W.R. on the Air-Waves!

Current Frame of Mind: alternately terrified and excited.

Why, you ask?

Because I’m having my first radio interview as an Author, tomorrow. Now, I’ve been on the radio before: I was a School-of-the-Air kid for a few years, after all, and we visited the base station a time or two. I find that I’m significantly more nervous about this particular interview, however.

Sedate, authorly me

Part of this is because I’m not particularly fond of communicating aloud now that I write more than ever. I never quite know what to say, especially if I’m talking to someone I’ve never met, in a place I’ve never before been. The rest of it is because I sound like a little boy when I’m on the phone or radio, so there’s that.

Despite that, I’m still reasonably excited. Well, it’s not every day I get the chance to be on a local radio station to talk about myself and my books, after all. I ran around madly this morning, making sure that the places that stock my paperbacks had a supply at hand–yanno, just in case people hear me and immediately go dashing out to find my amazing books for their precious loved ones–and now that I’m on lunch at work, it’s time to write down some Things To Say.

Terrified, authorly me (otherwise known as NaNoWriMo face)

I knew about this interview roughly a month ago, by the way. And yes, today is the first day I’ve actually sat down to write down some thoughts on what I’m going to talk about if asked. I may or may not have mentioned my superpower of procrastination before…

But it can’t be that bad, right?? Right??

HEY HEY IT’S THE MONKEES!

I’m ridiculously excited.

I probably told you guys this ages ago, but tonight is the night I go to see The Monkees. So I can’t concentrate to write, or study, or do anything, in fact (except rewatch The Librarians S2 with me Ma). It’s also a chance to dress up, so that’s nice.

Because I LOVE an opportunity to dress up!

Because I LOVE an opportunity to dress up!

I’ll let you know how it went when I get back…

…OKAY, I’M BACK AND GUYS IT WAS BRILLIANT AND THE MONKEES ARE BRILLIANT AND I HAVEN’T HAD SO MUCH FUN IN AGES.

*Deep breath*

Okay, first things first. I am delighted to announce that Peter Tork still does the adorable prancing thing while he plays (guitar, banjo, or keyboard). AND IT IS STILL JUST AS FLAMIN’ ADORABLE. He can also pick a really mean banjo and has a delightful sense of humour. Mickey Dolenz is still as brash and fun and loud as ever, and has more energy than I do on a good day!

The whole thing, in fact, had so much energy and vibe and fun to it that I don’t think I’ve been to a live performance I enjoyed more. The supporting musicians were absolutely wonderful, and both to frame and accent the Monkees performance beautifully.

AND GUYS. GUYS. I GOT TO DANCE TO THE MONKEES, LIVE.

Who got to dance to the Monkees, live?? This girl, that's who!

Who got to dance to the Monkees, live?? This girl, that’s who!

(If I’d have been a bit quicker I would have got to shake Peter’s hand, too, but I can live without that 😀 )

They came back on the stage ‘cos we made such a noise when they left, hooting and yelling and clapping, and played Pleasant Valley Sunday. Then they played as a last thing, I’m a Believer (reminding us with a twinkle in their eyes that they played it before Shrek), and some people started to go up the front and dance.

Well. I knew I’d never get another opportunity to dance to the Monkees, so of course I left my seat and danced!

I only took three photos (I tend to soak things in instead of taking pics) and they’re all very bad ones, but long story short, if you’re wondering whether the ticket was worth the price, then YES, many times over.

monkees

My two favourite Monkees, Peter and Mickey <3

Now I just need to wind down enough to sleep….

(In related news, I’m slowly slowly getting replies to my inquiries about using lyrics from The Monkees’ songs in Bright as the Eyes of You, though I still don’t yet know if I’ll be able to afford to do so. Meanwhile, lovely beta readers are reading BatEoY and I’ve already had some very useful feedback, so things are still progressing for a late-this-year/early-next-year publication.)

EOM Wrap-Up: Should Have Done versus Did Do

Okay, it’s not the end of the month, but it’s close.

And if you’ve been paying attention up until now, you’ll know that I’m in the last few days of a whole month off work. I planned to use this month in writing furiously, doing taxes (both personal and business), and clearing up myriad small and medium-sized Stuffs that needed to be cleared up.

