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March 27, 2011

Sunday Diary Scan: Soccer, Surgery & Sausage Rolls

Welcome to the third Sunday Diary Scan. This week has been fairly quiet, and I managed to rack myself up a seven day chain on my thousand-wards-per-day calendar before breaking it on Saturday. More on that in a sec.

The indoor soccer season officially started for my team, Un-United, with the receipt of our match schedule for the rest of the season on Tuesday. We also played our final pre-season match, but although we were able to field a full team, our opposition wound up three players short - so they had substitutes from a team at least one grade above us. We notched up two goals by the end of the match, while our opponents left the field with something like fourteen goals on the board.

I'm getting back into reviewing books for work; I finished off Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches early in the week - I'll let you know as soon as the review goes live and/or appears in print, but I will say here that I'm hanging on to my copy - and am getting stuck into Alex Berenson's The Secret Soldier.

Saturday was pretty busy. We started with a run into the vet surgery for Ziggy's post-ear-op checkup. The stitches are holding well, and I need to schedule an appointment to get them removed in the week after this coming one (or current one, if you start your weeks on Sundays). I also have to make sure to tell the vet how poor Ziggy actually died for a few minutes on the night we got him back from surgery - Vickie wound up performing chest compressions just to get the little blighter to start breathing again! He's been fine since, thankfully; my best guess is a reaction to the general anaesthetic they had him under.

Then in the afternoon we headed out to Kewarra Beach for a mate's baby shower. Most of it was sitting around, chatting and grazing on finger food - lots and lots and lots of finger food. We were so gorged that we had to send our apologies to another mate who was having a party that evening - we didn't even bother with dinner after we got home! The rest of the evening was pretty quiet; we watched the ever-increasingly-awesome Richard Armitage in the BBC thriller, Strike Back, and followed it up with renting The Girl Who Played With Fire on the T-Box via BigPond Movies. Both very intense pieces of work!

March 20, 2011

Sunday Diary Scan: The Gastronaut

Evening everybody! It's Sunday, which means it's time for the second Sunday Diary Scan!

If there were one word that'd sum up last week, that word would be "gastro". No, not as in the wonderful pursuit of food; your humble writer was atually off sick for three days of the last working week (for you foreign readers, "gastro" is a typically Aussie abbreviation of "gastrointeritis"). Dutiful employee that I am (not to mention trying to maintain my rep for being The Guy Who Doesn't Come Down With All The Crap Everyone Else Gets), I tried going to work on the mornings of Monday and Tuesday, but went home shortly afterward on both days. Wednesday I just decided to put my feet up and wait the bastard out. I had a few twinges in the gut on Thursday and Friday, but overall I was good.

Unfortunately, Vickie came down with a dose of it too; see, they tell you to not pass it around to everyone at work, but what about the one you love at home? Said person could kill me for giving her my bug, and then where would my employer be, I ask you? Where?

Still, I was able to run Ziggy to the vet's for his surgery and dental work on Tuesday and pick him up in the afternoon. His right ear is nicely deflated and riddled with stitches, but as predicted, it's gone as floppy as his left. The anaesthetic knocked him about, of course, so he was very wonky while I was home.

One thing that suffered while I was ill was my word count. I had a nice run of eight days on my Don't Break The Chain calendar, but aside from a spurt on Tuesday I didn't write a thing until the weekend. I'm catching back up, with a two-day streak on the board as of this writing.

Being couch bound allowed Vickie and I to catch up on some movies we'd been meaning to see via our T-Box and the still-largely-unspent $300 BigPond Movies voucher we got for signing up to a Homeline bundle. My brief opinions:

Cloverfield: I'm no huge fan of the Kaiju movies this was riffing on, but for everything that was going on, there really didn't seem to be much going on.

Sky High: More than worth it for Kurt Russell playing a clueless super-Dad in that awesome suit, Bruce Campbell as a high school coach and Lynda Carter as the principal, but everyone involved looked as though they were having fun, so I did too.

The Town: Aptly named. The characters seemed like facets of the New Jersey suburb they inhabited. Ben Affleck can keep directing movies; I'll keep watching them.

We both got out of the house yesterday to shop, and I got the chance to have a fiddle with some e-readers in at Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi. Some interviewees on the writing podcasts I listen to have been extolling the virtues of e-books, and as I'm in the process of writing a book I'm curious about the electronic experience.

I don't know whether the units I was looking at were low end, but I came away pretty unimpressed with them, especially the ones whose LCD screen blinks from black-on-white to white-on-black when you change pages. I was wanting to claw my eyes out in seconds. The one iPad I could get my hands on didn't have iBooks installed so I couldn't see how well that worked, but I have the feeling that if I want to get a decent e-reader, I'll save my pennies and splurge on an iPad.

