In which I am a bundle of squee

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Loot! Everything but the bottom three books from the con bag.

This morning I woke up to see the Hugo nominations have been announced.  I am full of fangirl squee to see so many awesome people and books and publications on there.  So happy to see awesome podcasts like Galactic Suburbia and SF Squeecast, and Cat Valente and Among Others and Mur Lafferty and and and!

And I have promptly gone and bought myself a supporting membership so I can vote 🙂

And in even more squee, I went to Swancon yesterday!  And for once didn’t come away with a ridiculous amount of books.  I did splurge a little and buy the limited hardcover of Kim Wilkins’ The Infernal from Ticonderoga, as well as Damnation and Dames, which was the one book I’d gone intending to buy.  I also indulged in buying some books for other people, including completing a friend’s set of Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court trilogy and buying another friend Joanne Anderton’s Debris.  I so love buying books for other people, especially when I know they’re in situations where they can’t indulge.

(And in an interlude of cute, the husband just opened his collection of Dr Who minifigs for the two-year old to see, and the kidlet is now playing with the ninth doctor and eleventh doctor.  We start them young here.)

Swancon was awesome, mostly because the wonderful Ju introduced me around a lot.  I got to have an awesome chat with Marianne de Pierres, who is just amazing and wonderful.  And I managed to attend only one panel, and only because I was on it 😉  And it was tremendous fun, and I kind of want to do more panels now.

I will likely try to make some more coherent blog posts this week, but I am proud of myself for going, since social anxiety has kept me away from things like this for so long.  And though I am tired and sore and need some serious introvert recharging time, I am very, very glad that I went.

The past does not define you, the present does.

Gantheaume Point

Gantheaume Point, one of my favourite places. Old photo, because I didn't have the camera out much this week.

This has been an odd week.  Much pain again, with the arthritis flaring with the change of weather.  I think summer is finally gone, with the nights getting cooler and the days milder.  It’s been lovely to not have to hide away in air conditioning all day, and to have fresh air flowing through the house constantly.  The great shift in my exercise routine is happening, too: no more swimming, and building up my tolerance for walking instead.  I am entertaining the idea of purchasing an exercise bike for rainy days, but slightly put off by the prices, especially of recumbent models, which I am drawn towards.

There has been writing, and I’ve been happy with the quality, but not quantity of it.  My pace is much, much slower that I use to write.  But I suppose that I should be thankful that I’m writing at all.  Between pain, a two-year-old and everything else, it would be very easy to just stop and stare at daytime television all day.

I have been devoting a decent amount of energy to uncluttering, which is a very satisfying thing.  We’re not messy people, but there are places in the house that get cluttered with stuff, and when they’re clean and tidy, things feel much better.  I have a massive list of things I’d like to do around the house (painting, for one, she says, eyeing off the horrid yellow walls in this room) but I’m tackling them in small pieces. They all add up.

Watching a child in their second year of life is incredible.  Especially when said child is sleeping well, and therefore the rest of us are sleeping well 😉  He’s developing such an imagination – he re-enacts scenes with his trains, and tells us that Totoro lives in every big tree he sees 🙂  He still remains one of the cuddliest kids I’ve ever known, too, which is just delightful.  Hard to think that in a few years he’ll be in school.

Links of the week:

4 ways to hack into your mind and become infinitely more creative.

How to become a real writer.

10 books every fantasy author should read.

Making art, making magic.

Why it’s good to give your stuff for free.

10 secrets to creating unforgettable supporting characters.

How to create story structure to die for.

You must engage your creative side.

How I wrote Doll Bones (Holly Black talking word count).

An exceedingly simple guide to keeping a journal.

How to make a living as a writer, part one.  Part Two.

How will we get around in the post-apocalypse?

I want to make this for my kid: Narnia-themed playroom.

 

 

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.

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Awesome is having an artist friend who comes over and draws Totoros with chalk on the paving for your kid.

