My name is Cassandra, and I’m a Pokemon GO addict…

Vaporeon Pokemon GoI was on holidays when Pokemon GO came out. But I still had my smart phone, so I saw the flood of posts on social media. At first I was bemused by the idea, because I never really got into Pokemon as I was growing up. But my son is seven and a mad Pokemon fan; he got about 15 Pokemon plushies for his birthday (including the Vaporeon pictured above). He’s seen a lot of the TV show — like, a lot — and has some of the old games, though he hasn’t played them much due to the amount of fast reading required.

Anyway, I didn’t think much of the idea of Pokemon. How is going out and capturing wild animals and then using them in battles for sport a good idea? (Where is the RSPCA in this universe? Not to mention all the ten year old kids leaving home to go on adventures to catch said wild animals! And do the Pokeballs have toilets? So many questions!) Still, Pikachu was cute, and my boy enjoyed it and absorbed the various names and evolutions like a sponge.

On the other hand, once I learned more about Pokemon GO, I was fascinated. I found the idea of augmented reality games, something I hadn’t really encountered before, strangely compelling. So when my son came home after our holiday (via Sydney, where he stayed with his dad for a few days), I wasn’t exactly upset that he had a Pokemon GO account and was already level 14.

Of course, he doesn’t have a phone, so I have to play it with him. Right?

Seriously, this game is so much fun — and, more than that, I love how easy it is to get my couch potato of a child out of the house. On Friday I got a tip-off from someone at work of a good place to catch Pikachu. Normally my boy would prefer to sit at home and watch Pokemon on TV, especially after school, but instead we scooted down to the local lake and spent an hour stomping around, playing at the park and making friends with people’s dogs.

There is a spectrum of people who play Pokemon GO, as there is in any other endeavour, but for the most part I’ve found them to be friendly and open. Sure, we’ve come across the occasional pack of swearing teenage boys (something I wouldn’t have an issue with if my boy weren’t listening), and after we captured a gym the look on one young man’s face as he stormed up gave me pause. Boy, was he pissed!

But there have been a lot of people like me, taking their kids out for a stroll and catching Eevees. We’ve seen a lady taking her parrot out for some air, randomly met some kids my boy knew from school, and commiserated with strangers when their Squirtle ran away. We’ve also been out to a lot of local tourist attractions, hunting for Pokemon. (If you’re visiting Canberra, get a friend to drive you around all the Poke-stops in the arboretum. Wow!)

I’m not a Pokemon expert yet, by any stretch of the imagination, but luckily I have a small consultant to hand. I’ve finally figured out how to throw a decent curveball, and we’ve evolved a Raichu. I’m still not 100% sure about the “wild animals battling” thing, but it bothers me less in game form, where they are impersonal elemental forces, rather than in the TV show, where they can emote, and snuggle their owners. (I am suspicious of what the professor needs all those spare Pokemon for. Is he feeding them into a compactor to make candy? Building a Pokemon army?! Again, so many questions!)

Do you play Pokemon GO? Have you found it a positive experience overall?

Pokemon

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Cass Goes Walkabout

Cass at Uluru

You may have noticed that — prior to the review of Cinnamon Girl that I posted on the weekend — I vanished off the radar for a week or so there. Or maybe you didn’t, given my posts on this blog can be sporadic at times. Either way, the absence was because my son and I went north (where the warmer weather is in Australia) for the winter.

Okay, for nine days.

Good friends of ours moved to central Australia at the start of the year, so we went to stay with them and do local touristy things — the biggest of which was a two-night stay at Yulara, the resort near Uluru.

You’ll probably guess from the above photo that it wasn’t as warm as I might have hoped. The weather was interesting, I don’t know, maybe it’s typical for a desert, but it seemed to change from day to day without much sense to it. One day it’d be cold — coats and scarves weather — and the next it’d be shorts and T-shirts weather. We got fewer of the latter kind of day than I might have liked, and two of them were the day we arrived and the day we left again. Typical!