Still, I know folks who swear by the Kindle. O Kindle Users: What makes the Amazon offering worthwhile?

March 14, 2011

Music Monday: Huey Lewis & The News - "Back in Time"

Hi, all. Music Monday is an idea I'm shamelessly stealing from the blogs Reality Escapes Her and Lace & Cream. While these ladies don't put one up every Monday – at least, I don't think they do (correct me if I'm wrong, girls) – you can usually find them talking about their favourite bands and current muses at the beginning of the week. While they often dedicate their posts to a whole band, I fear my tastes aren't as diverse, so I'll try and keep it to a single song or album.

Still, a couple of folks have threatened to inflict their favourite music on me recently, so I may well wind up blogging about the new stuff as I dip my toes in.

I'll kick this off with my most recent purchase: The song "Back in Time" by Huey Lewis & The News.

You might find it kind of odd that I don't really care for most of Huey Lewis & The News' work. I'm pretty sure it was Back to the Future that introduced me to them with their hit "The Power of Love" and I've heard all the usual airplay hits ("Stuck With You", "The Way That You Use It", "Hip to be Square", "Doin' It All For My Baby"), yet none of them sold me on an album or single.

Yet it's this one song, which played over Back to the Future's end credits, that got me to finally spend my money. Why? Well, in good part, I've got to credit the first trailer for Back to the Future: The Game, which plays it as the game's digital Marty McFly guns the deLorean toward eighty-eight miles per hour.

I keep thinking of the first teaser trailer for Superman Returns. Although Superman Returns itself was a bit hit-and-miss, I still remember how that trailer used the voice-over by Marlon Brando as Jor-El and John Williams' Krypton theme from the first Christopher Reeve film to give me a sense of "Yes, this is Superman". Sure, it was pushing the nostalgia button - which, in retrospect, was probably the main thing that weakened the final product - but it was pushing it right.

Maybe it's a nerd thing.

But even though the BTTF game trailer was doing the same thing, it reminded me just how much fun that song "Back In Time" is, and I've been listening to it once every day (if not more often) since I bought it from iTunes a couple of weeks ago. It's a real mood-booster of a song; power-walk-speed beat with plenty of sax bopping around to it, a rhythm guitar that, for want of a better word, grumbles (a sound I don't think I've ever heard any other guitarist make) and some sweet guitar and sax solos.

The lyrics, especially in the second verse, are the song's weakest aspect. It felt like whoever wrote them was trying a bit too hard to thrown in movie references whilst making sure everything rhymed ("Please don't drive eighty-eight / Don't wanna be late again"). But they're nowhere near as random as, say, most of Def Leppard's or Yes', and when Huey sings them, I don't much care. Great voice on that guy.

Whenever I just want to feel good without wanting to foment a revolution or kick someone's arse, I'll listen to this.

March 13, 2011

Sunday Diary Scan: The Inaugural

Greetings, gentle reader, and welcome to the first Sunday Diary Scan. Vickie and I bought these lovely big diary/planner/journals at a newsagent near the end of last year, and I've found mine so handy that I've been keeping pretty thorough records of what I've been up to. When I started thinking of ways to post more frequently on the blog, the diary came to mind immediately!

Let me open, therefore, by recommending that those in the market for a diary consider the 24Hr Home & Work Diary from Collins Debden.

With that done, what have I been up to this last week? Mostly grumbling at the rain. Yasi may have come and gone but we've still got a lot of nasty wet season cloud around. Still, I discovered on Thursday night that the sound of rain on a corrugated iron roof is great for just sitting and thinking! I made some progress in getting the ideas swirling about my noggin for Slamdance world-building out of my head and onto paper that evening.

Saturday week ago was pretty busy. In the morning I ran Ziggy to the vet for his annual immunisation shots and asked the vet about his right ear, which has swollen up with a haematoma much like his left one did eighteen months ago. The vet suggested leaving it for a week before booking a surgery, and while it's not been really bothering Ziggy the swelling certainly hasn't decreased either. I'll call the vet tomorrow morning. Vickie and I will be sorry that Ziggy will lose both of what I call his “ping” ears; after this next surgery, they'll both flop forward all the time!

After that came the monthly meeting of the Tropical Writers group, and as always it was good. I read out the last half of Chapter 2 of Slamdance and frantically noted down the critiques, which I'm saving for when I finish the first draft and start making rewrites. We've got a lot of great writers there, including several poets - I loved one's work which told the tale of two brothers in a country town who were led astray by a pretty young thing and met an untimely end!

