Journey of a pencil wielding, grammar-free child

"The mathematically-minded matriarch of the family unexpectedly pulled through with arguably the finest piece of writerly wisdom I have ever received."

Today I’m guest posting over at the wonderful Dodging Commas as part of a new series of guest posts with the theme Inspired to Write.  Blogger, writer and Dodging Commas hostess, Stef, explains:

Writers love talking about inspiration. We like to moan when we aren’t inspired and we like to boast when that sudden rush of inspiration has just jolted our minds into action. Inspiration can come from many sources – we can be inspired by places, images, words, actions, music, current events … and we can be inspired by people.

I have approached the writers behind some of my favourite blogs to contribute to Dodging Commas on the theme Inspired to Write. This is an opportunity to showcase a favourite author, express gratitude to a teacher, or dote upon a friend or family member. Above all, it is a celebration of the people who started us on our creative journeys, the people who keep us going, and the people who inspire us to follow our passion.

For me personally, it was a gratifying opportunity to explore the fundamental supporters of my creative dreams, as well as the literary peers who have shaped and influenced the kind of writer I strive to be.

For any creative undertaking, there will always exist those people who cease to question when it is you will be getting a ‘real job’, or who glaze over in the eyes when you try to explain your character arc or story synopsis. It’s not an easy job, supporting a slightly nutty, pencil-in-her-hair creative introvert, so those who do so are well deserving of the recognition.

To read my post and other literary, grammar and writing-related posts, head over to Dodging Commas this instant!

…Or at your earliest convenience.

Journey of a pencil wielding, grammar-free child

When Stef first asked if I’d like to write a guest post on who inspires me to write, I grinned and swayed like a giddy school girl. An opportunity to gasbag about the people in my life who have influenced the writer I am today? Oh, the joy!

Then I began to panic. How was I to contain a life-long accumulation of inspirational words, thoughts, ideas and people into an appropriately sized blog post?

[continue reading]

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My A-Z Euro Trip

"Peace!" - Me in Trafalgar Square

I’m baaack! It may have taken an excruciating 50 hours to get back here, but here I am.

Thank you all for your kind wishes of bon voyage whilst I was away. I had a truly amazing whirlwind trip around Europe, with many adventures had and many memories made.

Since arriving home (hello Australian summer! How I’ve missed you!), I’ve been wondering how on earth I could possibly communicate all the assorted experiences I’ve had over the past month. I recurrently find with travel that people are so often quick to say “tell me everything!”, but when it comes to it, it’s hard to know where to start and how to faithfully convey all the emotions or people or events that made a place, moment or experience so special.

Friends and family look patiently through photos and ooh and ahh at the appropriate moments, but having been the friend and family participating in such mandatory ritual, I confess that the pictures can so often look no different to the photos in travel magazines, the accompanying captions of “it was breathtaking”, not really conveying the absolute beauty of a place or the emotions felt when there.

More often than not, it’s the quirky stories, travel disaster accounts, and unusual experiences that make “tell me everything!” an easy request to answer.

I had my fair share of travel disasters, and a few quirky stories and unusual experiences, but some of my favourite places were deemed so simply due to an overwhelming sensation of being somewhere so completely magical, unfamiliar, and diverse to any other place I had been. Photos can’t always convey that. And sometimes there aren’t words to explain it either. It comes from within, and either you’ll recognise it and know what I’m talking about, or you won’t. Either way, I’ll try my best to take you there!

As for the ‘how’, my blogging friend and talented writer, Stef, over at Dodging Commas has just made the brave and adventurous move from Sydney to Singapore. She’s been detailing her amazing adventures through an ‘expat alphabet’, with an A-Z account of her experiences (including shower toilets, kids “shi shi-ing” their pants, and making a home away from home). With her permission, I’m pinching her idea and over the next few weeks will take you on my own alphabet journey across Europe.

I’ll also be including some of the photos that I took on the trip. Naturally, I await the appropriate oohs and ahhs in anticipation.

First stop, A for Auschwitz.

Enjoy!

“The Dragon and the Moon” – Now on ebook!

Hi all,

I’m pleased to announce that my short story, The Dragon and the Moon, has been included in a collection of short stories compiled by That Fantasy Blog, which is now being sold on Amazon.

While this would certainly be news enough for this aspiring author, what’s even more wonderful is that all proceeds from the sales of this ebook will be going to children’s aid organisation, UNICEF, who work so very hard to overcome the obstacles that poverty, violence, disease and discrimination place in a child’s path.

Needless to say, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of such a great cause this Christmas.

While The Dragon and the Moon is more of a whimsical fantasy, the other stories featured are predominantly horror/thriller based, so hopefully there will be something to appeal to your reading tastes.

Download your ebook straight to your Kindle (or any device where you can download the free Kindle app) by searching for my name, Katy Hulme, or the book’s title, Scream for Charity. Alternatively, visit the amazon page here:

http://www.amazon.com/Scream-for-Charity-ebook/dp/B006PFCEBC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324670970&sr=8-1

Before I go, I must share with you something else that made me smile this week.

When writing The Dragon and the Moon, I found myself working with an alarmingly imminent deadline. When I was done editing, it was 1am and I needed to send it off but feared doing so without a fresh set of eyes giving it a once over and a thumbs up.

Cue Twitter.

Another magnificent blogger, the lovely Joakim, offered to read it over for me and all was right in the world.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The next morning I awoke to a Tweet from Joakim, who, after reading my story was inspired to sketch what can only qualify as my very first piece of fan art (although he assures me his 4 year old holds claim to the title after he read the story to him).

I think it’s extraordinary and all I can say, is thank you Joakim!

Merry Christmas all and happy reading!

~storytelling nomad~

The Dragon and the Moon by Joakim Arbro

A Year in Review

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In the past week it has turned eerily quiet on the blogosphere. With Christmas, New Years and Holidays around the figurative corner I’m guessing you’re all enjoying a bit of good cheer, spending time with family, friends and loved ones, and taking a well-deserved break.

