*Tap Tap* This thing on? (AKA The Power of Streaking)

Wow. It’s October already. How did that happen? How I am, like, making appointments and lesson plans and things through to the end of November already? How has it been six million years since I last blogged?

…Okay, so the answer to that last one is, as we all know, that I still suck at blogging, though I’m *slowly* getting better, and *le gasp*, I actually have most Monday/Friday posts done for the rest of the year.

So, y’know, even if I die you’ll still have content 😛 #macabrehumour

ANYWAY.

Wow.

I actually don’t even know where to start, which is kind of why I’ve been delaying writing this post for the last two weeks. I mean, I just had a book come out and everything, you’d think I’d have blogged that. But because I hadn’t blogged in SO. LONG., it felt kind of weird to come back with a ‘hey btw I made a new book’ post, I guess. Hence, avoiding it >.<

I found the secret to making myself do it, though. School’s gone back this week, and although I have a mountainous-crazy to-do list because I didn’t do enough school work in the holidays because publishing blew up on me in the first week and I got commissioned for three cakes in the second week…

I actually completed my epic to-do list yesterday.

Granted, I had to stay up until 1:45am to get it done (*wince* don’t tell my family), but IT GOT DONE, DARN IT ALL. And so today, when I realized I was likely to get through my to-do list for the SECOND DAY IN A ROW… Well, streak-psychology kicked in. As in, two-in-a-row-is-practically-a-streak-I-have-to-keep-this-going.

And one of the few remaining tasks on my list today is – you guessed it – blogging, so blogging I dutifully am, because I will have my streak, darn it all.

As it turns out, streak psychology is actually a really great motivator (though it can be used for nefarious intent – I’ve heard of a few problems recently with young teens and a snapchat addiction, because snapchat (yet another social media app) records ‘streaks’, i.e. how many days in a row you’ve talked with a particular friend, encouraging you to make sure you chat to all those friends again tomorrow to maintain said streak). I was browsing Dean Wesley Smith’s site the other night and noticed that he talks about streaks as a motivator for writing, too. Relevant, as I’m diving in Sanctuary Book 3 after this weekend, so I’ll need to ‘streak’ writing as well as everything else. (I’m plotting it out this week/on the weekend.)

So I guess I need to harness the power of the streak on the blog, and try to get that happening – and for exercise, too. The problem seems to be that once-a-week isn’t frequent enough to feel like a streak, even if you hit the goal ten weeks in a row.

Maybe I’ll try doing short, rambly blog posts like this every second day or something to get into the habit? Heaven knows that if you’ve been reading the blog/hanging out with me for long enough, you’ll be used to ramble.

Who knows, I might even discuss that new books that I released two weeks ago, and the con I went to, and the book night I hosted at home. With, like, photos and stuff.

But for now, blogging can be crossed off my to-do list (:D) and I have to get the kid inside for his gymnastics lesson.

I hope you’re all surviving okay, and I guess have a think about how you could harness streak!power in your life rn. If you do, please share in the comments! I’d love to know 🙂

Made it Monday: More Baby Stuff For Markets

Welcome to #MadeItMonday, where I post something I’ve made in the previous week, and where you can join in and post something you made too! The rules are easy: post a pic somewhere of something you’ve made in the last week (ish; let’s say in the last month as the hard-and-fast) and tag it. Sit back and enjoy scrolling through all the beautiful things we’ve collectively created, and celebrate the fact that humans can be awesome! 🙂

So last weekend we had another baby market, and IDK, I think we might have decided to not really do them any more? It’s a big chunk of time, and when you have nothing better to do, that’s fine, but we got home at 3pm and all promptly headed to bed, and most of us slept until 5 or 530pm, and the baby didn’t wake up until 6pm. (Man, I have got to stop calling her the baby.) And then after that we had to deal with making sure the kids’ clothes/uniforms were washed for the week, and the house is TRASHED and we haven’t grocery shopped so there’s pretty much no fresh food in the house (there are the hundreds of freezer meals I cooked in the holidays, which is fab, but they need fresh veggies or salad to accompany, PLUS we *really* need to try to eat these down this week because I actually really need some freezer space this weekend for a whole bunch of baking that I have to do (er, have done? Will have done yesterday when you read this? That. Time travel, yeah.) *sigh*.

Also, I have a cold, and the baby not-baby has a cold, and neither of us can breathe, especially at night, oh what fun what yay.

Blah. I am being humbuggish. Sorry.

Made It things. Right.

