Spring,

You are here at last, and I am very excited to welcome you back home, where you belong. We here in Melbourne have been truely blessed with some beautiful weather over the last few weeks, and I attribute it to your impending visit. I have so many plans for the sunshine you so kindly offer to me - I will sit in it, garden in it, read in it, write in it, walk in it, snooze in it...the options are endless.

Thank you, Spring. I love you.

Warmest regards,

Ash oxo

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm So Excited to Read 'Little Dorrit', by Charles Dickens

I am actually on a self-imposed book-buying ban at the moment, but I simply could not walk away from this little gem of a book, for only $2.88. I am so excited. My passion for Charles Dickens has recently been rekindled and I cannot wait to read this one! Squeeeee!!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life Is What You Make Of It

I am very lucky because I actually really like my job. True, there are some days when I go home bummed out because things didn't go the way I had planned. And yet, since I began this job eight months ago I have not woken up in the morning wishing I didn't have to go to work. As my boyfriend pointed out to me, there is no one in the work place who has it in for another member of staff. Everyone gets along well and behaves in a professional manner.

Job satisfaction is something that is really important to me. It is not something I have had before this current job. Some people would tell me that my job is beneath me because of my high level of education - hell, very few receptionists have two bachelor degrees and a post-graduate degree on the way. But I don't care. A job is not beneath you if you enjoy it.

I love the fact that I can smile up at life and embrace it with open arms. Don't agree with me? That's okay, I pooh-pooh your derision and skip merrily along my way.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's The Small Things In Life

Life has been very rocky for me lately, and at times it has felt like things couldn't possibly get any worse. I try to remain as positive as possible and am learning to look at the brighter side of the equation.

Take, for example, may favourite pair of work shoes. Comfortable and understated enough for the office, they worked well for me. Today I was sitting at my desk when it occurred to me that the bottom of my foot felt cold. Lo and behold, the bottom of my shoe had ripped off. I am on a tight budget at the moment, so didn't want to fork out a wad of cash for some new shoes...I also have appointments after work and so needed some footwear.

With a forced smile on my face I trundled down the street to the op shop (second hand goods charity shop), soaking up the rare sunshine and resigned to the fact that I was going to have to buy any dowdy old shoe that would fit my pint-sized foot.

And the only shoe that fit? These beautiful designer shoes, never been worn, not a scratch on them, for only $10:

And so, I am grinning from ear to ear and enjoying the small things in life!

Monday, August 1, 2011

High Summer Read-A-Thon...Conclusion

I was very excited to be a part of this read-a-thon, hosted by the lovey Michelle over at TrueBookAddict. If there is one thing in this world that I cannot live without, it is reading. Unfortunately I didn't get to read every day as I had planned. To cut a long story short, life has been very hectic with the flu,  a funeral, University assignment I forgot about, as well as a few other things that have cropped up this week.

So what DID I achieve?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Complete
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Almost complete (I have about 5 pages left)

The Real Middle Earth, by Brian Bates - 2 Chapters

State Library of Victoria Policy Framework and 09/10 Annual Report - 35 pages (for Uni, does that count???)

I have also 'met' some really lovely people, and 'heard' about a wide range of books that I will be adding to my TBR list when I have the time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Country-Specific Expressions - Are they a problem?

Lady Gaga almost-nearly-sort-of put her foot in it on her recent visit to Australia. She went on a huge rant about the Australian Prime Minister and her stance against gay marriages, thinking that the Australian Prime Minister is herself homosexual. When it was explained to her that Australians will often refer to a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend as their 'partner', she recanted her rant and softened it a little bit. I, myself, refer to my boyfriend as my partner, because I don't feel the term 'boyfriend' is strong enought for our committment to each other.

This has made me really thoughtful about my writing. In Australia we have so many strange expressions of speech. For example, we ask a lot of questions we don't really expect to be answered. We might say: "How hard it is raining?", or "Cor, how muscly are you?". For us it's an expression, an exclamation. Many poor Brits and Americans try to answer these strange statements. My writing is, no doubt, peppered with such statements and Australianaisms.