I’m not far behind you.

But before I wrap things up for 2011, I feel an end-of-year blog round up is warranted; 2011 was, after all, my maiden voyage as a blogger.

Storytelling Nomad began on the 20th May. I had seen a couple of friends on Facebook with blogs and thought ‘hey, I can do that. I have something to say’, and so with little more knowledge of blogging than that, my online journey began.

7 months, 119 posts, 1 blog revamp, 194 followers, 1,583 comments, 16,218 hits, 3 published articles, 1 guest post, 1 short story featured in an ebook (more about this soon) and many new friends later, here we are.

I don’t think I can truly articulate how valuable this blog has been to my creative practice. Apart from being a great place to share my thoughts and be involved in this wonderful online writing community, it has most significantly boosted the confidence I have in my own writing, which has in turned encouraged me to work harder at improving my craft.

Each and every one of your comments, feedback, ‘likes’, shares and subscriptions have played a part in this. A very, very large part. For that I thank you.

The highlights of my year included:

  • Joining my very first writers’ group.
  • Receiving my first piece of fan art (thanks Joakim)!
  • Participating in and winning my very first NaNoWriMo.
  • Having my story “The Dragon and the Moon” featured in a collection of short stories released over Christmas to raise money for Unicef (Again, more about this in another post).
  • Working at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
  • Coming third in my state raising money for Multiple Sclerosis through the MS Readathon/Novel Challenge.
  • Having my Heroes and Heroines article published in LipMag and All that is Wrong with the World.
  • Seeing my article So, where are you from published in Biscuit Magazine.
  • Being invited by author Angela Wallace to guest post on her blog.
  • Graduating from my Graduate Diploma in Professional Writing, surrounded by beautiful friends and family.

It was a year of firsts.

As for 2012, I have just been accepted into the Masters of Creative Writing program at the University of Tasmania, where I hope to further improve my writing and complete a large work of polished fiction under the teaching prowess of Vogel award winning author Rohan Wilson. I cannot wait!

In the meantime, I will be spending the next week not only making merry and eating far too much holiday food, but packing my suitcase.

You see, a nomad wouldn’t be a nomad without a noteworthy trip to end the year with. On Dec 30th I leave Sydney for a month in Europe, where I will have the pleasure of visiting my little brother in Hamburg, Germany who I haven’t seen since he left Australia over a year ago. Other items on the itinerary include a weekend in Krakow, Poland, checking out the town and visiting Auschwitz, which I can only imagine will be a life-changing and emotional journey into the horrors of WWII. Then, a week in London, England where a particular highlight will be meeting up with my childhood best friend, who I haven’t seen since leaving England over 16 years ago.  A quick trip to Edinburgh, Scotland will see me catching up with a school friend from Italy who I haven’t seen in many years and a new Scottish friend I met at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year. The trip finishes in in the beautiful Northern town of Ferrara, Italy where I will visit my host families from past student exchanges before departing from Milan at the end of January. All this I get to share with one of my best friends, Hayley.

My upcoming European vacation

I’m going to need a holiday to recover from my holiday I’m sure.

With all these adventures planned, I predict an absence of posts in January, however, I will be active on Twitter, @katyhulme, when internet access is available.

With all that said, I leave you with my ‘Year in Review’ and again thank you kindly for your support and encouragement in 2011. I look forward to sharing my writing journey with you again in 2012.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Stay tuned for more about “The Dragon and the Moon” and the Ebook for charity.

~storytelling nomad~

****

A Year in Review

In 2011…

I eliminated negative influences/people. Forgive me for quoting Oprah Winfrey, but she wasn’t wrong when she said “Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher”.

I reduced my (already pathetically low) intake of alcohol to zero. For no other reason than it feels amazing.

I stopped making excuses for not writing.

I lost my inhibitions.

I enhanced my editing skills through my Professional Book Editing, Proofreading & Publishing course. My inner nerd knows no bounds.

I started a novel.

I created my blog, Storytelling Nomad.

I loved and lost.

I was embarrassed by sharing my work and thoughts with the world.

I was frustrated by universally incorrect grammar, spelling and punctuation.

I felt crazy when I read messages of hate from those opposed to equality for all.

I regret not entering the Blogosphere sooner.

I needed more time for reading. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I missed my friends and family that live across oceans and in faraway lands.

I went to places far and near, including Melbourne for the Melbourne Writers Festival, Sydney for Supanova Pop Culture Expo, and Gunnedah where I shot my first gun. Watch out!

I relaxed when on November 27th, I knew I was going to finish NaNoWriMo with 50,000 words.

I would use a magic wand to bring Hogwarts to life.

I felt gratitude when you all ‘liked’ my entry in the Facebook Short Story competition. I’m coming 10th by the way, still time to vote!

Time flew when I met James Marsters (Spike from Buffy) at Supanova.

I want to repeat this year. It had its ups and downs but for the most part it was extraordinary.

I should have done more exercise. I am terribly unmotivated.

I don’t know why I never joined a writers group before.

I felt most alive when I was creating new worlds, new characters and new stories to share with the world.

The best gift I received was an email from my favourite author Robin Hobb, with invaluable writing advice.

Physically, the biggest difference since last December is slightly shorter hair.

Psychologically, the biggest difference since last December is the focus on my writing.

Emotionally, the biggest difference since last December is my contentment and pride in all I have achieved this year.

Environmentally, the biggest difference since last December is I exchanged the sandy shores of Newcastle for idyllic Tasmania.

Socially, the biggest difference since last December is I have a whole new group of online writer friends.

My biggest ‘win’ was NaNoWriMo. Or maybe it was having an article published. No, wait. Having my short story published. No, wait! Receiving the email from Robin Hobb. Or, being accepted into my Masters course. And, graduating from my Writing course. And, and, and…!