I was going to write thousands of words per day, get back into the habit of practising my violin, get a good start on my Korean Language studies, and clean up the spare room, pantry, and bathroom.

I was gonna do a lot.

So. Did I get it all done?

Hint: I’m a writer. Basically, I major in procrastination.

And since I’m sure that you’re all dying to know what I did and didn’t get done, here’s a list for your delectation.

Should Have Done: Write at least 3k words per day, with a goal of up to 6k. I was planning on getting a good 60k of Bright as the Eyes of You written in advance so that I could have a nice, leisurely schedule publication schedule on Wattpad, and to have about 30k of Blackfoot completed.

Did Do: Um. Well. My range for this month fell between 500-2.5k imagewords per day. That’s right. I didn’t even get to my minimum planned word count on my best day. It was VERY BAD.

On the bright side, I got the first chapter of Bright as the Eyes of You up on Wattpad, with a publication schedule of one chapter every two weeks, and the next chapter is starting to come together, too.

(Chapters 4,5, and 7 are already mostly done, but that’s anther story altogether…)

Should Have Done: Violin Practise resumed and made into habit.

Did Do: There are 31 days in this month. Wanna know how many days I picked up my violin to practise? Five. Yep, you read that right. Five days out of the thiry-one. Not my best effort.

Should Have Done: Korean Language studies.

Did Do: Dudes, I totally aced this one. I not only achieved but exceeded expectations Here. So, hooray, maybe?

The homework in sentence structure, translation, and word recognition that looked too hard to do at the start of the month was almost laughably easy when I tackled it this morning.

This is thanks to flash-cards, CNBLUE, B.A.P. and loads of Korean TV, which, as laughable as it sounds, actually is hugely helpful to my language studies. I learn best by context, repetition, and example.

Should Have Done: Taxes (business–whee!–and personal).

Did Do: NOTHING. NOT A SAUSAGE. Why, you ask? BECAUSE I’M SCARED. This is the first year I’ve ever had to do taxes with my A.B.N (I’ve only been publishing about a year and a half) and there was a ridiculous amount of printing of receipts to do. This fear of doing business taxes led me to put off the personal ones as well. That and my natural, inbuilt laziness.

Should Have Done: Car Serviced. Recliner Fixed. Bathroom de-molded.

Did Do: Oh, oh! I got this one! Sort of. I remembered to make the call and get the car serviced, and my eyes are still red-rimmed from the Exit-Mold I used to de-mold the bathroom–unenthusiastic yays–but the recliner thing has me beat for the time being. It’s still under warranty but the store we bought it from has closed down and an internet search for the maker to deal directly with them for the warranty only led to me having a 10 minute conversation with a rep whose company doesn’t actually service my brand of recliner, before either of us realised I was calling the wrong company.

On the bright side, the rep loved how my first name is spelled, so there’s that. It doesn’t get the recliner fixed, but yanno, it’s cool.

So the answer to the question “How much did you get done?” is “Not a lot, really”.

One reason for this is that I pulled my lower back muscles one week–oh! the pain!–and was sick with a resurgence of Meniere’s Disease for another two of those four weeks.

Those are just excuses, of course. I don’t write well or easily when I’m ill or in pain, but I can write.

No, the big reason for my lack of accomplishment this month is sheer laziness. That and the fact that I’ve been watching tons of Korean TV.

So now that I have to go back to work next week, maybe I can knuckle down and actually write properly again…

Bookish Squees

I’m having a lovely day today. It didn’t start out lovely: I was feeling sick and tired, and didn’t really want to go into town even though I was meeting writerly friends.

Of course, when I got there, I had a wonderful time. After that I got very tired running around between op-shops and vintage shops with the Mum, which was a mix of nice and exhausting until the ear-ache started, and then it was just exhausting.

Then I got home to find my post-box simply stuffed with catalogues. I decided to empty it and found a parcel wedged in between all the glossy pictures. It was a nice surprise, since I could tell from the feel of it that it was a book, and the only book I was semi-expecting (and not very hopefully, since I’d been told there was a post office snafu and that I probably wouldn’t ever receive said book) was Lloyd Alexander’s THE BEGGAR QUEEN, the final book in the Westmark Series.