 

Not the best or the most productive of weeks, thanks to a flare up of arthritis pain.  But I managed to write every day, and to stick to not breaking the chain.  I am officially giving myself the weekend off from work, though – today the husband and I are going to see The Hunger Games in Gold Class, and tomorrow is massage day.

In good news, the pain seems to be less today, so hopefully I’ll be back to being productive next Monday.

Links!

Housing and dreaming community.

The gift of tabula rasa.

Inside an artist colony.

A three-step algorithm for happiness.

Train your brain for monk-like focus.

Cycle to work at your home office.

Does accepting limitations make us weaker?

What’s the value of SF/F awards to the community?

6 simple ways to release flow.

Struggle is a sure sign you’re making art.

 

In chaos, there is order

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This has been an…odd week.  A couple of days where everything got derailed – husband was off up north working on site and got stuck there when the airport closed due to a cyclone.  So the kid and I have been on our own since Thursday.  Bless the little guy, he’s been awesome – going to sleep without too much fuss and sleeping through the night.  You’ve never seen sad until you’ve seen a two-year-old’s face when you tell him that Daddy isn’t coming home as planned.  My heart breaks thinking of kids who get told that Daddy or Mummy aren’t ever coming back.

Links for the week:

Terri Windling talks about suffering for art.

Using Kickstarter to fund fine art.

This is how you organise a pantry!

Will eating red meat kill you? (an analysis of the study that’s been making the rounds)

The many ways science has (wrongly) assessed your personality.

How not to be a clever writer.

 

We walk through the wood, never wondering what lies beyond. But we will all go there, one day.

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Things which keep me grounded; the view from the kitchen: tea, geekery, a kidlet not eating his breakfast

 

This has been a hard week.  Two lights lost to the world and moving beyond, two new holes in the world.  I wish I could physically be at the memorials for both.  My heart is there.

It feels somewhat wrong to be moving on (as it always does after a loss), but at the same time it feels right.  The loss of anyone is a reminder of what matters, to value those things in life.  To make our lives worthwhile.

I want to make my life mean something.  To be a good mother to that amazing kid above.  To be a good friend.  To write something that fills a hole in someone else’s life.

I will do these things.  I will make my time on this earth mean something.

On the mundane side, I have been keeping on with keeping on.  Still keeping my chains unbroken, and this week finally getting around to trialling the Pomodoro technique.  Much modified (which for me means that I pretty much only get one or two pomodoros in per day) but so far it’s working pretty well.

Some links for the week:

10 amazing real-world locations for fantasy worldbuilding.

Sometimes what feels like surrender isn’t surrender at all.

Dystopia and the ferris wheel effect.

Are the nutritionists lying to us?

The things that save us.

Are we too obsessed with happiness?

The five best productivity methods.

The art of being fearless.

On piracy and copyright and file sharing and free speech.

 

Getting things done in a smaller world

Kangaroo paws at sunset 2The process of unfracking my life continues.

I’m still slowly whittling away at some of my online commitments.  One of the things I’m giving over is the guilt at not interacting with people online as much as I’d like.  I’m not spending as much time on Faceboook, and I refuse to feel guilty over not commenting on blogs or replying to comments much.  I’ve never been a huge commenter anyway (I don’t like to comment unless I feel like I have something useful to add) but I’m probably going to be commenting even less.

I’m still making chains of the things I want to accomplish, and yesterday I played with the Pomodoro Technique for the first time, with success.  Something about having that timer ticking away, knowing that I was going to get a break in X minutes, really helped me focus.  I ended up with about 2200 good words after two pomodoros, which I think is a win in all senses.