That being said, the lowest maximum temperature we got while on holidays was still higher than the highest maximum in Canberra during the same period, so I shouldn’t complain. And it was wonderful to catch up with our friends. They have two girls, the younger of whom is close to my boy, so he had a lot of fun having a playmate in his pocket. Of course, I also got an insight into what it might have been like if I’d had two kids. So. Much. Bickering. Gah!

And Uluru was … well, it was everything I could have imagined, and several things I hadn’t. There’s something about seeing a cultural icon, a popular landmark, in the flesh for the first time. You’re so used to it being on postcards or the TV that, when you see it with your own eyes, it’s both unfamiliar and so familiar that you feel like it’s the landscape equivalent of an old friend. I’m positive at least part of my awe of the place was that feeling.

Another significant part was the overwhelming sense of the Aboriginal history. Cave art, sacred spaces where photography was discouraged, rock formations that looked like snakes or spear holes and so became them in dreamtime stories. I could easily imagine young hunters stalking across the dunes, spears in hand as they hunted for prey.

The rest of my awe was at Uluru itself. Not only is it one of the world’s biggest rocks, it stands out in the middle of a sandy plain — the terrain makes it even more striking. There were a few things that really struck me about it. Because central Australia has had a fair amount of rain recently (relatively speaking), there was a lot more greenery than I’d imagined, the rust red sand dunes covered in clumps of grass and low shrubs. We also visited a couple of waterholes at the base of the rock during our day there — they weren’t lakes by any stretch of the imagination, but there was more water than I’d imagined in a desert. One of them was swarming with tadpoles, and the other had water trickling down into it from the top of the rock, probably the remnants of overnight dew, despite it being mid-afternoon.

Finally, despite Uluru from a distance looking exactly as I’d dreamed it would, when I got up closer I was surprised at how many crevices, caves and protrusions there were. Later I discovered that, from the air, it looks sort of like a fat, wrinkly, reversed comma. (Someone make a font for that!)

Now, as much as I’m sure you’re loving hearing me ramble about my holiday, there is a point to all this. Research is great. I’m a huge fan of Google street view and Wikipedia. Huge. But, where you can swing it, there is no substitute for actually going to the place you’re writing about. I’m not writing a book set in central Australia — not yet. But visiting there sure made me want to try.


Adventure Time: geeky, wonderful storytelling

Fiona

Fiona is the gender-flipped Finn. (The books are there because they look good together!)

(Note: If you’re new to Adventure Time and care about spoilers for kids TV, this post is not the one for you.)

I don’t normally blog about TV shows, mostly because I watch hardly any TV these days, aside from Doctor Who. (I used to watch Castle, but the most recent series lost me.) The shows I do see tend to be kids shows, because that is what my seven-year-old is watching.

I got into a discussion with some other parents of kids who are a similar age to my boy about appropriate television, and there seemed to be a consensus that Adventure Time was not appropriate television for pre-teens. The arguments mostly revolved around the violence — the main characters, Finn and Jake, do spend rather a lot of time beating up bad guys, and occasionally said bad guys can be hella creepy and kind of gross.

However, the stories that this strange little cartoon tells are geeky, complex and deal with real-world issues in a fictional way, providing a great opportunity for kids and parents to discuss them. There are gender-flipped episodes (featuring Fiona and Cake rather than Finn and Jake), and so many Dungeons and Dragons-references that this is basically my favourite show too.

Adventure Time is set on Earth, in what I suspect is continental USA, though the land is called “Ooo”. A thousand years ago there was the terrible “mushroom war”, when mutogenic goo was spread across the land and and civilisation as we know it was wiped out.

Finn the Human is one of the only humans in the show. He was raised by his adoptive family, that of Jake the Dog. Finn is a traditional D&D paladin — he is honourable and defends the weak, something that often gets him into trouble. He spends a lot of time trying to find himself and figure out the complexities of love. At one point in the show he struggles with depression, after he meets his real father and discovers said father is an amoral, hardened criminal.

Jake the Dog is Finn’s adoptive brother and best friend. He has “stretchy powers”, meaning he can change into whatever shape he wants. His D&D alignment would be true neutral — he tries to do the right thing because of Finn, but is largely in it for fun. He’s lazy and has a criminal past that Finn doesn’t know about. He has children with his girlfriend, Lady Rainicorn.