I ordered the books ages ago, all marked as library binding, and all in the hardcover because I thought they looked nice and I liked the way they felt. The first two arrived very quickly, but the third book was more expensive and very hard to source, and about a week or two after I ordered it I was sent an email saying it would probably never arrive, and asking me what I wanted to do.

So I was very excited as I opened my parcel. Sure enough, it was THE BEGGAR QUEEN, completing my trilogy.

all three

It was in the most gorgeous condition, the cover flawless, the spine not even cracked, and I wondered who on earth could have owned this book and never even opened it? Why would you not read it?

beggar queen

And then I opened it.

And then I squealed very, very loudly, and danced around the kitchen with the book clutched to my chest, before opening it again because I couldn’t believe my eyes.

signed!!

It’s a signed copy. A SIGNED COPY, GUYS!!

I never got to meet Lloyd Alexander and the chances of me getting a signature were so remote that I’d never even hoped for it.  And the icing on the cake is that the book is 1st edition, which probably doesn’t mean much with a book from 1984, but it means a lot to me.

And today is a wonderful, frabjous day after all.

A Night At The Opera…And Other Things

Photo by Prudence Upton

Photo by Prudence Upton

So I went to Melbourne for the long weekend. I went to see The Marriage Of Figaro, while the Hubby went to see Jeff Martin & The Tea Party. It was an eventful weekend, during which I managed to pull a muscle in my neck, sprain my ankle and wrist slightly at the opera, get uncomfortably sunburned….and then see the news, when stopping for lunch in a nearby Hungry Jacks (that’s Burger King for you Americans) that Paris had been attacked by terrorists. That led to a prolonged discussion through most of Sunday with the Hubby, about terrorism, muslims, Christians, and the state of the world. We disagree on quite a few things, and we both have slight difficulty in expressing our thoughts, so it proceeded in stops and starts as we collected our thoughts, came up with new arguments and insights, and went to church.

Since most of my thoughts regarding the situation are reasonably bleak and not at all fun (there are no winners in this kind of war), I’m instead going to concentrate upon the delightful, fun part of the visit.

That being the opera. It was three and a half hours of fun, zany story told in a delightful blending of voices that were as impressive as they were beautiful. Susanna is to marry Figaro. Figaro made a bad contract with Marcellina, who wants to marry Figaro and has the right to marry him. Count Almaviva is in lust with Susanna (and every other girl in the flamin’ castle). Countess Almaviva is in love with her husband, who needs repeated punching in the face with something hard and heavy. Cherubino is in (puppy) love with Countess Almaviva. Count Almaviva, in spite of chasing every woman in the castle (sensing a theme here?) is jealous of Countess Almaviva’s attention to Cherubino. Oh, and then there’s the little maid Barbarina, who is in love with Cherubino and also seems to be playing footsie with the Count.

Sounds confusing, yeah? Well, it wasn’t. Not really. It translates to the stage VERY well. I wasn’t confused for a moment and I loved every bit of it.

Basically, Susanna (the brains of the outfit) spends the opera trying to:

-Fix the count and the countess
-Avoid the count’s attentions
-Get the count’s permission to marry Figaro
-Marry Figaro before Marcellina can get to him
-Fix Cherubino’s romance/life

She is sometimes helped and sometimes hindered by Figaro, who she declares to have not enough wit, but who proves by the end of the opera to know a trick or two. Their romance left me feeling highly satisfied at the conclusion.

Things I loved:

-The subtitles. SUBTITLES, PEOPLE. THE LIVE OPERA HAD SUBTITLES. I can’t express how much that meant to me. I expected not to understand more than one in ten words (if that). Instead, I was able to enjoy not only the excellent singing and delightful acting, but the puns, insults, snark, and at times gorgeous lyrics. I’m never going to stop being excited over the fact that I could see a live Italian opera and enjoy it with perfect understanding.

Cherubino

Photo by Prudence Upton

-The music. I expected to recognise a few of the themes and leitmotifs. I did not expect to recognise one in every three or so. Apparently I’ve heard a heck of a lot more music from The Marriage of Figaro than I ever realised. Not only did I recognise a lot of it, but it was all gorgeous! I’ve always liked Mozart, but this was especially delightful. The orchestra was talented but understated, never overpowering the singers, and they blended beautifully.