Okay, so, BABY THINGS were the creative outlet of the week, because they needed making. My husband did most of the sewing (as ever at the moment), but still. I HELPED, OKAY? And even though the markets left us wasted and on the back foot for the rest of the week, the actual day was pretty good, and the kids were really well behaved, and it was nice to just sit/stand around for several hours with no major brainy commitments and hand stitch a bunch of the mats closed. That was happy.

Also, Mr Boy Child is getting old enough that he thinks he can be the shopkeeper now 😉 Super cute.

Aaaand I just realised that I don’t actually have any photos of the NEW items we made *eyeroll*. We’ll have to do that sometime soon so we can list them online for sale. Bah. Also, humbug.

I am only four weeks through this term and already I am counting down until holidays. Oh well. Never mind.

What have you made this week? (It doesn’t have to be fancy!!) Don’t forget to tag your contribution, or even better, leave a link in the comments!! I love seeing what inspiring things other people have made 🙂 🙂 🙂

How To Have A Pinterest-Worthy Party WITHOUT Going Insane (Part 1)

Another three-part series because this is something that’s on my mind right now 😉

It can feel like there’s a lot of pressure sometimes to host ‘perfect’ events, what with the advent of Pinterest and Instagram and the like. My family is Big on Events, and we can Pinterest party like it’s… uh, 2017. I’ve been involved in plenty of events-coordination that took weeks and even months of planning, and my sisters, mother and I have collaborative Pinterest boards spawning out our ears.

But let’s face it: My life is packed. I don’t have TIME to hold Pinterest events. And honestly? I tried one for my birthday a while ago when I turned 30 and… eh. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was amazing. It’s just that the sheer amount of work coordinating on the day meant I was pretty stuffed by the time the party actually *started*.

Also, many of the “events” I’m doing these days are for kids, and you know what? A three-year-old doesn’t care if you spent six hours on their party or one or twelve. They just love that it’s a party.

But! It is entirely possible to get a party worthy of Pinterest and Instagram WITHOUT going insane, losing your mind, and making you want to stab your eyeballs out by the time the party arrives. All it takes is a little bit of planning…

1: FOCUS

The first really important step is to figure out which bit of partying you actually enjoy. My middle sister loves decorating. My mum loves cooking. Me? I love the cake. (Okay shush, I can hear your shock and surprise from here :P) So for me, that’s my deal-breaker: everything else I can hack, but the cake needs to be top-notch.

Figure out that one thing that is make-or-break for you as far as an awesome, wow-factor party is concerned. It is having the entire room full of themed decorations? It is an incredible, awe-inspiring cake? It is having every item of food totally in theme? Or is it something else entirely?

2: IDEA KERNEL

Okay, now that you know what’s important to you focus-wise, it’s time to brainstorm some ideas. Chances are you or the person you’re planning for has this bit covered for you: my son requested a Toy Story party for his birthday this year. (Incidentally, “Toy Story” is too big a kernel for a keeping-yourself-sane party, so we narrowed it down further: Buzz was his favourite character, so we’d be having a Buzz focus.)

Last year it was Frozen (which I chose, but he was OBSESSED with it at the time, so he was pretty stoked), and when he turned three I initiated him into our time-honoured family tradition of sitting down with the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Cakes cookbook and letting him pick a cake (no shocks to anyone, he chose the race-car :)).

Recently, I’ve been planning for the baby’s party. Figuring this year was the last year I’d really get to steer the party-theme ship, I decided to do narwhals, because NARWHALS, Y’ALL. However, when we recently discovered that she is totally obsessed with cows, I flipped and now we’re running with cows.

Narwhal cake.

It’s important that you hone in on that one specific thing is that you’re interested in, because it helps when it’s time to…

3A: PLAN (BRAINSTORMING)

While you can totally do this months ahead (and I do because I like to get things sorted during school holidays so term time is less insane), you do run the risk of having to flip if the person’s interest changes (especially with kids). Of course, you can always say, “Tough luck!” Your call 🙂

What you DON’T want to be doing, though, is planning the night before. Har. But with that said, if you use this system you could easily pull off a low-stress, Pinterest-worthy party with only a few hours of planning a week or so ahead, if you can either do everything yourself or have people you can outsource to.

So what exactly do you plan? EVERYTHING, but usually in a specific order.

First of all, hold onto your idea kernel. It’s going to be your guiding light when you come across ideas that are shiny but ultimately distracting.