Princess Bubblegum is one of the main characters; she is ruler of the Candy Kingdom. She’s a loner, mad scientist and genius, and has a complicated friendship with Marceline the Vampire Queen. (Almost all the kingdoms are ruled by princesses, to the point where, when Bubblegum is temporarily ousted from rule by a pretender calling himself the King of Ooo, he declares himself princess and stars wearing her clothes. Marceline is an exception, but she’s also the only vampire. The Ice King calls himself a king but only rules over penguins.)

The Ice King is the original villain of the show; he likes to kidnap princesses and wants to marry one. However, as we get to know him, we discover he has a tragic past (there’s one particular episode that makes me bawl every time I see it). His overall storyline is a parallel for dementia: he has forgotten who he is and his princess obsession is his subconscious mind’s way of trying to reclaim what he once had.

Lumpy Space Princess is homeless (she lives in the woods, in boxes or hollow logs) and looking for love. Marceline is so old that she struggles with morality, often acting like a selfish teenage girl. BMO, the robot who lives with Finn and Jake, has a vivid imaginary world and is gender fluid (though uses the male pronoun).

Other examples of geekiness include the Prismo wish spell alternate reality plot; discussion of Flame Princess’s alignment (and how acting out of alignment will affect her experience); and a dungeon-crawl episode where Finn gets lost, seeking more and more powerful loot. It’s glorious!

I guess for parents who won’t get the geeky references and would prefer their children experience a more Disney-like world, I can see why Adventure Time wouldn’t be their thing. But I for one love it. ❤


An Unexpected Turn of Events

I know, I know, I’ve been AWOL. The last week was always going to be bad in terms of blogging etc, because my son turned seven on Monday … but it took an unexpected turn last Thursday when the school called to say they thought he had broken his arm.

It turned out he had. In three places — both wrist bones and his humerus, just above the elbow. He needed surgery to have the bones set (and the elbow pinned), and we spent the night in hospital.

It … was not our best day ever.

To make matters worse, his party this year was booked in at a gymnastics centre, so we had to cancel. The plan is to reschedule for once he’s out of the cast and gets the green light from his doctor to run around like a lunatic again, but that will be after our impending holiday to Alice Springs, some time early next term.

You’d think unexpectedly having a week off work would have meant free time, but I’ve been fulfilling the role of Mumma Nurse for the last week. I haven’t had much time to read, or write, or go over the excellent edits I got back from Lauren on my fantasy manuscript. In fact, the only thing I have kept up to date on is posting to Instagram, and that’s because I had already taken a bunch of book pictures and had them saved on my phone, ready to go.

Yes, I do photo shoots for books now. (That happened fast.)

Still, the boy is in less pain now than he was, and tomorrow we have the first of several follow-up X-rays booked to see how he’s healing. So hopefully life will return to something resembling normality some time soon.

How have you been, internet? Read (or taken photos of) any good books lately?

Bookstagrammin'.

 


40 Revolutions Around the Sun

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Off and on at the blog I mention Chuck Wendig — not only have I read, reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed a bunch of his books (the most recent of which was Aftermath, his first Star Wars novel), but I love his writing advice posts and his hilarious, often profanity-riddled style.

One thing about Chuck is that he and I were born only a few days apart. That’s right, we’re practically twins! And this week he posted an epic list of 40 things that he has learned after four decades of life. You should go read it.

Yes, this is my round-about way of telling you I also turned 40 this week.

Earlier this year, I felt vaguely uneasy about my impending birthday. I mean, 40. I wouldn’t be able to say I was in my 30s anymore — as though that one day between 39 and 40 would make a huge difference, be somehow transformative. But it’s all a bit of a lie that revolves around us humans placing significance on certain things, like round numbers, multiples of ten: a number we’ve chosen to obsess over presumably because of our (traditional) number of fingers.

When I was a kid and the various adults in my life would ask me, on the day of my birthday, whether I felt any older. I’d always feel like the answer should be yes, but it was always no.