-The acting. It’s hard to say the exact things that were so good, because there were just so many. It was tiny little things like the ‘stuff you!’ kind of curtsey Taryn Fiebig (Susanna) gives Shane Lowrencev (Count Almaviva) as she’s very politely putting him in his place. The cringe-inducing way that Count Almaviva manages to run his hands over every flamin’ female he comes into contact with (hint: he makes sure he ‘comes into contact’ with ALL OF THEM). Small and perfect touches all the way through.

-The plot. Oh heck, the plot! So delightfully mad! So wonderfully insane! I will never be sick of massive, elderly female characters who are intent upon marrying the young, handsome male lead. The ones who trade polite (and sometimes not so polite) insults with the heroine, whom the hero really loves and has chosen to marry. And who, upon learning that the male lead is in fact their son, immediately switch courses half way through and are in raptures at their new-found son.

-The lighting. Oh my. I don’t think I can say enough about how good it was. My program says that the lighting was ‘realised’ by David Parsons, and that the lighting designer was David Finn. These blokes need a medal. The lighting proceeded from early morning through to late morning; from thence to afternoon and then late afternoon; and eventually, through evening and even night. It was done elegantly and entirely believably: I could have sworn they had the windows open to the outside world, and that we were rapidly going through one summer’s day.

-The use of a woman as Cherubino. I don’t know if that’s what always happens with this opera, but I’d have to think it’d be a difficult part for a man to sing–even a really good tenor. Be that as it may, I found it a wonderful choice. It emphasised the boyishness of Cherubino, the slim, raw, youthfulness of the character. And Sian Pendry was wonderful in the part: she managed the boy dressing up as a girl bit amazingly well: you would have sworn it was a young boy swaggering in those skirts.

-I’m still squeeing over the fact that Cherubino sings Lizzy Bennett’s song! (Yeah, yeah, technically it’s Lizzy singing Cherubino’s song, but whatever). I’m delighted. It adds so much more meaning to a part of the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice than it already possessed. It’s a song of longing, of surprising and new love being discovered, of uncertainty and novelty. It’s perfect for that part of the movie and whoever chose it is a genius.

Things I didn’t like so much:

-It wasn’t as loud as I expected. I suppose I’m just used to having the telly turned up ridiculously loud when I’m watching G&S operettas (so I can sing at the top of my lungs), but although the opera was a pleasing loudness, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations of flamboyantly crashing loudness. I was just a smidge disappointed at that.

-Nope, that’s it. It was an awesome opera, and I now need to find a dvd version to show the Sis.

So that’s it. My night at the opera. Hopefully the first of very, very many. I highly recommend it.

Adventures In Real Life: The Opera

Well, it’s still NaNoWriMo, which means that this post will be short and sweet (Oi! I heard you! Yeah, you in the back row. The one who said ‘Aw Yiss!’).

As a kind of prelude to this post, I’d like to say that I’ve always had a kind of love/hate relationship with Opera–and by that I mean sometimes I love it and sometimes I hate it (after all, even an anthropomorphised institute can’t love someone).

Gilbert and Sullivan, I absolutely adore. Not just their sometimes cunning, sometimes laugh-out-loud humour, but their glorious, clever music. Stephen Sondheim, though not perhaps technically opera, I also love. And there are bits and pieces of the popular, well-known operas that I’ve heard and loved, though I’ve never actually seen or attended an opera; a real, overblown, gloriously loud opera.

I’m not so fond of the excessive amounts of vibrato that warble through real operas. I like a clear, clean soprano that has no need to disguise its shortcomings or ornament its beauty. Classic opera singers aren’t, therefore, among my favourite singers–which is also one of the reasons I’ve never sat down to a real opera. Another reason is that traditional operas seem to have an immense amount of maiming, slaughtering, incest, unfaithfulness and other unpleasantness. As Anna Russell says: “In an opera you can do anything you like, so long as you sing it!”

But now, love/hate relationship aside, I’m going to attend my first opera! Opera Australia are performing The Marriage of Figaro in Melbourne, where the Hubby and I are going for a long weekend as of tomorrow. I think the first thing that drew me in was the glorious costuming. I mean, look at ’em! They’re gorgeous! The crew that makes these makes them properly: no hidden zips and quick changes, and tries to buy only what would have been available at the time. This is the article I read about it–it’s fascinating! Apart from the costuming, I’ve heard a snippet or two of this opera on Classic FM and found it quite beautiful. The storyline, too, sounds absolutely hilarious!