So here's my concern. Should I cut all those out as much as possible, or should I leave them in as an expression of who I am as a writer? I do not want to risk alienating an international audience. At the same time, I want to stay true to myself.

High Summer Read-A-Thon 25.07.11 to 31.07.11 UPDATE

Okay, so I missed a starting point post with the High Summer Read-A-Thon because I was stuck in bed with the flu. Looking at a computer screen was far too painful. On the bright-side, I was able to burn through one and a third Harry Potter books, which I have vowed to re-read. (I was 12 when I first started reading them. I can't believe it's been so long since I read them, it feels like it was only yesterday!) 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Done and dusted!(but I started a wee bit early!)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: 94 pages
'The Real Middle Earth', by Brian Bates: 1 Chapter (around 6 pages)

I had also wanted to keep listening to The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo for my Tuesday Book Talk, but the audio player from the library seems to be playing up :(

I am very excited about the opportunity to spend a week reading till my heart's content!

Monday, July 18, 2011

High Summer Read-A-Thon 25.07.11 to 31.07.11

Ok, so I have taken the plunge and signed up for my very first Read-A-Thon. These things are bad for me, because there is so much out there that I want to read. Also, I have just placed myself on a permanant book-buying ban (my local library foolishly told me I can borrow an unlimited number of books!). I plan to read and read and read and read and read. 

The books I would love to finish during this week are:
  • 'The Real Middle Earth', by Brian Bates
  • 'The Shadow Queen', by Anne Bishop.
I would also ideally like to begin a new book that I have never read before, but have lying around. I will have to update on this later, after I have had time to snoop around on my bookshelves!

Happy reading everybody!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Writers - The Starving Artists (Some Tips For Saving Money)

I don't like to harp on about money too much - I find it a devastatingly dull conversational piece. But I can't hide from the giving up my fairly-well paying career so that I could focus my energies on my writing, I simply do not have the disposable income I once had. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. The fact that I'm happier and healthier is vindication enough for my pre-mid-life-crisis. And so I find that I have to live off a tight budget. For those of you who have just made the leap into writerdom, or are considering it, here are some of the money-saving ideas that I have found to be the most effective for me:

1. Five Dollar Meals - Essentially this is a rule that means I can't (or won't) spend more than $5 on a meal. This means that, when I am cooking, if I spend $20 on ingredients, the food needs to have at least four servings. Now, keep in mind that it's a maximum of $5, I usually aim for about $2 - $3 per serve for a home cooked meal. This involves lots of slow-cooked cheap cuts of meat, lots of rice, and lots of imagination.

This rule also counts if I forget to bring my lunch to work, or I am running late and need to buy breakfast on the go. I get really, really uspet with myself if I have to buy both breakfast and lunch. Including a coffee, I will not spend more than $5 for either of these meals. That's the tough one - coffee these days costs at least $4, especially as I have soy milk, so I have to really want a coffee if I am going to buy one. I have had to learn to live with the instant coffee that my boss provides me with.

And if you're out to dinner with friends? This is a tough one. Usually I know in advance that I am going to have to splurge on a night out, so I will really tighten the belt in the week leading up to the aforementioned dinner. This means absolutely no coffees, and sandwiches from a $1.09 loaf of bread from Coles. Not overly appetising, but I enjoy the dinner with friends all the more for it.

Image source:

2. Five Dollars a Wear - This is a rule given to me by a friend, only she had a $10 a wear rule. If you are going to buy an item of clothing, it should work out to be at least $5 a wear. So, if you buy an $80 dress, it needs to be worn 20 times. I have to admit, this rule is easy for me to follow as I don't tend to bother with fashion, and so I apply it to spontaneous purchases as well. For example, I will not buy a book for $20 if I am only going to get a day or two out of it -  that's what libraries are for.

I sometimes cheat with this rule. For example, I have a friend's wedding coming up and she is very particular. The day is really important to her, and it is a social faux pas to wear a dress to a wedding that everyone has already seen. After weeks of searching I bought a very nice dress for $80 that I will probably only wear 3 or 4 times. To be able to afford it, I didn't drink coffee for a month.