Narwhal cake. <– Idea Kernel for the narwhal party

Secondly, brainstorm. I do this on Pinterest because it’s a great way to generate a lot of ideas fast, and you don’t have to do the thinking because you can pretty much be guaranteed that someone out there has already done it for you. Alternatively, you could do image searches on Google; you’ll still get some good results, it’s just more of a pain to try to save them and they might not be as strictly relevant.

So what am I searching for? Anything around my idea kernel. For the Toy Story party I searched ‘Toy Story cakes’, ‘Buzz Lightyear cakes’, ‘Toy Story party’, ‘Toy Story food’, etc. Often on Pinterest you can luck out and find that someone’s helpfully put together some composite images that show the food, the decorations, and the cake all in one; these can be a great place to look for ideas, especially for food.

For the baby’s party, you can see the original Pinterest board here. If you note that the first pins are at the bottom and most recent are at the top, you’ll see the gradual drift in ideas: my idea kernel was narwhals with mermaids in a teal-and-purple colour scheme, so down the bottom of the board are a lot of mermaidy pins with purple and teal colour-schemes. However, as I went along you’ll see that the pins drift towards silver + blue + Arctic. I had this thought that since it was a winter party and narwhals are Arctic I could incorporate that… but because I had my idea kernel, I realised I was drifting away from what I really wanted, and knew it was time to stop brainstorming.

Ideas as I started to drift
Initial ideas

When I was re-brainstorming for the cow party, I knew I’d be looking at a lot of farm party things – but because I knew I wanted to focus specifically on *cows*, I could avoid getting distracted by all the cute general-farm-themed stuff out there, and it literally took 15 minutes to put together a plenty-big-enough board.

How big is ‘plenty big enough’? You know it’s time to stop brainstorming either when you find yourself repeating a lot of ideas, or when you start to drift away from your kernel. You can get a perfectly decent brainstorm done in 10-15 minutes.

 

So now you’re finished the brainstorming phase of your planning. Tune in next week for the nitty gritty of what you actually need to plan to keep yourself sane 😉 <3

I’m (so not) A Morning Person

I am really, really, REALLY not a morning person. My tutor group/roll call/whatever you call it when you just get together for 15 mins to make announcements and mark the roll at the beginning of the school day students when I first started teaching knew that it was their job to watch me wake up in the mornings: tutor group was 8:50 – 9:10, and as the clock ticked over to 9, BING, all of a sudden I became human and functional. Ask me tough questions before 9am, and you’ll get puzzled confusion 9/10. I’m better at mornings now that two young kids have deprived me of sleep for collectively seven years of my life, but yeah, still not a morning person. Not at all. Not even kind of sort of remotely. Early mornings fill me with either rage or tears or both.

Last year, I had co-curricular duties at school from 7:30-8:30am every Wednesday. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how stupendously horrifying this situation was for me 😀 And to top it off, this was my co-curricular partner*:

* Who, let it be said, was a Really Nice Person, so I’ll forgive them 😉 😀

Let me know in the comments – are you an early bird or a night owl, and how do you cope with being made to do the opposite??

When My Subconscious Hates Me, It Throws Me Spiders

cuteTrue story. I woke up from a nap this afternoon stressed and tensed and icky, because although the nap itself had been good and useful, the last however-long-we-dream-for-before-we-wake-up had been plagued by nightmares. Not the sensible kind, but the awful, uneasy, terrifying kind that your subconscious dishes up to you when it’s really freaking out. Oh, there were a few run-of-the-mill nightmares in there too, about realising I was late for work, or that it was a day later than I thought it was and I’d already survived the first day back at work and was stressing for no reason, which made me stress more. But on the whole, subconscious terrors, which in Amy-land means one thing, and one thing only: spiders.

In waking life, I’m not the biggest fangirl of spiders, but I’m also not really afraid of them. Wary, yes. Afraid, no. And if they’re Known Persons — i.e. I can identify the species and know they’re not venomous — then we can happily coexist. Or at least, I’ll make the effort to relocate them to the backyard. Unless they’re on the baby’s play mat. Then, sorry spider, but SQUISH. It’s not you, it’s me.

But when I’m stressed, SPIDERS. Masses and masses of them. The more stressed I am, the more spiders there are. The worst ones (if spiders make you ick, don’t read this next bit) take place in an old abandoned greenhouse or similar, where the walls and roofs are cobwebbed over and you can’t move without some sort of spider getting under foot, on your arms, on your legs, on your shoulders, down your back, in your hair, ON YOUR FACE….. *sobs*

So anyway. Nightmares. I had them. I go back to work tomorrow for the first time since April, and unlike Baby 1 (who is now nearly 4, what the even) where I had postnatal depression, this stint of mat leave has been AMAZING. I don’t want to go back to work. I don’t want the baby to go to daycare. It’s going to be fine, and it’s all entirely necessary, but that’s logic me. Emotive me, on the other hand…. And so my subconscious is handing me spiders.