I want more books. Gimme gimme!

The best thing I did for someone else was read as many books as I could in a month to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis.

The best thing someone did for me was sketch me a picture based on my short story.

The best thing I did for myself was believe in myself.

The one thing I learned this year is I am the master of my own destiny. I will only receive of life what I put into it.

I am most grateful for my friends and family and their unwavering support.

I look forward to 2012 being different by writing more stories and becoming a better writer.

Questions taken from Lynn Scheurel at http://secretsofhersuccess.com/articles/your-year-in-review-questions/

Pick me! Pick me!

Dearest Readers,

Have I ever told you what a good looking bunch you are? No, really. A fine collection of fetching individuals. And the intellect, oh! the intellect! Never before have I witnessed such collective brilliance. One can only marvel.

Are you buttered up yet?

The thing is, I need your help. Yesterday I entered a short story competition on Facebook. A 420 character short story competition. Yes, you heard me; characters, not words. To give you an idea, 420 characters looks like this:

you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you are awesome you

Positively microscopic, no?

In any case, this is less a competition of merit and more a popularity contest. You see, it is judged by how many ‘likes’ readers give each entry. I know, look at me go, whoring myself out to the masses. I’m cheap. Nasty even. And yet, I’d really like to win anyway.

You’ve seen the story before, albeit a somewhat *longer* version, of my 100 words of revenge. I confess, it’s not the finest piece of literature you’ll ever read (especially after cutting it down to fit the character limit), but surely it’s gotta beat the entry below mine detailing a park bench. A park bench, I tell you!

And yet, that entry is still beating mine. Sob!

All you have to do to rectify this tragedy is head to this page:

https://www.facebook.com/thewritinglab/posts/215836788471997

and click the ‘like’ button on my story, which at this stage is the second to last entry (before bench boy). You don’t have to ‘like’ the Facebook page or sign up to any garbage.  In fact you don’t even have to like my story, but I’d appreciate it if you clicked the ‘like’ button anyway, because I love you…and karma…and rainbows…and stuff. RAINBOWS.

In return, I bestow upon you my everlasting gratitude and send forth much cyber karma to use at your earliest convenience.

Your faithful servant/blogger/master,

Katy

~storytelling nomad~

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 10

So it’s Day 10 of the NaNoWriMo challenge and I feel it as good a time as any to provide an update on my progress.

With a rocky start and a healthy handful of every day life issues going on, I have pleasantly surprised myself with my perseverance.  I’m the first to admit that when things start getting too hard or I see myself falling behind, I have an unflattering tendency to stand down and look to something else to succeed at.

Strangely this has not been the case, despite being behind in my word count since day one.  I can only attribute this to the following:

  1. Seeing other WriMo’s and their word counts soar have motivated me to keep up with the masses and tell myself that I can do it too.
  2. I took some advice before NaNoWriMo started, which was to tell as many people as possible that I was participating and would end the month with 50,000 words. It has made me vulnerable to the expectations of others, and so if I fail, I won’t be the only one who’s disappointed.
  3. My own expectations.  With life taking a bit of a tumble at the moment, that feeling of achieving something amazing for myself and following through with such a huge undertaking, is definitely something I know is worth working for.

So yes, I am behind, but I feel like I’m still winning.

The actual writing? It’s not brilliant, but it’s not awful either.  Okay, so there are some pretty awful bits, and a lot of it is more stream-of-consciousness writing, but it’s moving forward nonetheless.

Now it’s time for some NaNoWriMo fun facts!

Wordcount: 10,019
Words Remaining: 39,981
Days Remaining: 21
Words Per Day To Finish On Time: 1,904 (eek!)

Name of Protagonist: Arrow
Other Characters’ Names: Old Man Cracker, Eliad the Dragon, Prince Xander, Manacor, Dual, Lani
Places of Interest: The Kingdom of Dragarthion, Winter Hollow, The Forest of Whispers
Magic: The Mace (Defined by the abilities of Manipulation, Alteration, Communication & Evocation) once ran strong through the royal blood line, with each new generation of royals being trained as Wielders of the Mace to protect their kingdom and help it prosper.  But with the slow extinction of dragons along with infidelity within the monarchy, the Mace has become weak within the royal bloodline and a bastardised strain of it now runs through the common folk, untamed and undisciplined.  A true, full strength Wielder of the Mace has not been seen in many generations.
Animals: Are rare and seen as a symbol of wealth and power. Mace Wielders once had the power to communicate with all animals.

The Story So Far:
When Arrow loses her parents in a horrifying accident, she is appointed to serve as a maid in the castle with the other orphans of the city. When one day the prince’s cat, Manacor, talks to her, Arrow fears she has some skill for the Mace, and maneuvers to wait on the prince during his training sessions in the hope that she might uncover what her ability might mean.  Meanwhile, a threat grows in the South, and the truce that the royals once made with the Dragons of Dragarthion is threatened by corruption.

Extract: The Forest of Whispers
Once upon a time the trees whispered to each other. They cared more than they’d like us to know about the troubles of man. Sway they would, to encourage the voices of mortals to wander close with the breeze, passing from leaf to leaf, speaking softly until the words faded to a just a sigh. They loved especially to hear stories of friendship, tales of courage, and words of love, for in those words was a nourishment that brought colour to their leaves and strength to their branches. They fed off man’s desires and grew tall with their dreams.

Then came a time of great darkness, when whispers of love, courage and merriment became scarce. The trees shook desperately, yearning for the breeze to bear the pleasant tales of old, but instead the gentle winds brought them only grim tidings. Stories of war and death delivered a coldness that made their branches brittle and their leaves withered. They drooped heavily with the sadness that overcame them and the leaves fell from their limbs, forlorn and heartbroken.

Over the years they ceased whispering to one another, all hope lost at ever hearing again the happy voices of men. It is of common belief that in that time of darkness the trees lost their voices and their lives with the happiness of mortals.

