Blog memes – Thursday’s Children and #MondayBlogs

This is my last Thursday’s Children post. Not because I have decided to take my bat and ball and go home (no bat, and also — no home!), but because the organisers, Rhiann and Kristina, have decided that after organising it for a full year it’s time they moved on to a new project. I respect that, although I will miss the meme, which is about sharing the things that inspire you.

thurschilbadgejpgThe meme has been a great thing to get me blogging. Since I joined in April I’ve posted Thursday’s Children blog posts at least once a fortnight — depending on other blogging and real life commitments. And it’s also drawn some extra traffic to my blog that I otherwise might not have had, because each Thursday’s Children blog post is registered at a central list and the participants often drop in on other blogs to say hi and see what’s inspiring them.

And Thursday’s Children inspired me. Talk about the snake eating its own tail … in a nice way, obviously.


If you’re a blogger and also on Twitter, there’s another meme you should be aware of: #MondayBlogs.

This was created by social media guru Rachel Thompson as a way for people to share their blog posts once a week, and to find and retweet others. It is, unsurprisingly, held every Monday — although given the various timezones around the world, Monday goes for way more than 24 hours.

Here are a few tips for participating in #MondayBlogs.

* Write a blog post that others will want to read.

* Tweet about it on Monday. Make sure you include the #MondayBlogs hashtag, and that your tweet actually reveals something about the post.

* If you also include the account name @MondayBlogs, they will retweet your post as well. (DON’T include the account name as the very first thing in the tweet, because that prevents your followers who don’t also follow @MondayBlogs from seeing it. Include a character — even a “.” will do — before the “@”.)

* You can find other blogs to read and retweet by either checking the hashtag contents or the @MondayBlog tweets. I prefer the latter because each tweet only appears once instead of dozens of times as it is retweeted.

* Try and retweet at least a few other people’s blog posts. (I try not to retweet too many links at once, which means I spread it out. And I always read the blog post first, to make sure I’m not inadvertently sharing something offensive — which is why I only manage to share a few each week.)

If you want to learn more, I recommend this post by Rachel Thompson.

Anway, to close, I’ll leave you with the children’s poem that inspired Thursday’s Children in the first place:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Inspired by butterflies (and moths, and deviantART)

I thought about writing a Thursday’s Children post about being inspired by Pinterest, but that’s pretty much a gimme. I did use it as a source of inspiration over the weekend, when I was struggling with visualising something, but there was another source I used even more.

Image from Wiki Commons

Image from Wiki Commons

Have you ever heard of the website deviantART? It’s a place where artists can post their visual (and sometimes written) art for others to admire and, if they’re so inclined, purchase.

Well, I went to dA, and found some AWESOME art. (I even then pinned it to my board–see how those things come together?)

Without going into too many details, my work in progress has a certain insect-y theme. I’d been using moths till now, but decided to mix it up a little with what I thought was an Australian butterfly: the Monarch (aka Wanderer). It turns out the Monarch is from the US and has just wandered its way over here. Like a flying cane toad.

They’re even poisonous, apparently, because of the plant they prefer to eat, the milkweed. Things I didn’t know.

Anyway, some of the images I found on dA by searching for Monarch Butterflies were breathtaking. I’d love to post them here, but copyright, so instead here are a few links. Click them. CLICK THEM NOW!

thurschilbadgejpgMonarch by *RozennIlliano

:MonarcH: by *AkiMao

Monarch by ~CloudyNine

Monarch by `Emerald-Depths

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Coming home

thurschilbadgejpgAfter a week and a half of packing and more packing, and then moving and more moving, my son and I are out of the place that’s been our home for the last three years. I wish I could say I was emotional about it, but the only emotion I feel is relief.

Maybe that’s a side effect of packing a four-bedroom house on your own. The exhaustion leaves no room for anything else.

We’re temporarily staying at my parents’ place for the next month or so. They are out of the country, so it’s just my boy and I. He’s sleeping in what was my childhood bedroom. I’m in my sister’s old room (the latter was fully furnished, and I figured my son would adapt better if he had his own bedroom furniture).

This is the house I grew up in, in the suburb I grew up in.

We won’t be here for long, but it really felt like coming home.

I don’t think most adults learn their neighbourhoods the way a child does. Kids explore all the back alleys and parks during their romps; they know where the blackberry bushes grow over the fence to be plundered, or where the plum trees are. They know which path to avoid in spring when the magpies are swooping, exactly how the tree trunk at the local park can double as a rocketship, and where to find willow fronds to weave into headbands.

I think I’m going to miss this place when I move, possibly more even than the house I just sold. Don’t get me wrong. I loved that house. It was beautiful and spacious. But it was also the source of a lot of stress–my ex-housemate and I regularly joked that its extension had been built on a hellmouth.