Someone, please send the Raid. Insomnia is bad enough, without spider nightmare plaguing the sleep I /do/ get. 😛

<3
A

Stop! Hold everything!

Just officially noting that blogging is temporarily on hold due to the following:

Small People Mum & Bub 20150601_082230

Happy upcoming solstice, end of financial year, and whatever else there is to celebrate. I’ll be back at some point, although we are also moving house in 6 weeks, so life is rather chaotic. In the meantime, be good, have fun, and go read all the free stories up on the Darkness & Good site 😉 Rah *\o/*

Behold, MacDeath!

From classes last week, introducing students to the plot of Macbeth. Clearly I should give up my day job & become a cartooning genius O:)

Edited to Add: I have no idea why the images keep coming out sideways. They are fine when I import them, but then when I stick them in the post they go sideways and I can’t rotate them. Grrrr. Sorry. <3

photo 1

photo 2

 

photo 3

Be An Inky Awards Judge!

In recognition of the fact that there are potentially a decent handful of teens who occasionally peruse this blog, if you are Australian an aged 12 – 20, and have time to read 20 books in 3 months, you should totally consider applying to be an Inky Awards judge this year! The judging period begins in May, applications to be a judge are open now, and you can find all the details on how to apply right here.

Happy reading! :o)

Things I Really Need To Bake

Blame it on pregnancy cravings, or the fact that I’ve been too sick to do much cooking in the last 5 months, or a stress-induced desire for comfort food, or the search for procrastination, or anything else you like, but the fact of the matter is the last few weeks have been one giant, continuing saga of OHMYGOSH THIS THING I MUST BAKE.

Obviously, the whole being-sick-and-exhausted-because-growing-new-minion thing has put a damper on my abilities to actually DO any of this cooking, and the list of things I desire to make is growing to such proportions that I’m going to start forgetting things if I don’t write them down soon. Which, on the one hand, so what, but on the other: LIST-MAKING EXCUSE FOR THE WIN!! I love me a good list after all. And because I’m a) a sharing-and-caring kind of person, and b) am attempting to post more regularly on The Blog, you get to share the list too. Ha.

If you do end up making anything off the list, I’d love to know how it goes 🙂 But without further ado:

Amy’s List Of Things I Really Need To Bake

1) A really good Laos curry. Or Thai, at a pinch. But it has to be GOOD. After visiting Laos/Thailand with school in 2013, I’ve fallen in love with good, proper, authentic southeast Asian cooking, but my tolerance for mediocrity in this food genre is low, and finding the good stuff near where I live seems nigh impossible. So: I need to learn to cook it myself.

2) Good spring rolls. Ditto the above.

3) Sweet potato and feta frittata, which I used to make all the time and is the best lunch snack ever, but which I literally have not made in yeeeeears.

4) Cream potato bake, which is in the same category as (3) but is also, like, the ultimate comfort food. (I mean c’mon, it’s potatoes, cream and cheese with a bit of spice. How is this NOT the ultimate comfort food?)

5) Chocolate peppermint creams, because Mint Slices are my favourite biscuits* in the whole entire world, so a homemade version? OM NOM NOM.

* Cookies, for those from America 😉

6) Blood orange oil brownies, because Liana Brooks kept mentioning them on twitter 😛

7) Scones, preferably of the pumpkin or cheese variety. Maybe these ones from Smitten Kitchen (which, yes, American terminology says biscuits :P).

8) Jam doughnuts, preferably these ones.

9) Homemade ice cream. Any variety, I’m not too fussed. The only thing holding me off here is a present lack of freezer space.

10) Bread rolls, or scrolls, or a pull-apart, or all of the above. Just, fresh, homemade, devourable bread.

And in addition to all that, at some point this week or next I need to do a practice cake. Little sister’s birthday is coming up and she has requested a pear and white chocolate mud cake, for which recipes apparently don’t exist 😛 Which is fine, I like making up my own just fine, but given it’s a Big Birthday I do need to do a test run first. In terrible news, it will also necessitate making a batch of salted caramel buttercream, which OH NOES WORLD IS ENDING, clearly, because you guys? The caramel recipe I use seriously tastes like the inside of Fantales lollies, for those of you who’ve ever eaten such things. It is glorious; truly, truly glorious.