***

How are you guys keeping motivated? And how are my fellow first timers finding the NaNo experience?

~storytelling nomad~

Published Article: Females in Fantasy

A while back I posted about the absence of females in fantasy fiction, an ongoing debate, which provoked quite a heated discussion recently at Tara Moss’s The Book Post. The comments there are something to behold and worthy of a read.

In any case, I reworked my original post and submitted it to Lip, a magazine for girls who “think, feel, create, speak out and live. Girls who aren’t afraid to be themselves.”

As luck would have it, they accepted my submission and this week published my article on their website. Hoorah!

If you’d like to have a read, it’s at: http://lipmag.com/arts/books-arts/heroes-and-heroines-females-in-fantasy/

~storytelling nomad~

A shaky start to 30 days and 30 nights of literary abandon

I got this dammit!

I have been waiting in high anticipation to embark on my very first NaNoWriMo, counting down the days until November 1st and jotting down potential ideas for my pantster approach to the 50,000 words in 30 days challenge.  The excitement was building, as were the nerves, and the thought of ending the month of November with 50,000 words was electrifying.

Of course it was bound to happen. You know that thing, where life falls apart right before something really important.

Rude.

As it turned out, November 1st came and passed sadly by as I wallowed in my sorrows and indulged in a mental health day involving lots of chocolate and reading and sleeping (and staring at walls), and not one word of writing goodness. Sigh.

So there I was this morning, November 2nd, 207 unread emails in my inbox, a suitcase to unpack and already behind on my daily wordcount.

But life goes on, and all that jazz, so today I read and responded to all those emails and soldiered through my first 1,712 words. JOY! My suitcase remains unpacked, but it’s at the very least placed neatly in the corner of my room. Who needs clean clothes to write anyway?

I realise I’m still behind, and obviously when such is the case it’s obligatory to procrastinate a great deal and instead write insignificant rambles on your blog rather than get on with the actual work, but hey, what can ya do?

So forwards and onwards with the task at hand. My fellow NaNo writing buddies have provided much inspiration with their impressive word counts so far; Stef at Dodging Commas has already reached 9,200 words. She is clearly a crazy person, but good to have around for motivational purposes.

How’s everyone else going after day 1?

My username is storytellingnomad, for the rest of you WriMos out there looking for writing buddies.  In the meantime, happy writing!

N.B. I pinched the accompanying image from a fellow blogger some weeks ago now but can’t for the life of me remember who it was. I sincerely thank you for the laughs though.

~storytelling nomad~

NaNoWriMo Newbie Jitters

In less than two weeks time begins 30 days of literary abandon. A month where writers come together in mass insanity to churn out 50,000 words before midnight, November 30th.

Insanity I tell you.

And yet, I feel obligated to inform you that I have decided to participate in said bedlam and join the others at the loony bin. This year I’m going to pop my NaNoWriMo cherry and attempt the (seemingly) impossible.

For those of you unfamiliar with this annual phenomenon, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and every November writers are challenged to writing 50,000 words before the end of the month.

What do you win? You win a 50,000 word first draft is what! Along with what I’m guessing would be a new found love for time spent not writing, an envy of eight-handed aliens (think how much quicker you could type!), and of course the pride and absolute joy at having achieved the unachievable.

Being my first NaNo I have to admit to some nerves. Never have I ever written anything so monstously long in my life. Do I even know 50,000 words? What if I get writers’ block after day two? Will my fingers fall off if I type so much? God forbid, what if I FAIL?

All valid concerns, in my opinion. But none of them compare to the biggest issue of all; What if my story is rubbish and I realise that I’m not, in fact, a writer at all?

Cue teary break down. Pass the tissues will you?

I’ve been reading a lot about how people prepare for the challenge. Plotters and Pantsters, chapter outlines, character profiles, synopses, writing prompts, calendars, word counters, daily goals. The list goes on and yet what is resoundingly clear is that, like with any type of writing, no one way will work for everyone. You’ve got to find what works for you.

So, what am I going into this challenge with? How have I prepared for the ultimate writer’s test? Well, my plot goes something like this:

Chosen one.

Imminent evil.

Kingdom in peril.

It doesn’t look like much, huh? That’s because it isn’t. Whilst I’ve got a few ideas lulling around my bizarre little brain, I’m going to take the ‘pantster’ approach, eg, write by the seat of my pants. I suppose you could say this is an experiment of sorts, seeing as those of you who have been here a while will know that I like to plot. I NEED to plot. But I’m not going to.

Mostly, it’s out of fear that I might realise it’s rubbish before I even get to November 1st and give up before I give myself a chance. But it’s also because the idea of NaNoWriMo is not to write the next best-seller or to start December with a polished piece of high literature ready too submit to publishers and competitions around the world. It’s to overcome inertia, to not over think it, to just WRITE and have something to work with once the month is over. The website explains that:

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. This approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

To build without tearing down. What a great strategy, who would’ve thought?

I’m going to have a decent go at ‘winning’, but if I finish November with just one page, one paragraph, one sentence even, of perfected prose, the root of an idea that will lead to a better one, or even 50,000 words showing how not to write a novel, then I will have gained something.

It’s certainly not for everyone, but I’m willing to give it a try.

Any other newbies out there giving it a crack? Want to hold hands and weep at the insanity of it all together? Please tell me I’m not alone here!

For anyone wanting advice on how to get through November with some semblance of sanity, head over to Terrible Minds where Chuck Wendig gives some writing advice to help you stay on target during NaNoWriMo.

Happy writing!

~storytelling nomad~

Top 10 Writing Distractions

We all have them.  Those little blighters who woo us away from the actual work, tricking us into thinking it needs to be done, like, now. Here are my top 10, in no particular order because let’s face it, procrastination has no standards.