As a result of all the packing and moving, I haven’t written in two weeks. I’m starting to feel extremely twitchy, especially as my WIP is at the point where I’m about to write the final confrontation. I was really looking forward to it, too. Of course, Murphy’s Law being what it is, I got sick halfway through the move, so I’ve had to hold off a few more days–at least until the fever subsided.

But you know what? When I get to write again, that’s going to feel like coming home too.

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

A picture book for writers: ‘The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore’

My son received The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore (along with a pile of other picture books) on his birthday. Once we’d read the superhero books to death, we gave this one a go—and we love it.

I’ve never reviewed a picture book here before, and I probably never will again. But this one struck a chord with me, because it’s a book for and about readers and writers. The story is pretty straightforward. Morris Lessmore writes in his book about “all that he knew and everything that he hoped for”. Then he suffers a disaster, a hurricane. Everything is scattered, even the words in his book.

At this point, the world is depicted in black and white. So is Morris. The next bit of colour we see is a lady flying through the sky, being pulled along by a squadron of flying books. Morris is sad that his book can’t fly (a metaphor for the muse, anyone?) and she sends him her favourite book, to help him out.

When the book touches him, Morris suddenly appears in colour again. It leads him to a library of flying books, which he then cares for until he’s old and grey; and every night, he writes in his book again. At the end of the book, when he flies away with his own squadron of flying books, presumably heading off to book heaven, his book is left behind—and now it can fly too.

I Googled The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore while writing this blog post; apparently it’s based on a short film that was, in turn, based on a story. (That explains the gorgeous animation-style illustrations.) My favourite part* is that everyone Morris loans books to at the library is black and white, like he was when he arrived, and when he hands them the books their colours are restored too. So not only is he getting back in touch with his own muse by writing, but he’s sharing that joy with others who have been turned grey by the disaster.

It’s such a sweet little metaphor for the restorative power of stories.

* My son’s favourite part is the flying books. Because FLYING BOOKS!


Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Routine as an aid to writing

thurschilbadgejpg(This is a Thursday’s Children post, but I’m posting it Friday morning. Hey, it’s still Thursday somewhere in the world!)

The stereotype of a writer at work is often that of a person with a laptop in a coffee shop, observing the clientele and sipping their latte as they tap away at the keyboard. I am not that writer. I am getting better at tuning out background noise—I have a preschooler, after all—but I’m only really able to write under those circumstances when I’m really in the zone. On a normal day it’s a struggle, and I usually only write once my son is in bed and the TV is off.

Until recently, I also had a housemate. His computer was in the same space as mine and he was mad keen on World of Warcraft—so while I prefer to write without music I used to fire up whatever was on the hard drive and put headphones on, to block out the sound of orcs being slain or whatever he was doing at the time. I didn’t usually need to have the music up loud, but just had it on as white noise.

The thing is that for a while there was only one album on my hard drive. I don’t like to use the CD player in the computer because it’s old and sounded like a jet engine preparing for takeoff (even through the headphones). I could have copied some other music onto the hard drive to have it available, but I never got around to it and, after a while, playing that particular album was habit-forming.

CaptureAnd that is why I can’t hear the violin at the start of the orchestral version of I’m in a Cage by Tim Minchin (from Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra) without my brain shifting gears into writing mode. I wrote my first two books—Isla’s Inheritance and its sequel—to this music. I’m hesitant to describe the album as the actual soundtrack to those books, because the music isn’t actually related to the story (I didn’t write a comedy, for a start)—but the album was the soundtrack to my writing.

My current work-in-progress is mostly being written to the blissful sounds of a quiet house. I did experiment with some other CDs (played in the CD player—I’m so old-fashioned), but none of them grabbed me. It seems I can only write to silence or Tim Minchin.

Hey, whatever works, right?

Do you have particular music you play to get yourself in the mood to write, or other routines that you always follow? Do you struggle without them?

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

On chapter titles in fiction

thurschilbadgejpgI love a good chapter title in a book. I really admire writers who manage to come up with a title that summarises the chapter, gives the reader a sense of what’s to come, but without being spoilery. I love chapter titles so much I always thought I’d use them—but when I stopped, partway through drafting Isla’s Inheritance, and thought about it, the idea of crafting the perfect chapter titles seemed as hard as crafting the perfect beginning. I seized up with panic, and decided I’d worry about it later. (That, by the way, is a great way to deal with writer’s block of any sort. Write around the problem and fix it later.)

Then I never actually got around to doing it.