The rain held off on Sunday enough to let me mow the front lawn, then came back in with a vengeance (leaving me with a right slog of a mowing job today). I downloaded the latest beta of Scrivener for Windows and noodled some with importing Slamdance into it, but I think I'm still getting the feel for how the program works. I think I'll start seeing its benefits once I import The Second War of the Worlds and break the chapters down into scenes and start making notes for the second draft.

The rain really made its presence felt early in the week. On Monday, road access to several suburbs north of Cairns was cut by minor floods. The drive to work from the South was a pain in the arse for me on Monday and Tuesday, but several colleagues found the trip from the North absolutely impossible.

We then had to cancel our attendance at a Meetup of Cairns-based Twitter users organised by one of work's digital gurus, Simon Crerar, on Wednesday evening. As the rain set in we went from 'Vickie will meet me in town' through 'I'll go and pick her up' and 'I'll go on my own' to 'I'd better go straight home before the roads get cut and shift some sand bags before the water gets to our back door'. Although it didn't get that bad, the old saw 'never trust the weatherman' has a greater meaning in the tropics. From all accounts, the event was a success, and I intend for us (see what a considerate husband I am, making plans for my wife?) to get to the next one - which, we hope, will be sometime outside the wet season!

The rest of the week was fairly quiet, and I built my Thousand Words per Day writing chain up to eight days! I wound up breaking it yesterday, though. In the morning I went to a workshop for writing query letters presented by local writer Talitha Kalago; once again, I made sure to make plenty of notes. I know I'll be putting them to good use once I finish Slamdance off! Talitha is a good presenter, injecting her information with plenty of good examples and wit!

Last night was a good bit of fun, though; pocket dynamo Kay Little organised an evening cruise aboard the Passions of Paradise catamaran for social club members, partners and friends. It was great to catch up with heaps of folks at work in a more social setting, not to mention a great date night for Vickie and I!

OpenOffice Writer tells me that the above brings me up to 790 words, which is a good chunk of my daily quota. I think I'll finish off by trying a concept I swiped from someone else's blog: A Monday posting about music I'm listening to. (836!)

March 02, 2011

That's Some Mighty Big Talk, Son

You may have noticed that I didn't do another one of those resolution posts back in January. I'll admit this freely: It was mainly because, at the time, I was lazy. But having said that, I can't help but feel like it wasn't a bad thing.

I've got a bit leery of talking big about what I'm going to do. It's really easy to do, especially when I don't know what I'm really capable of or have a firm grasp of everything I'm committing myself to.

Take, for example, my recent spurt of writing. I completed NaNoWriMo four days ahead of deadline, and promised all and sundry - especially the folks to whom I'd been sending my 1,667 words per day - that I'd keep to a weekly update schedule. That petered out within a week, and I didn't get back on the horse until about a week ago, when I committed myself to writing 1,000 words per day, every day. I even put a widget from Don't Break The Chain, an online calendar application that allows you to mark off the number of days in a row you've performed a particular task.

I started back into the novel, and within a week had finished it. The ending was a bit rushed, but for a zero-draft, I'm not going to complain - plus, for the first time ever, I finished a draft of a novel! The first one I'd ever really, seriously attempted! OpenOffice clocked it in at 71,573 words, including chapter headings. An achievement? Yes. Absolutely no doubt or argument in my mind.

But then I found myself at a loss.

Sure, I could go back and start revising the novel. But that's not exactly writing, and I want to give that a bit more breathing room before I dive in with notepad and red pen. No, I wanted to write - and I was suddenly at a loss as to what to do. I didn't have anything in the pipe that I could just pick up and get stuck into, not even SlamDance. Sure, I have four and a bit chapters of zero draft discovery writing done, but I don't have an outline, which I did have for my NaNo novel. I want to build one before I start, mainly to figure out where and how I want it to end and who the bad guys are going to be.

That's going to take a little time, and will involve making notes, not consistent prose. I need some other projects to work on in the meantime, things I can have ready to pick up and just write on.

Do I have some ideas? Certainly. I made a few notes at the library during lunch today, and I did a little reorganising of my assorted writing notes and ideas files.

I don't want to go into any more detail than that. Vickie knows well how much of an Imagunna I can be, and I'm getting a bit sick of it. From here on in, I'd much prefer to tell you what I'm doing and / or have done, rather than tell you what I'm going to do, build a reputation based on my actual work (and work ethic) instead of my big ideas.

Will it work? Folks, there's only one way to find out, and that's to watch this space...

(How many words is that? Just over five hundred and sixty. Hrm. Okay, time to go and work on something else...)

By the way, if you want to read my NaNoWriMo zero-draft, let me know (including how to get it to you) or log onto the Not Nano Australia forum and look for it in the "Novels" category.