Friday, 29 November 2013

8-BIT CHRISTMAS (Cephalopod Coffeehouse book club)

As it's the last Friday of the month, it's time for a bunch of bloggers to post for the monthly Cephalopod Coffeehouse (a.k.a. "Friendly Gathering") hosted by The Armchair Squid. The idea behind this monthly hop is that each month, participants will post about their favourite book read in the last month.

I read three books during November, and I really enjoyed all of them. It was kind of hard to choose which one to review here, but I decided to review 8-BIT CHRISTMAS by Kevin Jakubowski.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing this ARC copy.

I put this on the "children's literature" shelf, even though it's narrated by an adult character looking back on his Nintento-crazed childhood. But if you were a child in the 80s, you'll probably appreciate this one.

Jake is 9 years old when the first glorious grey Nintendo Entertainment System hits the market. The richest and most spoiled kid in town gets a Nintendo and all the other kids are suddenly swarming onto his front lawn, looking for new ways to suck up to him so they can have a turn on his NES. He only lets 10 kids in at a time on weekends, so the stakes are high and the competition fierce. Kids even go so far as to surrender some of their best toys just so they can go down to the rich kid's basement and Nintendo-land.

All over town, kids begin plotting how to get their parents to give them Nintendos for Christmas. But when disaster strikes - starting with a kid's tantrum, and leading to a falling TV and ultimately a squashed dog - the town's parents are up in arms about the evils of Nintendo. The only NES in town is no longer available for weekend tournaments, and the kids are getting desperate. The parents even go so nuts they arrange for local stores to stop stocking NESes on their shelves. All the kids in Jake's class are now kissing their dreams of owning a NES of their own goodbye. But Jake isn't giving up on his dream. A stroke of inspiration gives him a new plan for how to save the town from being Nintendoless forever.

My thoughts:
I kind of LOVED this book. As a child of the '80s, but also as someone who can apparently appreciate Kevin Jakubowski's sense of humour, I was snorting with laughter at almost every turn of a page (or "turn", really, as I read this on Kindle). Also, I could relate to that whole "rich kid with a NES" thing, since we had a neighbour who had every game console known to man, while the rest of the kids in the street made do with our hand-me-down Atari.

Some parts of the book seemed a bit odd to me, for e.g. rather modern-sounding dialogue like "Dude!" which I'm not sure was authentic to the 80s. But what do I know, I was just a kid back then. Perhaps my memory is rusty. ;) I also found myself disappointed with the fact that Jake didn't get a NES for Christmas - even though he got something seriously awesome instead (and no, I don't mean the Lite Brite. haha). But yeah, all in all I thought this was a highly entertaining read, and I would recommend it to anyone who:

a) can relate to an obsessive love/fondness for Nintendo,
(I myself had a Super NES, which I bought with my own saved up pocket money at age 12, and it was still beautifully lumpy and grey)
b) loves the '80s, or
c) wants to enjoy a large number of laughs (it's the best medicine after all).

Also read in November:
Hard to Handle by Jessica Lemmon
The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

(both courtesy of NetGalley. Thank you!)

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Travel Series: U.S.A. = Ca., Or., Wa. & Ga., 2001

In June 2001, a few things were happening in my life all at once:

  1. We were moving house;
  2. I was finishing up another semester of uni (I had about 3 essays due I think);
  3. and I was preparing to travel overseas to meet my first ever ... wait for it ... internet friends!

These were people I'd met through my love of the epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, which drew me to an online community of fellow fans in mid-2000. I knew these people really well, having spent copious hours chatting to them (it's amazing the things you learn about people you've never met in person!). But I was still nervous. And I know my mum was as well. ;)

In 2001, going off to meet a group of people "from the internet" was a huge deal. It's still kind of a huge deal today, actually - people still look at me funny when I talk about my internet friends. But I guess it's more commonplace now than it was then.

So we moved house, and I staggered across the uni semester finish line, and finally it was time to pack my bags and head for the airport.

From Perth I flew to San Francisco, where things got off to a rocky start because my friends and I couldn't FIND each other! I didn't even hear my name being called over the loudspeaker, probably 'cause I was too busy crying into the pay phone to Mum. Finally, though, I got found, and with a certain amount of sick relief we all headed off to the car and hit the road, heading northeast towards Auburn, CA.