My love of chapter titles started with J.R.R. Tolkien. I was given an illustrated, anniversary edition of The Hobbit when I was in late primary school. I loved that book. I’d alternate between reading about Bilbo’s adventures and staring at the illustrations of Smaug for hours. (As an aside, no one told me about the rest of Tolkien’s books till years later. I remember experiencing that wonder for the first time, the joy of discovering there are more books in a series that I never knew about. It took me a while to warm to Frodo, but he got me in the end.)

A conversation on Twitter about chapter titles the other day got me to thinking, though: do they actually make much difference to my experience as a reader? I looked at a random selection of fantasy and urban fantasy novels from my bookshelves, and the results surprised me. Because if you’d asked me who used chapter titles, I would have said fantasy writers do; urban fantasy writers don’t. I’ve read a lot of both, and that was my impression. But the facts only sort of bear that out—it’s a trend rather than a hard fact.

Untitled-1On the fantasy (and light sci-fi) side of the shelf, Anne McCaffrey did an assortment of things with her titles. In Dragonflight, the first in the Pern series, she actually used poems instead of chapter titles (the poems written by the harpers in the book). This was like chapter headings on steroids, because if you’ve read the book you’ll know the main character actually has to solve a riddle in one of those songs to save the day. And they foreshadowed the storyline as well. Wow. (In others of her books, though, she used traditional chapter numbers.)

David Eddings uses numbers with some titles for parts. Raymond E. Feist, Kate Forsyth and Jay Kristoff use chapter titles. Mercedes Lackey uses numbers (sometimes with titles to say whose perspective it is, much like George R.R. Martin). Terry Pratchett doesn’t even use chapters!

On the urban fantasy side, Suzanne Collins had part titles. Cassandra Clare uses chapter names. Charles De Lint and Veronica Roth use numbers.

I think the most telling thing for me is how little impression some of the titles made on me. I only read The Hunger Games and City of Bones recently, but the fact there were titles in there didn’t even register—probably because they were both such compelling stories that I was far more interested in continuing on than dwelling on the title and what it might mean. If I was at the point where I’d re-read them lovingly many times, the way I have The Hobbit and Dragonflight, perhaps they would have sunk in as I stopped to marvel.

All of which brings me to my point: what are your feelings on chapter titles in fiction (especially genre fiction)? Do you think they add to your reading experience, detract from it, or make no real difference either way? Do you even notice them?

(I need to caveat this post with the statement that I didn’t look at every book on my shelf by the named authors, just a handful. So maybe all of them do both, and it was just coincidence that the ones I picked up were of a certain style.)

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

My boy turned four


I missed Thursday’s Children last week because it was my son’s birthday. He just turned four, which is weird because I’m pretty sure it was only a few days ago that I was finally being induced at almost 42 weeks gestation. He didn’t want to come out. (I should have realised then how stubborn he was—turns out he really didn’t want to come out and I ended up having an emergency c-section.)

When he was a tiny baby I was wistful about the fact he’d stop being a tiny baby, and terrified of him being a toddler. But it turns out that wasn’t so bad either—suddenly he was cracking jokes and dancing and smothering me with kisses (as well as tantrums), and that was fun too. And words! Seeing him discover words was a joy! Now he’s a pre-schooler and I can see what an inquiring mind he’s going to have. He already has the best vocabulary of any kid in his room at daycare. And I’m really looking forward to him being able to read books, so that together we can (re)discover all my childhood favourites. It seems like every age has its own type of awesome to give a parent, and I’m enjoying the ride.

As for how he’s inspired me, I’ve got two picture book drafts kicking around that I wrote after he was born. I never would have thought I’d be a picture book writer, but reading all those books to him made me want to write for him too. (As an aside, if I entered all the picture books I read into Goodreads then I’d stomp all over my goal for 2013!)

I realise I’ll probably never see them in print, because the PB market is, I understand, even harder to crack than the market for novels. But that’s not really the point. And occasionally I send my favourite of the two off—it’s called Eric Emu to the Rescue—to another publisher, just in case.

Who knows; maybe as he gets to late primary school I’ll dabble in middle grade fiction too.

He also inspires me to write my YA and adult fiction, although I realise that if he grows to be a typical teenage boy my female protagonists aren’t exactly going to be his cup of tea. But I want him to grow up to see that if he has a dream and he works hard enough, he can make it come true: I wanted to be a published author, and next year that dream will come true for me (squee!).

So this blog post is just to say thank you to my son, because he brings me so much happiness. I love you, stinky face.

Do you have children? Do they inspire you to write?

Aww, baby

Aww, baby

From baby to ... BATMAN!

From baby to … BATMAN!