3. Utilise Lay-By - this one is to help with idea number 2, and is something I only recently discovered. I recently bought a ring for myself in memorandum for my Nan, who I lost to cancer a few months ago (with little forget-me-not flowers on it, which we used to gather together). I paid $5 a week until the ring was paid off, THEN I got the ring. This meant that I had to really, really want the ring, as the luster wears off a bit after waiting so long when the purchase is not something you really need. As it happens, I haven't had even the briefest moment of regret.

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4. Ease Off the Gas - I discovered that I get an extra day's worth of petrol if I don't 'floor-it' when driving. When you ease up to the speed limit, you use less petrol. I have a granny-mobile so this can be really tough to do. It takes me so much longer than everyone else to reach the speed limit even when I do stomp on the accelerator. And so I crank up the music and bop along, refusing to look at the speedometer and how slow I am going. This does not mean you have to drive slowly - I don't. I am just not in as much of a rush to reach the speed limit as I used to be. Once I reach the speed limit I travel at the same pace as everyone else. Disclaimer: sorry to all those folks who drive on the same roads as me.

I am still fairly new to this whole saving money palaver. I would love to know anyone else's tips and tricks that I can try!

Friday, July 1, 2011

What An Exciting Month!

Wow, I can't believe how quickly June has sped past! So much has happened and I feel I need to stop and catch my breath back.

I have been writing solidly on my novel throughout June, thanks to a brilliant idea I had. It's really simple - instead of writing in a word processor, which I need access to my lap top for, I am writing to an email account created specifically for my WIP. This means that, no matter where I am, I can make use of the 5 to 10 minutes I have where I am waiting in a line or sitting idly. My productivity has increased so much that I am really blown away by how far I have come. This has also made editing easier, because I am forced to re-read what I have written as I copy and paste into my word-processor.

In other news, I have compeleted my first semester of Post-Graduate studies, and have passed with flying colours. It really goes to show that I can achieve anything if I really put my mind to it.

I am currently taking baby-steps towards re-branding myself, the writer. I am currently in negotiations with my Marketing Guru about the best steps to take, and the image I want to portray. This is really exciting because I feel like I now have the right to call myself a writer, rather than keeping it my dirty little secret. 

And so, the last six months have been an incredible journey for me. My decision to change career paths, from Secondary Teacher to Writer Extraordinaire, is coming along in leaps and bounds. I copped a lot of criticism for giving up a career that I didn't feel suited my personality, and I now feel vindicated in my decision. I have truely loved networking with other writers and hearing about their own journeys, which sound so similar to my own.

So far, this year gets the big ole thumbs up from me!

Monday, May 30, 2011

I Solemnly Swear to Back Up My Work

One thing I learned this weekend is the necessity of always backing up your work. I was working on a 2500 word assessment task (in Power Point form) for my University course and I was nearly finished. Weeks' worth of research and writing had gone into this task. Just when I felt I was on the home stretch my cat jumped up onto my lap top, some how deleted several slides, and some how saved the deletions! Could any of you hear me scream? Argh!

Thankfully I always hand write my assignments first because it helps me map things out, make links to research, and correctly order each paragraph so my arguments flow. This mishap added about one more hour onto the assignment, but I could recover and submit it in time.

But what if I hadn't? Wow, I'd be a blathering mess by now, and I think my cat would be half way to the lost animal shelter where I found her (not really, I do love her dearly, and she only wanted to keep me company, although I did adopt her from a shelter. Perhaps that's why she was there in the first place? Thoughts for later...).

And so, I learned the cold, cruel lesson of always backing up your work. From now on, everthing I write will be saved in the following ways:

  • I will save my document religiously
  • I will email my document to myself every second or so time I save
  • I will set up an email account specifically for my novel to keep track of research notes, drafts, ammendments etc (very important to keep track of changes in case I change my mind and want to change back)
  • I will regulary print out my drafts/chapters so I have hardcopies
Does anyone else have any preservation techniques they would like to recommend?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Old Lady

Observations of a Lonely Soul:

Her greatest fear was not death, as some may have thought of one so old. But rather, her greatest fear was that she would be forgotten. A widow for many years, she was a lonely soul with no one to check to see if she was still breathing each morning.