It's true nobody killed me over those first few days (or any of the other days to follow), but my mum must have been wondering, since it was another 3 days before I thought to let her know I was safe and found. Sorry, Mum! ;)

Most of my time during this trip was spent in California, but we also went on a rather epic road trip up north, collecting more friends along the way. We drove through Oregon (where we stayed a night with one of those friends), and finally up to Washington State. In Seattle we met up with yet more friends and hung out for a few fun-filled days.

Deception Pass, WA (no, that's not me).
The Seattle gang (me with my arms around my shins).

Later, I flew to Atlanta, Georgia, to meet up with two more of my (interwebs) (also potential axe-murdering) friends, one of whom had actually paid for my plane ticket out there (she rocks to this day!). We hung out, watched crap movies, and met her then new boyfriend (now husband). We did a bit of sight-seeing as well, including visiting Stone Mountain and the Coca Cola Museum. And we met up with yet more WoT community friends.

The Atlanta gang.
Me (middle) with 2 friends at Stone Mountain, GA.

There was one more meeting that occurred in 2001, during a few hours I spent waiting at Phoenix Airport for a flight. I met up with two more friends there.

At Phoenix airport.
I finished up my trip back in California, and flew home fully in tact (no limbs missing at all, nor many brain cells). I had taken off a fair bit of weight, but mostly because I lost my wallet before the trip even began (left it on the plane on stop-over in L.A. - picked it up on the way back as they'd kept it in lost property, bless them!).

So for my whole trip I hadn't had my own funds to assist in gorging myself on food. My friends were good enough to feed me, and for that I am eternally grateful!

Anyway, that about sums up my 2001 trip to the U.S. to hang out with people I hadn't ever met in person before. I'm still friends with many of them to this day.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Write ... Edit ... Publish (Nov. ed. ~ SHARING)

It's that time again, when a bunch of us get together to participate in Denise Covey's full-of-awesome monthly blogfest, Write ... Edit ... Publish. This month's theme, as the image above suggests, is "SHARING", and here are some of the suggested themes:

  • tell us about your writing in November
  • write a flash fiction piece with SHARING as a theme - maybe an Adam and Eve story?
  • post some pictures to suit the theme (raid Pinterest!)
  • share something memoir-ish about your travels, experiences, your life
  • write a poem that encapsulates SHARING in some way
  • other...?

For me it was pretty easy to choose what to write about this month - NaNoWriMo!

You know, I can't tell you all how happy I am that NaNo has become so immense since the days of its humble inception. Sometimes, great ideas flare for a while, and then burn out. Maybe the great minds that come up with these ideas work so hard and get worn out, with nobody there to take up the slack and keep their great idea alive. Thankfully that didn't happen with NaNo, and I can't see it happening anytime soon. NaNo is basically an institution now!

I've participated since 2002, failing twice and participating "unofficially" one year. Most of my 11 novels have been NaNo-born. And I guess that's a good enough reason for me to love NaNo!

In truth, I seem to do my best work during months like November, when I'm given permission to just write like a nutter. And by "best" I don't mean "really great writing", just that I get a lot of work done. Of course, it never feels like work, per se. It's more like freedom from work, actually. NaNo is my time to slack off from what I probably should be doing (revision, editing, etc.) and do something for the pure exhilarating fun of it. So this month, I haven't been doing hard work at all. I've been having a supreme amount of fun.

During November so far, I've written 83,305 words (and a tiny bit more as of tonight, which I haven't counted up yet. Too busy writing up this post!). I've loved pretty much every second of it.

(I usually forget to share the linky list of all
the participants, but I didn't this time! Here it is)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Too many words, and I'm glad

It's November 18th, and my NaNo word count is 68,820. I still have a number of juicy scenes to write (by "juicy" I mean dramatic, horrific, sappy, any of that). And I'm pretty sure my word count is going to end up being the usual overbloated type I'm so good at producing.

