Sleep, why dost thou leave me?

This quote is from a renaissance song by composer and lutenist John Dowland (poet unknown). Quite pertinent at the moment because my sleeping is not going well at the moment. DH is having similar problems. I think part of the reason is that the weather is bloody horrible. SO humid and hot. And it’s the end of March! When will it get cold? I’m lying awake dying slowly under the ceiling fan, sweating and uncomfortable and cursing climate change.

Aaaanyway. Nothing really to mention except that at the point of dropping off I had one of those wonderful flying dreams, and I was soaring through the universe, looking at the Earth as I flew backwards through space. Nice. And then I woke up again.

And another thing. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m a bit addicted to a terrible small game called Frozen. Yep, by Disney. Part luck, part skill, it involves doing¬†things with jewels. After spending a small fortune on it last year on my iPad I downloaded it onto my new phone. My key goal when playing is to not BUY any lives or extra time or turns. So far I’m succeeding but then I get stuck on a level that’s essentially impossible to complete without an extra few turns, and I have to wait for my daily gift. You see where I’m at now? It has become my life. Ugh. And I play it when I can’t sleep. Thus contributing to my disrupted sleep schedule because of the blue light thingy. And that’s it for today, folks.

. Frozen

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This is not a review of this book. I read it in one great gulp 2 nights ago during an insomniac episode. Couldn’t put it down. Read some reviews of it which were mostly a bit harsh. Anyway, I worked it out. The conceit, I mean. 

Gosh, Donna Tartt is clever. Too clever for her reviewers, that’s for sure. There’s a reason this book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2014. 

I was trying to work out what it was that was just a bit wrong about the book. Just a bit off. A bit overwrought, grandiose and false. I mean, all the coincidences, the strange unexplained episodes. The sheer near normal but not peculiarity of it. The love I felt for Theo even though he was essentially a liar, drug addict and thief. The romance, the yearning, the quest.

And there it was. It’s a picaresque novel. It’s absurdist, but grounded in enough truth that you have to look more closely to see the conceit. Like the painting by Fabritius on which the book hangs, from afar it looks real, delicate. Up close it’s just brush strokes. Donna Tartt was TEASING us. It was a joke. A long one, but there it is. 

Well done, Donna.

A call to arms.

Oh dear. It’s a Sunday. The weather here in south-east QLD is hot, humid, and very, very wet. There are no children about. This can mean only one thing for DH (darling husband) and me: shopping time!

DH has a problem with shoes. As I see it, he doesn’t have enough. Boots, lace-ups and one pair of thongs does not a happy wifey make. All those pairs of lovely shorts going to waste because bugalugs here doesn’t have a decent set of casual clodhoppers. The red Vans died about a year ago. But he’s still wearing them. They’re no good with shorts. And the white leather sneaker Seinfeld lookalike Nikes don’t count. He’s old enough to know that look died out in the late 80s along with puffy shirts and groomed mullets. And thongs are not appropriate for those casual lunch get togethers with friends at restaurants (this happens more often than one would think).

DH would disagree about the shoe quantity. But I’m a bit sick of him wearing lace-ups with jeans – it’s too much, people. He looks like my grandpa. Who died in 1979.

So today became an expedition. To the shopping mall we went. Apparently so did everyone else, but the Gods of Asphaltia were smiling on us today – we found a carpark first corner, about 20 metres from the entrance to our favourite mall. Huzzah!

This type of shopping often occurs after I have said something like: “that’s it, we’re not spending any more money until the house is finished”. It’s a call to arms. Into the breach we go, debit cards aloft and rampaging.

First stop Myer – there’s a shoe sale. DH complains that all the shoes make him look and feel old. There’s nothing I can say. He’s 53. Thirty minutes later after some strong-arm tactics by yours truly we’ve found him the perfect set of tan boat shoes and we’re off. boatshoes1

 

My turn next. It’s makeup at 30 paces (and a gift bag, awww) followed by three pairs of shoes for 3 different occasions. And it’s a sale. 50% off, folks. We’re killing it! Stopping briefly to refuel with a salad and a delicious hot cinnamon doughnut (mmm, doughnuts) we continue to work tops for me and finish the day with a triumphal purchase of champagne flutes at 40% off.

Well done, all! A champion three hours spending money. And home to quiet repose.

TV watching may be next, perhaps I’ll make scones with lashings of cream and jam, and we’ll have cups of tea. What a lovely way to spend a rainy, rainy, rainy Sunday.

 

 

 

Pesky narrative voice

I’m beginning to write short-form stories again but I have a problem with one of my narrative voices. He’s an abusive husband. POV-wise, I’m not sure I can accurately portray him. But he won’t go away. He’s hijacked my creative process! Sigh. I’m going to have to get him out of my system before moving on. He’s hung around for years. 

Anyone else have problems with their POV characters? Do they hijack your stories too? 

And another thing. What do people think of fan-fic? I’ve read some good stuff recently that in no way reads like fan-fic and I’m wondering, do these writers use the plots and characters of well-known films (Star Wars, true blood etc) as impetus for their creative flow or as a genuine tribute to that film? What gives? Personally I can’t see the point of fan-fic but I’m sure there’s one somewhere. 