So this is me! Going to my first opera! Tomorrow! I’ll have to find a suitably fantastic ensemble….

I’m Coming Out…

(Though probably not in the way you think.)

It’s come to my attention (especially lately, with the dust-up at the Hugo Awards) that if a person doesn’t fall in line with a certain set of beliefs and -isms, and isn’t aligned with a certain political and social worldview, that such a person will never be accepted into the mainstream of SFF writers. That’s okay. I write what I write because I love writing it, and there are enough other like-minded people around to find the sort of thing I like to read, as well. I don’t write to meet certain set amounts of POC in a book, or to advance a social/political belief, or to fight for gender equality. I don’t like being preached at through books I read, and I don’t intend to preach at my readers.

woman-closet

This particular idea was strengthened in the last few days. Over the weekend a thread cropped up on one of the blogs I like to visit. The question was (paraphrased): What makes you stop reading a book? How long do you give a book before you give up on it?

It was a question that interested me, and so of course I commented. In my comment I listed several things that would make me stop reading a book: sex scenes, rape scenes, bestiality, graphic torture, and homosexual themes. I went on to add that I would also stop reading if I didn’t connect with the characters, and mentioned that I would also stop reading a book if there was continual profanity. I wasn’t making a statement of what I believed, or of what I thought was right and wrong. I was simply stating what I didn’t read.

Do you want to take a guess as to whether someone replied to me? And as to what they said?

If you guessed that they did, and that the gist of their comment was that they had decided I was equating torture and rape with homosexuality, and that they were offended by their own inference, you would be right.

In vain did I point out that I had never equated them with each other, that sex scenes and characters I didn’t identify with were also on the list (was I also equating them with rape and torture? Spoilers: no) and that these were my own personal preferences as to what I did or did not read. A few of the commenters were simply determined to be offended. In which case I reckon they must be offended at the dictionary, too, since it also lists homosexuality along with some other nasty words and ideas. There seems to be an idea that if you don’t agree with what a person does or doesn’t support, that you can ‘call them out’ to tell them how offended you are, how unkind or bigoted they are, and how they need to be more careful in what they say.

So I’m coming out. 

I don’t agree with homosexuality. I won’t write about it, or (in almost every case) read about it. I won’t promote it. I think it’s wrong.

I don’t agree with abortion. I won’t write about it in a positive light, and I won’t promote it. I won’t read books that promote it. I think it’s wrong.

I don’t agree with misogynism. I won’t write about it in a positive light, and I won’t promote it. I won’t read books that promote it. I think it’s wrong. Also, I find it highly annoying.

If you’re not going to read the books I write because of that; well, that’s your right. Just like it’s my right to read and write what want to read and write. I won’t be silenced in my convictions, and by God’s grace I’m not going to be bullied into being too scared to speak what I think is right. If that means that some people (or even a lot of people) won’t read my books and feel that they have to call me various names; well, that’s their right. It’s a free world after all.

And I’m free to act upon my own convictions, too. If you’re lesbian/bi-sexual/gay/trans; if you’ve had an abortion; if you’re a misogynist– I don’t hate you. I do have a different moral system, and it’s not going to agree with yours.

It helps if people remember that. And it helps if we all decide not to be instantly offended by everyone who doesn’t agree with us (especially if you’re reading values into simple statements of preference). Fortunately I have quite a few family members and friends who identify as lesbian/bi-sexual/et al, and are always willing to have open discussions with me. They don’t love me any less for my beliefs, and I don’t love them any less for theirs. We certainly don’t agree with what is right and wrong, but none of us are closed minded enough to say that the other isn’t allowed to have their point of view.

The internet is not the same. Fair enough. But I don’t try to tell others what to read or write, so don’t expect me to change my beliefs to suit you, either. Whether I make a living at writing or only ever manage to keep it as a side-job, I want to honour God; and I can’t do that if I’m too afraid to stand up for what I think is right.