I do feel older now, but it’s a feeling that’s been creeping up on me for a while. I have a smattering of silver hairs that I’m rather fond of, mainly because they are politely behaved; in contrast, I also have a handful of weird, crazy white hairs that refuse to obey trivial things like gravity. My knees have have started to crunch like a pepper grinders when I walk up stairs. And my optometrist assures me that bifocal glasses are in my near future (she’s mean like that).

Still, there are upsides to being 40; to me, they are mostly about having a better sense of perspective. I was talking to a friend today about how when you’re in your teens and 20s you (and by “you”, of course, I mean “I) care way too much about what others think. Not just people who are dear to you, but random strangers. People you go to school with or work with but to whom you’re not close. There are probably sound evolutionary reasons for it — if you’re too different from the herd, you might get driven out, be unable to find a mate.

(Hehe, she said “mate”.)

Although I doubt I’ll ever be able to completely dismiss others’ unsolicited opinions, they don’t mean as much to me as they used to. If someone thinks my comfortable shoes are daggy, or raises an eyebrow at my geeky t-shirt, so what? If they don’t like a book I wrote and leave a negative review, then eh, they are entitled to their opinion.

So was turning 40 traumatic? No, actually, it was kinda cool. I had a variety of tasty meals with different groups of friends and family over the course of this week, got to catch up, had a few laughs. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself to have an EPIC BIRTHDAY EXTRAVAGANZA — setting too-high expectations and then being disappointed is another thing I’d like to think I left behind last decade. I got hugs and warm wishes from people that mattered.

I wouldn’t be able to come up with a list of 40 things I have learned, partly because Chuck stole all the good ideas already. But there are a few things I’d add, random pieces of advice I’d give to younger-me if I could:

Unfriend or otherwise cast off toxic, judgemental people from your life. They aren’t worth the stress and grey hairs, and they definitely aren’t worth the crazy, gravity-defying white hairs.

Be prepared to make sacrifices to do the thing you want to do. I’m not much of a risk-taker and I’m definitely not saying you should quit your job to write your magnum opus, but maybe you could watch a little less TV?

Find something physical that you like doing and then actually do it. Regularly. Even though my knees were mostly fine till I started karate, I’ve felt a lot better about myself since I joined.

Wear sunscreen. It’ll mean less wrinkles (and also less chance of skin cancer) when you’re older.

Be kind to yourself. All those people who say that one day you’ll look back on photos of yourself when you were young and realise you were hotter than you thought at the time ARE RIGHT. The bastards.


In case you missed it, earlier this month, over at Aussie Owned and Read, I blogged about Four Awesome Writery Rewards for Good Behaviour.

AussieOwned_Contributor


Recharging the batteries…

As I mentioned a week or so ago, at the end of January my boy and I went to the coast for five nights with a friend and her son. The lead-up was a bit traumatic as, two days before, my boy managed to slam his finger in the car door, so we had to get it x-rayed to see if it was broken. Thankfully, it wasn’t, just very badly bruised (and I’m sure he’ll lose the nail). Then the day before there was a massive hail storm and my friend’s skylight smashed, so she had to organise the SES to come and patch it up.

It was as though the universe was conspiring. But we overcame!

It was great to have a break, jump waves at/nearly get drowned at the beach, and generally make happy gold-memory-orb-style memories. A highlight for me was successfully flying a kite for the first time in years — on the beach, with the waves threatening to soak my shoes. The boy declared he would remember it forever. Winning!

Another highlight was the crazy thunderstorm that hit the night before we came home. The lightening was constant but erratic, like a misfiring strobe light, and the thunder just rolled on and on. And on. We got over 100mm of rain overnight, and not a lot of sleep. I’m amazed we didn’t wash into the Pacific!

I did a lot of reading. I gobbled Storm in a Teacup by Emmie Mears (review to follow, but spoiler: I loved it), and also finished doing an alpha read on a new release by K. A. Last (spoiler: I loved that too!).

I didn’t do much writing. I was setting out to do no writing at all, but I slipped and fell* and accidentally scribbled a couple hundred words down while the boys were playing an elaborate game involving Transformers and a sunscreen bottle. Eh. Nobody’s perfect.