Sometimes people are daunted by the idea of editing stories that have at least 40k too many words. I know I have been in the past, with some of my other bloated works. ;) But in this case, I'll be glad to have all that extra padding to work with, since I'll have to start things off with some of the old slash 'n burn. I have high hopes of being left with a good amount of quality(ish) wordage afterward. And yeah, I'm already looking forward to revisions, without even having finished the story. But once I've finished, I'll do my usual thing and set the novel aside for a while. Let it stew.

I've got other things I want to achieve before picking this novel back up for revisions (rewriting my novella, reading a new novel I'm beta-ing, and revising at least one of my other novels). But you never know ... the temptation to return to Nora's world earlier than planned might become too great.

For now, I'm still enjoying the slightly shadowy initial journey. And I'm pretty sure this story is gonna end up being one of my favourites.

I hope you're all having a great November!

Friday, 15 November 2013

A NaNo update!

Hi everyone. I'm here to report that I won NaNo on November 13th (last weekend I wrote over 18k, just on Saturday and Sunday. It was bliss!), and I am currently sitting on 54,909 words. I'm still loving the story, so much so in fact that it keeps me up at night (not good for my health, but very good for the creative part of my brain!). I still have juicy bits to write, and am pretty much desperate to get around to writing them. This is definitely a good sign.

There have been other NaNos where once I hit 50k, I really had to struggle to write anything on the project for the rest of the month. There have also been NaNos where it took me most of November to hit 50k. And of course there was one NaNo where I wrote 120k in 30 days (NaNo kept me up at night for all the right reasons that year, too). It really varies from year to year, I think. But one thing I know is that I better enjoy this "last hurrah (for the time being)", because next year I hope to use June (BuNo) and November (NaNo '14) to do serious revision work. Then again, maybe I'll just use the rest of the year for that. Problem is, I tried that this year and just slacked way too much.

For me I guess there's just something magical about both June and November that makes me really inspired to write something new. Nowadays I always have a new exciting idea to write. But the consequence of this is that currently, my ratio of rough-ish drafts to ready-to-publish drafts is 11:0. In other words, not too good. ;)

Did you do/are you doing NaNo this year?
How are you going?
Loving/hating your project?

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Andrew McNaughton

I only just heard the news - I'm the last to know I think. I was just over at Nick Wilford's blog which I hadn't visited in a while, and as I scrolled down through the comments on a NaNoWriMo-related post, I started to get very confused. At first people were just talking NaNo, but then I saw them starting to give their condolences over Andrew, Nick's step son. This was the first inkling I had that something had happened. I've since learned that Andrew passed away over this weekend just gone.

Andrew was the inspiration behind Nick's Overcoming Adversity anthology, which many writers in this community contributed to. He was a young man who had a bright future, and we were all hoping we could contribute to that.

I've since found more information over on Kyra Lennon's blog, as well as on Mark Koopmans's and Yolanda Renee's. I just wanted to add to the sentiment already being expressed all over the place, and give my biggest condolences to Nick and his family in the wake of this tragedy.

Rest in peace, Andrew.

Monday, 11 November 2013

[O&AM] Thinking about death (while not feeling depressed)

I don't really want this to be a dreary, depressing blog post, but it's a topic that's been on my list for O&AM since the beginning, and I always knew I'd get to it someday. Basically I was 17 when I first started thinking about mortality - my own and other people's. Later a friend told me this was the start of my "quarter-life crisis". A little bit early, sure, but I don't think that's particularly unusual.

The way I was at seventeen, morbidly dwelling on my inevitable demise, makes me wonder about a lot of the YA books out there. Do the teens in those books think about their own mortality? Do they get bogged down by the depressing fact of life that we're all gonna die someday? I did read one YA in recent years that dealt with heavy themes of death and abuse and all that, even though it was a funny, loveable book. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is definitely one of my favourite books ever. I briefly mentioned it back here. And I reviewed it here.

Anyway, I've had my dark times where I've been obsessed with mortality, but for the most part I've got past the obsession - the compulsion to think about it even though I never wanted to. These days I'm enjoying my life and making a lot of it, even if I'm probably not yet quite making "the most" of it. I've done some great things - travelled around the world (twice), formed strong friendships, had and lost (not-so-)great loves, released a music CD, written 11 novels, fostered homeless cats, bought a house, etc.. I will do more great things, at least that's my intention. And while I still often think about mortality - mine and other people's - 'cause I can't help it, it generally doesn't drag me down as much as it used to.