When the loneliness became too much she would stumble into shops with no real purpose other than the need to be noticed. Her favourite places were Real Estate Agencies - that eager brand of young men who will listen to your nattering longer than most in case you have a house to sell. Sometimes they will even come over and have tea and biscuits. They listen to her ramblings with a fixed smile on their face and, for a short space of time, she feels important.

At other times she leaves a trolley of groceries in a busy food court, asking an honest-looking individual to watch her trolley for a bit. That way, for an hour or so, she knows that there is someone out there waiting for her to return.

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Need Cheering Up? Look No Further Than This!

I just had to post this because it really made my day!

Twilight's Dawn, by Anne Bishop - Review

I picked up the book tentatively. This was the moment I had been waiting months and months for (ever since I emailed the author, and she told me there was one more book coming), and yet I couldn't bring myself to open the pages. Why? Because I accidentally read some reviews/spoilers for this long anticipated book by Anne Bishop, 'Twilight's Dawn'. Some readers expressed disappointment, whilst others stated that they were content. Hence my hesitiation at beginning the reading of this book.

Image taken from
Taking a deep breath, I opened to the first page and began reading. Big mistake. Not beacuse it wasn't good, but because I was so enthralled that I couldn't compel myself to put the book down. My boyfriend came and went, I barely noticed. My cats sat outside my locked bedroom meowing, I didn't hear them. I was deeply, thoroughly engrossed by the first three of the four novellas in the book 'Twilight's Dawn'.

The first novella, 'Winsol Gifts', made me giggle, and I felt the contentment of being a part of a happy, loving family.

The second novella, 'Shades of Honor', made me tut at the folly of others, and feel at peace with some questions I had previously had that were bugging me.

The third novella, 'Family', made me cry and feel sick to the stomach from the cruelty of others. I felt justice was swift and complete.

It is here that I paused and walked away from the book for an evening. None of the reviews I have read had said anything negative about the first three novellas. It was the fourth they had problems with, and I was not sure I could face it. I have fallen in love with all of the characters from the Black Jewels Saga, and I didn't want my ideals to be quashed by the ending to end all endings. Like a coward I ran away.

The following afternoon I locked my boyfriend and two cats out of the bedroom again, switched off my phone, and turned to the fourth novella, 'The High Lord's Daughter'. Weird but true - I felt nervous - and would have ripped the head off anyone who dared to distract me at this moment. I read. And I read. And I read.

And I put the book down. And I smiled. A wave of contentment washed over me and I felt at peace. The story line made sense to me. The webs that were subtly woven so early on in the series came to a point, and I felt a sense of rightness, not the wrongness I had read in the review.

With a huge grin on my face, I left the sanctuary of me bedroom, walked up to my boyfriend and hugged him.

"All is good," I said. "It was a beautiful way to end the saga."

And it was. Anne Bishop is a true literary genius. Here is someone who knows her characters inside and out, and who lovingly follows alongside them as they make their life-journeys. I almost feel as if the writer had no choice in the ending - it felt like a natural progression of events that the characters had to follow to stay true to their natures.

So, thankyou, Anne Bishop. You have made a young woman very happy.

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Nan passed away peacefully a week ago after being sick in hospital for a couple of months. I still don't feel strong enough to write about it in detail, but I will say that losing a kindred spirit has torn my heart out. I hadn't been able to sleep, I had lost my appetite, and I couldn't concentrate at work. 

The funeral was on Friday. I sat in the church pews, gripping my family as we wept unashamedly at the loss of such a beautiful woman in our lives. I went home, exhausted and wrung out, and slept for the first time in weeks. I woke up Saturday morning feeling as if a wound had been lanced and cleaned, and I felt ready to pick up my life again. My unselfish Nan, after all, would want to see me remain among the living, rather that dwell on those who have moved on from this world.