Today, I am physically and emotionally exhausted.  It’s going to be interesting to see how the techniques work for me when I’m fatigued.  It’s one of the great annoyances of chronic illness, I find – just finding that damn hair-thin line to walk between getting things done and doing too much and sending myself into a tailspin.  But ultimately, I can complain about it until I’m blue in the face, and all I’m going to accomplish is wasted energy and annoyed people around me.  This illness probably isn’t going to kill me any time soon (though in reality, it may shorten my lifespan) and it’s mostly under control with medication and lifestyle adjustments.  I’m extraordinarily blessed to have a husband who makes good enough money that I don’t have to be bringing in a wage, and family who help with the kidlet (and whose help, if I’m brutally honest, has allowed me to be able to have a kid, since I doubt I’d be able to cope on my own).

You fall over, get up, get up again.  Keep going.

 

Vale, Paul Haines

Paul Haines was an amazing man and an incredible writer.

I’ve been sitting here for a while staring at the cursor, trying to figure out what to say.  Paul and my father walked a similar path fighting cancer, both of them going to extraordinary means to try to beat the disease.  They exchanged emails, I believe, and my father was always invested in how Paul was going with his own fight.

If you’ve never read any of Paul’s work, even if you’re not a fan of horror, go and find some.  Wives is what most people will recommend and seriously worth the read.  Paul always had a way of twisting off the veneer of normalcy of life, revealing something beneath that could be shocking, gut wrenching or just plain horrible.  But it always made you look at the world with new eyes, always made the real world more real.

I had hoped, so much, that there would be some magic cure for Paul.  I can only begin to imagine the hole that’s gaping in his family’s lives.  Paul, you will be missed, as a writer and as a damn fine human being.  I take comfort in the idea that maybe you and my father are sitting somewhere at a bar having a drink and sharing war stories and declaring a heart “Fuck You” to cancer.

The smallest piece of magic can shine a light

Fable Tribe shrine

New mini shrine from the Fable Tribe

This has been a frustrating week.  My pain levels have been high, and the kidlet’s sleep has been out of whack (which means that mine has been as well).  We suspect he’s working on a molar, but thankfully he had a good night last night, which means that I actually feel human this morning.

In the mail yesterday came my new mini shrine from the Fable Tribe.  Which is amazing and magical and has found a home in my magpie collection of inspiration which lives above my writing computer.  They just updated on Friday, so if you’re looking for some magic, go and have a look at their etsy store.  I was stalking the update so I could grab a specific Glamourkin, and was very happy indeed to be able to nab it.

Not much writing done this week, though I’ve stuck to my goal of trying to get something done each day, even if it’s only a sentence.  I’m finding myself a little stuck, which means that I’ve gone wrong somewhere.  Need to untangle that.  I’m firmly in the middle of the middle of the book, so it could just be that usual middle-of-the-book syndrome kicking in.  My plan is to take a good look at my outline and see if there’s something I’ve missed or which isn’t connecting up.

I have been managing a fair bit of reading – on the ninth (and final book) of Mark Chadbourn’s massive Age of Misrule/The Dark Age/Kingdom of the Serpent series.  I find myself enthralled and frustrated by this series.  There’s so much to interest me, but I feel that there’s huge plot points that feel forced, and the characters are all-too-often sliding into cardboard cutouts.  But I’ve found enough to keep me going through the books, so that’s something.

I continue to pare down my online life.  I left a bunch of Facebook groups yesterday, and I’m going to be going through and paring down my general reading lists as well.  I’m already feeling better for it.

And now it’s a lovely long weekend, which shall hopefully be filled with lots of cuddles from the kidlet.

 

Making some changes

I’ve noticed of late that my internet time is becoming a stressful thing for me.  There’s so much drama in groups and between individuals.  It’s gotten to a point where every time I sit down at the computer I end up coming away stressed and frustrated.

And so, I am making some changes.

I’m stepping away from a bunch of online groups and I’m going to stop following people who seem to give nothing but negativity to the world.  This means that I’ll likely be cutting down lists on things like facebook, livejournal etc.

I’m pretty much moving all of my blogging over to here, anyway, so no one is going to miss anything.

It’s time to strengthen the connections that strengthen me.