If you want a reason to label me, to refuse to read my books, to call me names, I’ve listed some for your convenience. Choose any or all of the above. And for my writer friends, whom I have loved ‘meeting’ as I began to publish, and who may or may not agree with me: some of you write stuff I don’t like to read, but I’d have to be daft to say that you’re bad writers because of it. Most of you are brilliant writers, some of whom simply write things I don’t always read.

Also, no hard feelings if you feel that you no longer want to interact/follow/’like’/talk to me. These can be divisive issues, and many publishers don’t like their authors to associate with ‘my kind’ of person just in case mud, doing what mud does best, sticks.

You Are What You Eat Read

At the Day Job I meet a lot of interesting people. And by interesting I mean people who have punchups at the service desk, entitled crusties who bring 60+ items through the 15 or less counter while berating anyone who dares to tell them they can’t do it, and that bloke who always comes in with striped thermals under his  knee-length shorts. (Seriously, I love that bloke. I get a kick out of seeing what colour stripes he’ll be rocking each time).

Then, of course, there are the ones who are interesting for a different reason. Quite often as I’m putting a customer’s groceries through, it’ll come out in the conversation that I’m a writer. The conversation then usually veers in one of three directions.

  1. Customer is VERY interested, and wants to know what sort of thing I write. When told that I write YA and NA Fantasy (most particularly rewritten fairytales) they ask to know my name so they can look me up. They are thereupon given my card.
  2. Customer is interested, and confesses to reading quite a lot, but not usually fantasy/YA etc. Depending on whether or not they are also interested in blogging/self-publishing/etc, I may or may not hand out a card.
  3. Customer wishes to tell me ALL THE WISDOM and let me know exactly how I should be writing, what I should read to be successful, and that I should give them my phone number so they can encourage/mentor/teach me the ways of life. (None of these so far have actually been writers, just rather pompous but kind-hearted individuals who genuinely seem to care about my growth). They make me want to back away slowly, but mean no harm. I try to avoid giving them my card.

This afternoon I had one of the less off-putting interesting ones. We had quite an interesting chat about The Classics (which he wanted to know if I had read, and was kind enough to approve when I said that I had— well, some, anyway). He then wished to know which classic authors I enjoyed. Of course, I mentioned Austen, Dumas, Scott et al, which he seemed mildly pleased about. I was on the right track, he said. We then moved on to Shakespeare, where we had slightly differing views on his tragedies (I find them highly amusing, and full of rich themes like hope and love and forgiveness).

Then he asked if I had read Kafka, Dostoyevsky (yes, I had to Google it to find out how Fyodor_Mikhailovich_Dostoyevsky_1876to spell it) and a few others that I either didn’t recognise or found vaguely familiar but was uncertain of their body of work. When I confessed my ignorance, he smiled kindly and said that I was going in the right direction, but that I should broaden my horizons. I agreed generally, but said that some of the classic authors I didn’t enjoy at all; to which he replied that reading them wasn’t about pleasure, it was about broadening the mind. Sometimes, he said, you have to force yourself through them: they’re heavy going, but worth it in the search for illumination (my paraphrasing here).

That got me thinking. As a writer, everything I read has an effect on me, even things that I really dislike. In one way or another, every book I’ve read has contributed to my ability as a writer, even if that contribution was how not to write. Sometimes I’ll dislike a set of characters and love a setting. Sometimes I’ll greatly admire a plot and dislike everything else about the book. Sometimes I’ll just hate a book so much that I can only think of how I would have written it AND NOT RUINED IT. In one sense, therefore, reading for the sake of broadening my mind and my skill isn’t to be lightly dismissed.

I do not, however, tend to continue reading things I don’t like. I don’t read just for the sake of broadening my mind. I read for pleasure. (With the exception of Christian authors like Sibbes, Spurgeon, Goldsworthy and others, whom I read both for pleasure and instruction). I’m not even sure that I should read merely for the purpose of broadening my mind. If there’s no love for what I’m reading, why bother? Even when I read biographies and autobiographies, I read because I’m interested in the person, and thus could still be said to be reading for pleasure. I’ve gotten past the age where I feel that I have to be able to proudly proclaim that I’ve read this great author or that famous poet: I feel quite happy in proclaiming that I read for pleasure.

Will I read Kafka and Dostoyevsky? Possibly. Probably. Maybe. But I’m pretty certain it’s going to be because I want to, and not because I should.