  1. Food
    Argument: Because I need to eat to LIVE!  Right? I think that’s a pretty good argument, don’t you?
    Reality: Getting up for chocolate, or to open the fridge door and stare for five minutes only to find that it is still stocked with the same products that were there 20 minutes ago when you last looked and decided there was nothing in there you want, is not the same as eating your three meals a day so that you can, you know, live. Get in, do what you need to do, then back away. Also, if you are like me and convinced that chocolate is a plausible energy booster, keep it by your computer so that you don’t “need” to get up for it.
  2. Housework
    Argument: Because a clean house is a clean mind.
    Reality: The wardrobe that has needed cleaning out since 1982 can wait another day while you write your damn novel.
  3. Reading
    Argument: Because Stephen King said that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”
    Reality: Reading is so very important to writing, but if you spend absolutely ALL your time reading then you won’t have any time to use all those new skills and words in your own writing. Balance your time between the two.
  4. Staring at Walls
    Argument: Because I can.
    Reality: They’re not going anywhere, look at them later.
  5. Sleeping
    Argument: Because I can’t write with my eyes closed…and I’m tired! And dreams make great fodder for stories.
    Reality: You slept the required seven hours last night and another nanna nap is just not necessary. Yes, bed looks so good right now and it’s cold and rainy outside, but hey, you can sleep when you’re a hundred and eighty and after you’ve published your 50th bestseller.
  6. DVDs
    Argument: Because eight day Buffy & Angel marathons are totally legitimate methods of studying the fantasy genre and excellent examples of brilliant writing (thanks Joss Whedon).
    Reality: Moderation is the key. Get creative inspiration and watch an episode (or four) but then get back to business.
  7. Blogging
    Argument: Because I’m totally honing my writing skills and getting constructive feedback from a wider audience.
    Reality: While you’re blogging about writing you’re novel, you’re not actually writing your novel. Do what you need to do, but don’t forget about the bigger picture.
  8. Social Media
    Argument: Because I have to connect with my readers and get my name out there.
    Reality: Twitter and Facebook and Google+ are your frenemies. They will help you get your name out there and act all nice to your face, but just when you least expect it, BAM! Those good intentions of yours to spend a mere half hour replying to tweets and promoting your blog, all of a sudden turn into the Black Hole of Evil Time-Sucking Badness. Before you know it five hours have gone by and you come to your senses only to find that you’ve been watching ninja cats and talking unicorns called Charlie on YouTube for an unspecified amount of time. How did you even get there? The Black hole of Evil Time-Sucking Badness has ways, and social media is its minion. Don’t be a sucker.
  9. Exercise
    Argument: Because keeping healthy and fit is important.
    Reality: Thinking about exercise, buying gym clothes and talking about exercise are not the same as actually doing exercise. Or so I’m told. 30 minutes a day is all it takes. Do it, then get back to the writing.
  10. Time
    Argument: He’s my arch nemesis and purposefully made it so there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything just to spite me.
    Reality: Time is an asshole. He always has and always will be an asshole. When you have two hours to finish an assignment, he thinks it’s funny to go at the speed of light just to keep you on your toes. When you’re at work with nothing to do he slows down so the minutes drag by and you end up death staring the clock. He ain’t gonna change, so your only choice is to work with what you have seeing as the bastard is not gonna budge.
What are your biggest distractions and time wasters?
~storytelling nomad~

10,000 hits! Milestones & Head Explosions

Kodak Moment - 10,000 hits

BEWARE: Ego on the loose. Proceed with caution.

Last week I reached the 10,000 hits mark on storytelling nomad, which I felt was occasion enough for a kodak moment and a mild case of head swelling (see below for evidence of head explosion).

September was actually a bit special as far as months go with milestones hitting me left, right and centre.

In particular, I had a strong suspicion that I was being stalked by the number 100 after receiving my 100th subscriber, my 100th Twitter follower and WordPress very kindly exclaiming “Sensational!” at my 100th post.  Add to that my 100 words on revenge and I was just about ready to take out a restraining order on my three digit stalker (who I actually kinda like).

Once again, thank you all for the love.  You may have reduced me to a head-exploding-with-fireworks crazy happy person, but as long as there continues to be no complaints, I shall keep on keeping on.

Look what you have reduced me to dear readers! (this picture is not to scale)

~storytelling nomad~

Mind blowing cover art

If you’ve been feeling at all like something is amiss in your life of late, it is in all likelihood due to the absence of my Robin Hobb idolisation posts. Never fear, dear readers! Today I came across Jackie Morris’s cover art for City of Dragons, the soon to be released third volume in Robin Hobb’s Rainwild Chronicles.

And can I just say WOW.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the cover art for the re-released editions of Hobb’s books.  Jackie Morris is responsible for them all, and not only are they stunning, but they also look pretty damn good on my bookshelf.  I would frame these covers and hang them on my wall if I could.

Head on over to Jackie’s blog to see the newest Hobb cover art in progress, or her website to see more of her amazing work.

Cover art for City of Dragons designed by Jackie Morris

I’m a self confessed judge-a-book-by-its-cover person. I’m not proud of it, but I can’t help but be mesmerised by good cover art and be completely put off by the less appealing covers. When the excellent quality of a book matches its cover, my life is complete.

I’m currently restraining myself from purchasing some of the new Penguin Clothbound Classics, which I already own in other editions but which are soooo pretty!  I was also lucky enough to work at Penguin with designer Daniel New when he was putting together Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Harvest, an absolutely stunning cover.

Have you got any judge-a-book-by-its-cover moments? Favourite covers?

Penguin Clothbound Classic collection

Maggie’s Harvest by Maggie Beer – Designed by Daniel New

~storytelling nomad~

The Novel Challenge

What could be better than spending a month reading AND doing something good for the world, all at the same time?  Not a lot, in my opinion.  Which is why I’ve decided to take part in the Novel Challenge and MS Readathon, to help raise money for Multiple Sclerosis, the most common disease of the central nervous system affecting more than 18,000 Australians.