I hope this post didn't depress anyone. I just wanted to share with you a part of me that is ever-present. That's what this little series is about, after all - giving you guys the chance to know me better!

A quick NaNo update:
I hit 40k last night. Specifically, 40,346.
I wrote over 18k this weekend (0 words on Friday).
I'm still loving my story.
I still have many "meaty" scenes to write.
I think it'll wind up being a good length.
And I lurve my characters.

p.s. This is my 500th post!!!!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Mina Lobo's Resurrection II & a NaNo update

Here I was, all ready to prepare my first "proper" NaNo '13 update, and suddenly I saw a link to another blogger's post for Mina Lobo's Resurrection II blogfest. Which I signed up for. So ummm, yeah, I forgot it was on, and for some reason I wrote the date down as having been yesterday (November 6th), but over at Mina's blog it very clearly says November 7th. So I guess I get to participate still! Phew, that was lucky!

Anyway, the thing about my blog is that I don't really write awesome posts that are meant to be recyclable. I just come here and puke out (sorry for the visual) whatever I'm thinking at the time. Or else I slap something on the page that is related to some blogfest or blog hop topic that somebody else came up with. Or I do my own self-imposed regular posts like my Globetrotters posts, my "Out & About Me" posts, etc.. Now, because it's NaNo time right now and I'm madly participating (well, not so madly, but definitely participating), I was gonna just link back to some old post about NaNo (like, from last year, 'cause I participated then too). But then I went back to my November posts and I saw one that I thought was very worth re-sharing. It's this one.

Lately I've talked more about my dad because of my travel posts - Dad took me on an 8-stop world trip when I was 17. But my mum just happens to be totally, completely awesome, and November is not only the month of NaNo, it's the month of my Saggi Mum's birthday. So I figured last year's post about Mum was a very fitting choice for resurrection. :)

Right, now that most of the post has been taken up with pure rambling which passes for participation in the very super awesome Mina Lobo's super-fun blogfest, I will spare a few lines to actually update you on NaNo, as originally intended:

I'm at 18,495 words.
I haven't been writing much, generally around 2-2.5k a day. For me, this isn't a lot.
I'm okay with not writing a lot, 'cause you know, I've been busy at work with huge due-by-year's-end projects, and also I have other stuff to do. Sometimes.
I am really loving my story, even if much of it is crap right now. The story itself is good, I think, so eventually the writing will become good to match the story.
For now, I spew forth and writing comes out.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

All I Want for NaNo ~ blog hop

From November 1-3, J. A. Bennett has been running the All I Want for NaNo blog hop, and here's what it's all about:

"I first heard about NaNoWriMo three years ago shortly after I started blogging. I thought people were nuts for even attempting to write 50k in a month. Yet, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try it out for myself. Since then, I’ve done NaNo (including camp NaNo) 4 times--this November will make 5.
Because of this, I’ve spent a considerable about of time on, and they’re doing some amazing stuff for people. I have a 14 yr old cousin who went to LTUE last year because NaNo came to his school, and he decided he really liked writing. If that isn’t awesome, I don’t know what is. 
In these past three years I’ve felt awful for not giving back when NaNo has been doing so much for writers everywhere. That’s why I decided to write an anthology with a few awesome friends and donate all the proceeds to NaNoWriMo." - J. A. Bennett

This blog hop requires that we post what we want for NaNo, and put a buy link to The Spirit of Christmas Anthology, as well as the blog hop code so people can visit all the other blogs that have participated. So, without further ado:

1. What I want for NaNo is to hit 50k once again, and to also keep working on revising my novella. Yeah, I really want to do both!

2. The Spirit of Christmas Anthology  - BUY

3. Here is the list:

Oh, and by the way - there are other prizes being given away, so check out J. A. Bennett's blog for more details!

P.S. It's the start of Day 3 of NaNo, and so far I'm at 5,720 words. I got a slow start because I didn't write anything on Day 1 - circumstances beyond my control! People turning 80, that sort of thing. :D - but I caught up on Day 2, and now it's Day 3 and I have yet to do most of the writing I want to do today.