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Inspired by Canberra


Ah, Canberra. The nation’s capital. Reviled across Australia as (allegedly) the soulless, out-of-touch political heart of the country. (For those of my readers who are overseas, it may come as a shock to learn Sydney is not in fact Australia’s capital. Sydney is to New York as Canberra is to Washington, if that helps.)

As Canberrans love to point out, though, almost all the politicians that live here for part of the year are from other parts of the country—so if they bring a deficit of soul with them, whose fault is that? We didn’t vote for them! 😉

Canberra is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. Our population is around 370,000 people—so we don’t have the heavy pollution and insane peak-hour traffic you get in bigger cities, but we still have the amenities of a big city. We’re actually Australia’s largest inland city … but all the state capitals are on the coast, so we’re only the eighth-largest overall.

The city sprawls over 812 square kilometers, but has a population density almost a fifth of Sydney’s, and just over a third of Melbourne’s. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either of them do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play. It’s a great place to raise a family. And a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces.

Canberra: a very pretty city. We have lakes!

Canberra: we have lakes!

Werewolves and fairies would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. Vampires would have to be careful how they hunted given the lower numbers of humans to snack on, but depending on their appetites they’d do alright too.

So far, all my books have been set in Canberra (all 2.5 of them!). I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility, and whether I should instead pick Sydney or Melbourne, even though I’m less familiar with them. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?

When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.

In a fit of procrastination, the other day I made a Pinterest board celebrating Canberra. Check it out, you know, if you want to.

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Inspired by Australian Magpies


Have you entered my double Amazon giveaway yet? I’m running it to celebrate my book deal and 1000 Twitter followers! The details are here. It ends in 2 days and 9 hours (give or take), so time’s running out!

This Thursday’s Children post flows on from my last one, where I talked about being inspired by the Australian bush. This one is about my favourite Aussie species: the Australian Magpie. It is unrelated to the European magpie, except in the very broad sense. Interestingly, its specific Latin name translates to “piper” or “flute-player” … which, when you hear it carol, you will totally understand.

A lot of Australians have mixed (or even outright negative) views about this particular bird, though. The reason is that, in spring, some male magpies have a rush of testosterone to the brain and will swoop to defend their mate and chicks in the nest. They are especially fond of people on bicycles, and I’ve heard stories from time to time about people being injured by overzealous magpies.

But to me, that aggression (which isn’t universal) is only for six-to-eight weeks a year. And their song makes up for it for the rest of the year. Because this bird is, in my not-so-humble opinion, Australia’s premiere songbird—despite its humble appearance.

Here’s a YouTube link. (The bird featured isn’t the local Canberra variant, which has a white band across the back of the neck but not all the way down the back. However, the song is the same.)

Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.

Inspired by My Island Home


Have you entered my double Amazon giveaway yet, which I’m running to celebrate my good news? The details are here.

I was pottering around the kitchen trying to think of what the single biggest thing is that inspires my writing. And then it hit me like a parrot in the crotch (which, by the way, actually happened to a guy I know; I gather it wasn’t very pleasant). My biggest source of inspiration is the Australian landscape.

So far, all of my novels are set in Australia. And that’s not just because I’m writing what I know (although it is) but because I love this place. I love the scraggly eucalypts, the ridiculous wildlife, the low mountains worn down by time. I love the fact that—because our land is so old and the landscape crinkles are so low—the sky is huge. Looking up is like watching a movie in widescreen.

I love the magpies’ song, and the sight of a flock of cockatoos wheeling in the sky, and the sere colours. I love the first spray of wattle flowers toward the end of winter, when there’s still frost on the ground overnight, because the plants are declaring that spring is coming!

I know a lot of people here hanker after the lush greenery of Europe. I’ve been to Scotland and I’m not saying it wasn’t magnificent in its own way—I’d love to visit again some day—but this place is home.

I’ve been reading John Marsden’s Tomorrow series, and his passages on the Australian bush really resonate with me. Ellie’s love for the country could be my own. Here’s one extract, to illustrate what I mean.

It takes me over and I become part of it and it becomes part of me and I’m not very important, or at least no more important than a tree or a rock or a spider abseiling down a long thread of cobweb. As I wandered around, on that hot afternoon, I didn’t notice anything too amazing or beautiful or mindbogglingly spectacular. I can’t actually say I noticed anything out of the ordinary: just the grey-green rocks and the olive-green leaves and the reddish soil with the teeming ants. The tattered ribbons of paperbark, the crackly dry cicada shell, the smooth furrow left in the dust by a passing snake. That’s all there ever is really, most of the time. No rainforest with tropical butterflies, no palm trees or Californian redwoods, no leopards or iguanas or panda bears.

Just the bush.


Click here to see this week’s other Thursday’s Children blog posts.