Unfracking my life

Today, I am annoyed at my body at and autoimmune diseases that make things difficult.

I’ve had this series of posts sketched out to write, but the last few days have laid me low with increased pain and fatigue, making it difficult for me to be able to type and think coherently for any decent length of time.  For once, I’m allowing myself to rest a bit more than usual, rather than stuffing myself full of medication and pushing through it (which inevitably makes things worse).  In short, I am trying to be an adult and actually Look After Myself.

Even with that rest, I am trying to begin a great project: the Unfracking of my Life.  I’ve been a long-time reader of Lifehacker, and have a whole heap of articles and tips filed away for use in some nebulous undetermined future.  And this past week, Cat Valente, a writer and person who I greatly admire and am proud to call friend (albeit only online, thanks to this great damn planet in the way), started a new project at Tumblr, Girl Unlocked, taking a bunch of advice from another new-to-me tumblr, Unfuck Your Habitat, and a whole lot of gears just clicked together in my head.

On the surface of things, my life looks, for the most, pretty together.  The house gets cleaned, the laundry gets done, everyone gets fed etc.  But there’s a whole lot of things that I don’t tackle.  The random stacks of clutter (one of which is my desktop-holding desk, which is currently cluttered with a whole lot of Stuff).  There are a tonne of small household tasks that I endlessly put off.  I don’t really look after myself these days, as evidenced by the extra weight that I’m carrying.  And yes, I can reel off excuse after excuse, but you know what?  They’re just excuses.  Yes, I deal with fatigue and arthritis.  Yes, I have limits.  But I am still mobile, and I have a lot of freedom to organise my time.  And, shamefully, I waste a lot of useful time doing non-useful things (Facebook, I’m looking at you).

It’s time to unfrack things.

In an unrelated fashion, I’ve been trying to keep more on top of the things that I need to accomplish.  This year, I’ve already made a habit of writing myself a to-do list every day, and ticking off items as I complete them.  And lifehacker recently published an article on the don’t break the chain method of productivity.  This is a method that I’d come across before, but for some reason it just clicked with me now.  I already had a calender tacked up next to my writing area, and so I set myself some goals.

1.  I want to write something every day.  This could be fiction, or a blog post, but it had to be words on a page.  With this, I am actually letting go of word counts and just writing.  Some days it’ll only be a few sentences.  Others, I’ve found myself easily finishing 2,000 words.  It just has to be forward motion.

2.  Something needs to be done around the house every day.  Some days, like yesterday, this was bare minimum – dealing with laundry (which gets done daily, thanks to nappies and a kid who likes to mess up his clothes) and running over the floors with my handy-dandy rechargable sweeper thing to deal with the worst of kid crumbs.  On Monday, I vacuumed and mopped the heavy traffic areas, surface cleaned the bathrooms, did three loads of laundry, unfracked the bottom of our walk-in-wardrobe and probably other stuff that I can’t remember right now.  Again, it just has to be forward motion.

3.  This is the tough one for me (though it shouldn’t be) – doing some sort of spiritual work every day.  This is something that gets shoved aside all too easily for me, especially if I’m focusing on goals like word counts.  But my spirituality is something that is my lifeblood.  I am woefully behind where I’d like to be on my OBOD work, and I have a leaning tower of spiritual books that I haven’t read.  This one is seriously slow right now, since it’s a habit I’m establishing – some days it’s been as simple as taking a few moments to take notice of the phase of the moon.  It’ll come.

Three habits, three chains, and so far I haven’t broken them for over a week.  I plan on allocating myself “holidays” of a kind, especially for the writing, which will probably be 4 weeks off in a year, if I need them.  I’d really like to get more productive with writing and treat it as a career, but that will come.  One thing at a time.

Interestingly (or perhaps bleedingly obviously), I’ve actually been feeling much better in general mood-wise since I’ve started doing this.  And I’ve cut down on one of my medications without any kind of fall out mentally/emotionally.