I’m going to be spending the next 30 days reading my little heart out whilst raising money for a good cause.  Check out all the info by going to the top of this page and clicking on ‘The Novel Challenge’.  There you will find details, a link to my fundraiser page (which, by the way, you should totally click on), and a running record of my reading list as I fry my brain in book loving goodness.

I started the challenge today with Aussie author Marianne de Pierres’ Burn Bright, a wonderfully eery piece of YA Fantasy Fiction.

Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones

I am now onto George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which I couldn’t possibly resist after watching the brilliant television adaptation.  So far I am hugely impressed at how alike the show is to the book.  Gotta love that in a small screen adaptation.

Fingers crossed this little challenge will mercilessly reduce the size of my to-be-read pile, as well as making a small difference to those living with MS.

Happy reading readers!

~storytelling nomad~

An inside look at Pottermore

Last month I received early access to the beta Pottermore website after participating in a Magical Quill challenge, which basically involved answering a question that related to something in the Harry Potter books.

I was pretty excited when I found out that I would be one of a million rewarded with early admission to the elusive site, partly because I really had no idea what Pottermore actually was.

The home page had described it as so:

Pottermore is an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.

So the new content bit sounded pretty damn exciting, but as for the rest of it…”enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books” and “explore the stories like never before”.  What the hell does it all mean!?

Well, let’s start from the beginning. First thing I had to do was choose a name for myself.  Because it’s all child friendly for the little people fans of the series, everyone gets a Harry Potter inspired pseudonym, so that the only way you can add your friends is by asking them what their pseudonym is.

Now, you don’t actually get to make up your pseudonym; you instead get a choice of five to pick from.  I chose DragonSpell167, but also had choices along the lines of UnicornHolly and SpellPatronus, both with random numbers at the end.

So with that over with I was introduced to the site.  And wow.  Really, WOW.

The first thing that hit me was the graphics, which are simply spectacular.  The site takes you though each of the books, chapter by chapter, through a number of images.  The beta version only has book one for now.

At the start of each chapter it looks something like this:

Pottermore: Chapter One

You get a small snippet of the chapter and below it three images of three scenes that are significant to the chapter, which in chapter one are entitled “Number Four, Privet Drive”, “Something Peculiar is Happening” and “Harry is Delivered”.

You then click on one of the scenes, and it takes you to that interactive image.  I say interactive, because that’s what they are.  The pictures are very subtly animated; car lights will flicker if you run your cursor over them, or owls will fly away if you do the same.

Beautiful Hagrid image in Chapter One

Each image also has three layers, and by double clicking you move further into the image from the foreground, to the middle, to the background.  In each layer, you might find objects which you can add to your trunk, or which might offer you extra character, place or scene information, content that did not make the books, or previously unknown backgrounds.  You get to collect Chocolate Frog cards, potions and spells.  Very cool.

So you go through each chapter the same way, exploring the images and finding things within them.  Some chapters may have only one or two images, others three or four.

What a lot of people have been talking about though, is being sorted into a Hogwarts house, and receiving your wand from Olivander.  The very cool thing about this, is that you get to do these things as Harry does them.  If Harry doesn’t get sorted into a House until Chapter 7, then neither do you.  But when you do, it’s a matter of answering a number of mysterious questions that really don’t allow you to cheat in order to get the house you want.

I consider myself proud (and lucky!) to have been sorted into Gryffindor!!! Woooo! You knew this already though, when I told you a while back about my time at Hogwarts.

Being sorted into the COOLEST Hogwarts house...naturally.

You can keep track of your house points, what’s in your trunk, what chapter you’re up to, your Chocolate Frog cards, your wand and everything else on your profile page, which looks like this:

Profile Page

There’s more to it as you scroll down, which unfortunately I couldn’t capture in one image, but basically it just shows your progress and gives you easy access to the rest of the site. The line of yellow dots represent each chapter in the first book, the other larger red circles to the right being the remaining six books which are yet to be opened.  The highlighted yellow dot with the cat avatar pictured above it shows the chapter I’m up to.  The cat is the pet I chose for myself (only when Harry goes to Diagon Alley of course) and which is used as your avatar.  This page also shows the details of my wand, which was likewise chosen for me after answering a number of questions.

An example of the extra content that you might discover is shown here with Professor McGonagall’s background and extra tid bits of information:

Extra content from J. K. Rowling: Professor McGonagall

It goes on to give a particularly interesting history that explains her interest in scouting Harry for the Quidditch team and her eagerness to beat Slytherin.

Finally, the other activity worth mentioning is Wizard Duels.  You can gain house points by duelling with your friends!  You can also go to the Great Hall to see how all the other houses are going in their house point tallies.

All in all, I think it is a very cool concept.  The graphics truly are amazing, and it really is a great accompaniment to the reading of the books.  It’s not until you actually get into the site that you realise how accurate the original description of it was; “an exciting new website from J.K. Rowling that can be enjoyed alongside the Harry Potter books. You can explore the stories like never before and discover exclusive new writing from the author.”  As confused as I was before, it really does make sense now.

I’ll leave you with a few more images to peruse over, including an example of how the multiple layers work in the Diagon Alley scene.  Give them a click to see them full sized.  I honestly can’t get over the graphics and their multiple layers.  In the meantime, hopefully see you there in October when it becomes available to all!

Harry recieves his letter: In this image, the letters are actually moving around the page

The Forbidden Forest with the Whomping Willow in the foreground

A unicorn slain in the forest

Diagon Alley foreground graphic

Diagon Alley middle layer graphic - the foreground images become slightly unfocused and move aside slightly to reveal what's beyond them.