I still feel delicate. I still remember things she has said or done at random moments. Tears still well up in my eyes at the thought of her beautiful smile. But I can laugh again, smile again, eat and sleep again. It will be a long time before I stop feeling so heart sore, but I have taken the first steps to recovery from such an enourmous loss. Now all that remains is the support my Mum and Dad, and hold on to those wonderful moments that we all shared with a lovely, down to earth woman.

R.I.P. Stella King : 24/11/1923 - 27/03/2011 : We will miss you!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Less than one week until I can get my hands on Twilight's Dawn!

I have just realised it's less than a week now until Anne Bishop's latest Black Jewels book is released here in Australia! Although I was to rant and rage about how unfair it is that I have to wait a month longer than the rest of the world, and then pay three times as much for the book, I am still mega excited to read this book.

Ever since I was introduced to the works of Anne Bishop I have been in literary love. I can't believe I had to be pushed into reading her books! And now, finally, in the book 'Twilight's Dawn', I hope to find some closure for the characters I have come to fall in love with. 

You can be sure that, come April 1st, I will be locking my self away to devour the book (yay, it's a Friday, so I can dedicate a whole weekend to reading). Squeeeeeeeee!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japanese Tradgedy - How You Can Help

The world has been rocked by the enourmous tradgedy that struck Japan late last week. Rattled by several enormous earthquakes and a gigantic tsunami the likes of which has rarely been seen, tens of thousands of lives have been dramatically lost, and thousands more wrenched apart.

Now begins the difficult process of recovery and rebuilding.

Perhaps what has struck me the most is the reaction of the Japanese people. There is no looting or theft, and the people are selflessly sharing the last of their food with strangers. Humanity can learn a lot from such a dignified, strong race. 

People seeking information about Australians in the disaster affected areas, can also contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 (within Australia) or +612 6261 3305 (from outside Australia).

If you would like to make a donation to the Red Cross you can do so by following the link - or by calling  1800 811 700

Images used in this post were taken from, sourced 17.03.11

Monday, February 21, 2011

What does it take to write a good story?

I have recently been pondering the question of what it takes to write well. Almost anyone can write, but what does it take to be able to write a compelling, thought provoking story?

A few months ago I went to a Novel Writing Workshop in order to get some feedback and criticism on the Children's Novel that I have been working on. From the workshop leader, Jill Blee, I was able to gain some useful insights from a well-published author.

  1. Busy Life? Take some time everyday to write or think about writing. Yes, you may have children, a full time job etc., but it is vital that you put aside some time to develop your story. For me personally this is during the car drive to and from work everyday. I find that I enjoy being stuck in peak hour traffic as it gives me more time to think about my characters. Why not use the time on the way home from the school run, grocery shopping or your evening walk to imagine youself away into your story? You need to feel connected to your story if your readers are to feel connected to your story.
  2. Write everyday. This can be anything from a couple of sentences a day, to a few hundred words of you story. Remember, if you don't use it, you lose it. Your writing will improve the more you write.
  3. Get to know your characters. I have mentioned this before in previous blog posts. It is extremely important that you know every minute detail off even the most minor of your characters. You don't have to convey this information to your readers, but if your story is to be plausible you need to know all the nitty-gritty details.
  4. Read your story out loud. You will be surprised by just how many mistakes you pick up when you are reading out loud. My weak point in my writing tends to be my dialogue, so I tend to talk out a scene to myself before I even put pen to paper. I use my drive home from work to do this, but when I was younger I used to talk it out to my little brother. Whatever works for you. Embarrasing, yet effective!
  5. Read, read, read. I have left the most important point till last. Do not write a fantasy fiction novel if you do not enjoy reading fantasy fiction novels. Readers can pick out a fake a mile off. Read widely, and most importantly, read a range of books from the genre you are writing for. I cannot tell you the number of children's stories I have read of late...

I may not be the greatest writer out there - goodness knows I'm not classically trained - but I am going to try my hardest to ensure that I am the best possible writer that I can be.