Putting no pressure on myself was worth it, too. I’d been feeling quite drained going into the holiday, but on the drive home my brain kept yammering story ideas at me. Not fully formed plots, but hints. Whispers. Most of them were inspired by the names of roads or rivers. Shoemakers Creek. Wild Dog Creek. Mount Darragh (which is apparently near Myrtle Mountain — what a great name!). Others were by sights, such as the businessman walking along the single lane highway with a briefcase in hand and his tie flapping in the wind, farmland all around us. Others were by things we were told: apparently there was an earthquake the night before we passed through Bombala. For tectonically stable Australia, that’s rather noteworthy news.

People always ask writers — not just me but properly famous writers — where we get our ideas. Some days, the real question should be how do we get them to shut up?

Still, I feel blessed, and thankful I live in such a gorgeous country, with such awesome names. 🙂 Now I can get stuck into finalising the publication of Melpomene’s Daughter and writing the sequel to Lucid Dreaming.

* I didn’t literally slip and fall, for those familiar with the fashion in which I ruined my first and only overseas holiday.

BoyOnBeach


An update ramble (aka proof that Cassandra shouldn’t blog tired)…

So, err, January has sort of gotten away from me. I had all these ideas for blog posts — primarily to, you know, write them — but clearly that hasn’t gone well. So of course, since I got maybe five hours sleep last night, now seems like the perfect time to write an update. Mostly so you know I haven’t been eaten by rampaging drop bears or whatever.

Me, writing this blog post

Me, writing this blog post

One of the posts I was planning was going to be a “my goals for 2016” post. It can more-or-less be summed up in this short list:

  • Self-publish Melpomene’s Daughter (Isla’s Inheritance #3)
  • Write the sequel to Lucid Dreaming
  • Be awesome

Melpomene’s Daughter is going well. I have the paperback proof from KILA Designs and have maybe 50 pages left to read. My goal is to get it done by the end of this weekend, so that I can get it back to Kim before my son and I scarper down to the coast for a week of probably getting rained on at the beach. (It’s going to be awesome.) That way, when I get back, the book should be all go for a February re-release.

Melpomene's Daughter paperback title page

Such a lovely title page. I could pat it.

I started drafting the sequel to Lucid Dreaming over Christmas. I’ve got three chapters down and, well, lots to go. I’ve also got my next project lined up — one I’m super-excited about — so, aside from wanting to finish off Melaina’s story for its own sake, I’m also keen to finish it so I can move on to fresh pastures. I’m so fickle. 😉

Lucid Dreaming has been getting some great reviews on Goodreads and other review sites/blogs. If you’ve reviewed it (or any of my books), then know that I love you from the bottom of my heart.

Over at Aussie Owned and Read, I blogged about how audiobooks are the best thing since, well, books.

I haven’t been reading as fast as usual — unless you count my own books, which I have read many, many times. In fact, I’ve been on the same two books (one audio, one ebook) all year. Which is not to say that they aren’t awesome, because they are. I just haven’t had as much time lately — and my usual time to read audiobooks, on my commute, hasn’t been viable because my son has been with me more often than not. If it does rain at the coast as much as I anticipate, at least I can catch up on some stories.

Currently reading 0116

On a personal note, this month has been pretty rough for me and the boy. Close friends of mine have moved away for an awesome work opportunity; their kids are good friends of my son’s, so he has been just as sad as me about the whole thing. The difference is that, when you’re six, you process these things differently. It’s been hard, but this week has shown signs of improvement. (And the coast trip is a distraction that couldn’t be happening at a better time. Awesome parenting high five, me!)

I’ve also spent a bit of time being sucked into a casual, mobile game called Fallout Shelter. It’s based on the Fallout games, but is more of a resource-management game than a shooter. I like it … though I’m less wild about some of the decisions the game designers have made. Maybe one day I’ll have a rush of blood to the head and review the game, but IT IS NOT THIS DAY.

I’m not that tired.

LOTR dachshund

So, that’s where I’m at. How about you? Has 2016 been treating you nicely so far?