Diagon Alley Background graphic - the other characters have moved aside to reveal Gringotts Bank, which you can now click on and enter

~storytelling nomad~

9/11: Breaking free of terror

Ten years on and with 9/11 once more upon us, it is sad to think that this day will forever evoke feelings of such sorrow and unbridled hatred.  The suffering of those involved and affected by the events on that day is utterly unimaginable to me, and I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain they bear, nor the torment faced by those who lost their life to such a tragedy.

Without giving too much time to those responsible, I think it is true to say that I have never really understood such rampant hatred.  I cannot assume motives or grounds for such an operation to be executed, but can only profess my belief that no wrongdoing in this world deserves punishment by such evil.  ‘An eye for an eye’ is never something I have attributed much conviction to, and although I do not consider myself a religious person, I still do not believe that anyone on this Earth has the right to play God and pass the judgement of death on anyone.

At the time, Australia seemed so far removed from what was happening in the US, at least to me anyway.  I watched with disbelief as the events unfolded on TV that day, but couldn’t seem to make sense of what was really happening.  I went to school as usual, and watched as a number of classmates feared for family or friends that lived in the states.  In between classes we would turn on the TV to watch the impact of the planes over and over again as the world began to grasp the severity of the situation.

The following month I had been set to make my very first solo trip overseas.  I had signed up for a three month student exchange program in Italy, and had thought of nothing else since the beginning of the year.  A new suitcase had been bought, a pile of things to take with me piled messily on the floor, and emails with my soon to be host-sister, Sara, had been exchanged.

When my parents started talking about pulling me out of the program, that was when first I felt the events of 9/11 truly influence my life as it was.

I was angry and confused.  How could such hatred ripple so far across the globe to affect my enthusiastic plans to travel a world I had been so excited about exploring?  What had I ever done to these people to warrant such an intrusion on my life?

It was then, I think, that I first began to truly fathom the weight of terrorism, the fear it evoked and the changes it could awaken.

In the end, I was permitted, with much trepidation on my parents’ behalf, to go forward with my student exchange.  They decided that it was in fact probably the safest time to travel, with so much surveillance and the number of safety measures that were then being taken when travelling.  I advocated that such acts of terrorism should not force us to stop living the life we had intended for ourselves, for then they had all but triumphed in crippling us with terror.

When I arrived at Singapore airport, I watched with a speechless curiosity as small troops with large guns patrolled the airport solemnly.

The armed troops may have since receded, the fear numbed, and the memory faded, but the events of 9/11 still resonate loudly in the extra security measures when travelling, the sorrow of those who suffered loss, and in the date that will for many years to come remain a reminder of an innocence we all lost that day.

Despite it all, however, I remain hopeful that time will heal the hurt caused, little by little.   One year ago today, I watched a very close friend of mine take her wedding vows in a church filled with loved ones.  Together we shared a wonderfully happy day and rejoiced in their love, happiness and a bright future.  Together we created a memory that now has me looking back on this date with joy.

We cannot forever dwell in the misery of our past if we are to ever find joy in the pleasures of the future.  Whilst we must grieve those lost and honour them their suffering, whilst we must remain heedful of those who continue to sanction war, death and hatred on the world, I think it is important to remind ourselves not to seize on the hate from which such a tragedy first arose.  Hate and prejudice will not recover loved ones, nor change the past.  Nor will it bring peace to the future.

Before I relieve you all of this rant of mine, I implore you all to read Pico Iyer’s short travel story, The Khareef, which can be found in his book Sun After Dark.  In this spectacular account, Iyer travels to Oman, the birthplace of Osama bin Laden, just six weeks before the attacks on the two towers.  I found it an extraordinarily moving account of a journey to a place so far removed from anything we know, and yet chilling in its mysterious allure.  Most importantly, however, it shines a small light on a group of people affected by the events of that day; those that we often spare little thought for.  The ending is spectacular and Iyer is a truly magnificent writer.

Joss Whedon once said, “War is not just the business of death, it is the anithises of life.”  Here’s to hoping that despite the tragedy we relive today, we nonetheless fight to break free of terror and war, and continue to strive for peace and happiness for all.

What 9/11 now means to me: My dear friend Ruth and her husband Tim on their wedding day - September 11th 2010

~storytelling nomad~

Celebrating my 100th subscriber!

Yeah! 100 active subscribers!

This week marks my 100th subscriber! Hoorah! A big shout out to Darth Draconis at Maleficus Amor who was subscriber number one zero zero.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what 100 subscribers mean.  You see, I have never been much of a numbers person, words have always been my forte.  100 seems like a pretty good number to me.  It’s three digits, it’s an even number, it’s more money than I have in my bank and it’s a number I can count to (just).

But in terms of blogging, I have no idea if it’s a good number or not.  I guess any number over zero means you’re doing something right; it means that someone other than yourself likes what you’re doing.  But is 100 a ‘good’ number in the blogosphere?  Perhaps I’m making a fool of myself celebrating this milestone, while the rest of you laugh with your thousands, or hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

In which case, screw you bitches!  My 100 subscribers are way better than yours.

In the end it comes down to this.  I started this blog just over 3 months ago, with no previous blogging experience, and let’s be frank, no idea what I was doing.  I’m not here for fame or fortune, but an outlet for my writing, my ramblings and my thoughts on whatever comes to mind at any given time.  I have been using this blog as a tool to improve as a writer and to discipline myself into writing more regularly.  In that sense, I feel I have gained immensely from this humble venture.

But the fact that one hundred, and now more, of you are responding well enough to what’s being published here certainly has not slipped my attention.  It may not have been what I set out to achieve, but it’s certainly an amazing feeling knowing that you’re there.  It’s what encourages me to keep going with this little dream of mine, and I truly value the input, reception and good cyber vibes from you all.

Thanks internet peeps.  I may not know what the number 100 means in this blogosphere, but I know that YOU mean a lot to this aspiring writer.

Give yourselves a pat on the back for being awesome.