So. That’s my to-bake list. If I can summon up some energy at some point, I’ll make said items and post pictures and recipes and trivia when I do. But for now, I’m going to go find something quick and easy to eat for lunch, before my blood sugar levels drop to zero 😛 😀

~Amy

Okay, I’m Back.

Although those of you who’ve been reading for any length of time know that my version of ‘back’ is always a little sporadic and unpredictable at the best of times: let’s face it: I’m not great at regular blogging. That’s going to apply doubly this year, because – and although this has hit social media, I’m pretty sure I haven’t posted here – Minion #2 is due at the end of May, and in true Minion style this one’s been keeping me pukingly sick pretty much the entire flopping time. RAH.

Also, for those who care about such things, SmallBoy will be three and a bit when SmallGirl arrives; yes, this minion is female. Woot.

Right. On to more writingish things. I know it’s a month past time when people usually do their annual recaps and set their new goals for the year, but a) better late than never, b) I am ALWAYS late (despite my best intentions), and c) I actually had to wait for a few pieces of writing-related data to filter back in after Christmas/New Year before figuring out what I was doing this year.

2014

2014 was a chaotic year in many regards for my family, but writing-wise, it was the year of #FGU, more properly known as From The Ground Up. This is my non-fic book on worldbuilding for writers that will be coming out some time in the second half of this year – I’m working on edits at the moment, rah.

It was also the year wherein I co-opted the Twinny One,* Liana Brooks, into starting the Darkness&Good blog with me, whereon we post short, totally unedited stories somewhere between once a week and once a month, although we got better with that towards the end of the year 😛

Finally, 2014 was notable for me because Liana and I officially started using our self-pub imprint, Inkprint Press. Hurrah! Under this label in 2014, I launched my short story collection Cherry Blossom and Other Stories, my book of (church) plays Where Your Treasure Is, and the print edition of The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Dogs. Much excitement indeed.

Some quick overall stats:

  • Words edited: about 266,000
  • Words written: about 90,000
  • Words rewritten from scratch: about 8,000

Which means, I think, that if I was really rigorous about counting up every single word I wrote this year, I probably just cracked the 100k mark. Which is actually way better than I would have expected – I feel like 2014 was a pretty slow year for writing, but it turns out it was significantly better than 2012 or 2013! So that’s cool.

* She’s totally my twin. Just separated by the Pacific Ocean, about three years, and totally different sets of genetics. But, y’know. TWIN. 

2015

Where to from here, that’s the question. Now that I have all my data points, it looks like this year is going to be another ‘light’ year for writing. I had postnatal depression after SmallBoy and although I think I’m in a better place mentally with SmallGirl than I was at this point with SmallBoy, I absolutely can’t guarantee that I won’t get it again – and as anyone who’s experienced any kind of depression knows, it kind of puts a damper on creativity. On top of that, I have FGU due in and a much fuller workload this year than I’ve had before. So I have to plan for multiple small achievements, rather than any large ones this year.

Things I really plan to do:

  • Get FGU done and in on time so it can release on schedule in the second half of the year. My first book launch with a real publisher, you guys! So much excite.
  • Write enough short stories to stick to my once-a-fortnight schedule at Darkness&Good. I have the first quarter of the year scheduled already, so I need another 15 stories to make this happen.

Things I’d really, really LIKE to get done:

  • Liana has an awesome choose-your-own-adventure sfr novella ready to be published under our Inkprint Press umbrella – once I’ve done the editing.
  • Marked, my tiger novella from fifty million years ago, is in advanced editing stages. I’d love to pick this up again and finish it off so it too can be released.
  • I have a choose-your-own-adventure sfr novella of my own that’s about half done; top of the list for completion and eventual release.
  • Aphelion, another sfr novella (although NOT choose-your-own-adventure) is also half written, and even has a pretty cover ready to go.
  • Finally, Liana and I are tossing around the idea of a Darkness&Good 2014 anthology. There’s at least 45k of fiction there, the length of a decent novella or a short novel, and it’d be fun to do a print edition to sit on my shelf – after editing the stories first, of course 😉

So. Nothing long and novelly, unfortunately, but if I can manage it Inkprint Press will see a decent number of new releases this year, so you’ll be well stocked on things to read – and hopefully, for the first time ever, you’ll get to read something of mine longer than a short story! 😉

I think that’s all from me for now. What about you guys? What are you up to in 2015?

 

~Amy