~storytelling nomad~

The Versatile Blogger Award

The wonderful Maryann over at My Reality Show recently bestowed upon me the prestigious Versatile Blogger Award.  Hoorah! Thanks Maryanne! I feel most honored!

There are four simple rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

  • Post a link to the person who gave you the award.
  • Tell your readers seven random things about yourself.
  • Award 15 newly discovered blogs.
  • Send them a note letting them know you nominated them.

Seven random things about myself:

  1. I do an awesome pterodactyl impression.  For the best effect I like to make this noise in unsuspecting echoing stairwells.
  2. I have a younger brother called Harry who lives in Germany.  He’s pretty cool actually, although we talk more and get along far better when we live in different countries.  Hi Harry!
  3. I only drink water.  For no other reason than it tastes reallllllyyyyy good and I don’t like anything else.
  4. I will judge you if you mispronounce ‘mispronunciation’.
  5. Although I have strawberry blonde hair, I am under the constant delusion that I am actually just blonde, while the rest of the world believes I am simply a red-head. I am often referred to as a ‘ranga’, an Australia term alluding not so subtly to orangutans.  Other recent friendly names include strawbs and ginger.  At least ‘strawbs’ is relatively accurate.
  6. I am a chocaholic.  I cannot remember a time that I wasn’t, and I believe I always will be a chocaholic.
  7. I can hula hoop like a rock star.  No seriously, I can do that shit for hours.

15 newly discovered blogs:

Ok, so they’re not all ‘newly discovered’, but they are all awesome.  Check them out.  Like, now.

  1. You’re a Writer! – Fantastic encouragement and support for new writers.  I really recommend reading this.
  2. The Bailey Daily – I not long ago reposted one of Shawn’s posts for its hilarity.  I’m a fan of his work.
  3. Sarah Leaps – Recently Freshly Pressed, Sarah’s blog is not your average writers’ blog.  You see, Sarah has some wicked skills with a paint brush….the electronic kind…that you find on programs like ‘Paint’.  She complements her posts with these original artworks, which I believe are extraordinarily entertaining.
  4. The (Writer’s) Waiting Room – Hannah recently provided a run down on how she came to write her first book, in response to my post on how many writers sneakily avoid revealing their method.  Thumbs up!
  5. Divertir Publishing – An independent publisher, this blog gives an invaluable insight into the sort of things writers can do to help get their work published, and the processes that happen behind a publisher’s doors.
  6. The Wuc – This blog is absolutely freaking HILARIOUS.  I get a good chuckle out of it every. single. time.
  7. Just Coop It – I’m a big fan of this talented writer/actor/choreographer, whose book ‘The Song of Earth’ is about to hit a bookshelf near you!
  8. Angela Wallace – Believe, Dream, Awaken – Author of ‘Phoenix Feather’, Angela is a talented writer with a blog filled with book reviews, writerly musings and inspiration.
  9. That Book You Like – Chosen as one of 5 official ‘unbloggers’ for the Melbourne Writers Festival, where I was recently a volunteer, this blog gives some excellent accounts of a whole host of events, authors and sessions that made up the literary festival.
  10. She Thinks Too Much – Currently taking part in the 30 Day Book Challenge, which I had so much fun with.  Worth a read.
  11. Dodging Commas – Check out Stef’s wonderful grammar tips and writerly musings.  It was only today that she passed on this amazing link on semicolons, which I have endlessly struggled to understand.  No more, I tell you!
  12. MJCache – Hysterical blog.  Ends each post with something along the lines of, “I totally klepto all images” or “All images swiped, snatched and nabbed from dear old Google when he wasn’t looking.”
  13. Nitpickers’ Nook – I loved the post on this blog entitled ‘The (non)word that drives me nuts’.  You’ll have to head over there to find out what it is.  If you’re a nitpicker of words, grammar, language and communication in general like me and have been looking for a community of nitpickers to share your woes, then head over to this blog.
  14. Bunny Ears and Bat Wings – Lex shares some fantastic advice and thoughts on writing.  Also, this blog has an awesome name.
  15. The Happy Logophile – A logophile is a lover of words, and you will find just that at the Happy Logophile.  Jo also wrote a superb piece of flash fiction for the revenge 100 challenge.  Check it out.

~storytelling nomad~

 

100 words of revenge

It appears that a bit of phenomenon is taking place over at Chuck Wendig’s blog Terrible Minds.  Each Friday he broadcasts a Flash Fiction Challenge, invoking those willing, to come up with a 1000 word flash fiction story according to the topic or theme of the week, as set by Mister Wendig himself.

This week, however, the challenge was to do the same, but in 100 words.  Yes, write a story in ONE HUNDRED words.  Impossible (to be shouted in thick French accent)! You might protest, but alas mes cheries, it can be done.

I’ve had a crack at doing this once before when entering the 100 Words or Fewer contest, whose link can be found over to the right there under ‘Groovy Links’.  I received some pretty good feedback from my last entry into that contest, and although I didn’t win anything, I was keen to try it again.

So, with that deadline coming up again and with all the action happening at Terrible Minds, I felt that maybe the stars were aligning to send me a message.  Something along the lines of, “Get off your butt and write something.”  Not one to disagree with the star gods, I today took up the challenge.

So what is this week’s theme?  Revenge.  Muahahaha!

Check out all the details about Chuck’s challenge here.  Meanwhile, here’s my entry:

A Royal Retribution

Perched high on her dais, the Queen looked down upon the people of her kingdom.

The nobles shifted uncomfortably, their garments glittering in the afternoon light.  Beyond them, the stench of the penniless beggars rudely invaded her nostrils.

In a magnificent show of dignified ceremony she bowed low to her people and proclaimed,

“Had he remained loyal, I would have seen fit to let him live.”

Yet it was neither these words, nor the sharp sound of the sword being unsheathed that they would remember, but her gracefulness as she knelt to receive the cold blade for assassinating their King.

~storytelling nomad~