Grumpy old ladies

Probably closer to sad sad ladies. 

Birthday last Thursday. Old. Bit depressed. Mid life crisis definitely in full blown mode. But before I could celebrate my age-related birthday misery 2 things happened to others that exceeded my misery by a factor of about a billion to one. 

A student’s parent attempted suicide that morning (unsuccessfully). My poor student was not really in a good place upon cancelling the singing lesson in order to go to the hospital where said parent was recovering. Shaking and tears. Poor lamb. The parent should recover with the appropriate care and help.

Then, during a lunch date, a good friend of mine told me she had recently separated from her abusive, mentally ill husband. But given she now has to deal with the separation shit, plus going back to work in a crappy hateful job that in no way makes use of her impressive academic research skills, plus dealing with his crazy, she is seriously depressed and miserable. I would be too, if I were in her position. 

Sad, sad day. Then, on Friday, Malcolm Fraser died. Totally awesome week all round. 

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Two days before my birthday, I always wanted it to fall on St Patrick’s Day instead, in the sad and mistaken belief that sharing my special day with one million drunken Australian louts dressed in vomit green was a good thing.

No need. But for all of you determined to enjoy the day, here’s a lucky clover for you. Have a great one!

st-patricks-day2

Yesterday was a good day

Yesterday was a good day. Here’s why.

I decided not to apply for a job that, for all intents and purposes, had my name on it.

Reasons? Too far away from DH, house renovations, togetherness.

Felt good not to do something just because it looked like a thing to do. I immediately felt much better.

DH made me roast brisket for a birthday dinner. It was delicious. We still eat together round the table on Sunday nights when the kids are here. Sometimes Friday nights too. I like it.

DH then gave me a Fitbit for my early birthday present. I’m wearing it right now. It tells me I had a good sleep. Although since I turned on sleep mode BEFORE I turned out the light I’m not sure how useful the 1st 20 minutes were, particularly as they look the same as all the other parts of my sleep.

These were all good things.

And today is the first day of the rest of my life. So now I’m going to the gym.

Thinking about those goals again…

About 5 weeks ago I wrote about some goals I was thinking of aiming for, mostly to do with my personal and career goals. I was thinking at the time that I’d like to write. Maybe a fiction novel, or create a book out of my thesis. A cabaret. Or some journal articles, even.

The other thing I thought of doing was applying for a gig as a singing lecturer down south. But as time has rolled by, I had to explain to my DH just today that, actually, I don’t WANT to be a lecturer of singing, especially not down south, where I’d be away from him and our house and our life together. He has been super supportive about this job application – urging me to apply – but I just don’t want to go for it. I don’t really want to be teaching at all, if I can avoid it. It’s not that I can’t teach, I can, really very well. But I’m burnt out from it. And as much as I enjoy Musical Theatre, and as much as I love singing, I’m finding a new energy for writing.

I’ve been writing in this blog for several years, mostly agonizingly self-indulgent little pieces about my research and the sheer craziness of doing a PhD. Now I think I’d like to make forays into fiction again. I was always quite a good fiction writer although I’m not sure I like my narrative voice very much. I tend to write best when I create a narrative voice and prose style that is sparser than the one I use for my stream-of-consciousness one you see here. Actually, I’m a bit of a bower bird: I can mimic quite passably the narrative voice of any number of good writers. But as with academic writing, my best work comes from finding my authorial voice and creative muse.

So, as the weeks go by since I got the PhD email, I’m turning once more to reading and writing. Lots of it. I’m thinking short stories and small scenes first. To rebuild my creative writing chops. And, no, I don’t think I’ll go do yet another course on how to write – I’m done studying for now!

I’m not out of the woods yet – I am clearly in some sort of mid-life crisis, one that thankfully does not involve buying a sports car or dallying with a younger version of my DH – but the panic is over.

I’m taking time to think.

Also, I have a house and body to renovate.

Review: Skylights, by Luther M. Siler

I’m writing this review for a fellow blogger – Luther M. Siler – who has recently published a sci-fi space opera/crime-fic/robot wars novel. It’s very good. He blogs at infinitefreetime.com and is a teacher-educator-administrator somewhere in the USA. Probably middle America. He is an Apple fan-boi, so we have something in common.

The stars are shining for Skylights!

Luther M. Siler is a prolific blogger I stumbled upon last year and I’ve always enjoyed his small stories about his work life. He writes well, with a keen eye for detail and life’s absurdities. He gratifyingly rarely makes prose errors or spelling mistakes. His style is modern POV, and deeply, deeply funny – and at times surprisingly poignant. Being a sci-fi mini-fanboi, when I read about his new space opera novel Skylights I knew I was destined to read it. I even bought the Kindle edition. Now, given I’m not normally impressed by self-published novels as they can often be appallingly written tripe, I was enjoyably surprised by the quality of Skylights. Siler began this novel by entering the popular and growing NaNoWriMo, winning it in 2008 with this novel.

Let’s begin with the pace and prose. This novel is well written. Laconic, ironic humour laced with some brilliant one-liners and great dialogue, Siler walks a nice line between descriptive writing and action writing. His writing style is unobtrusive and well-edited. Good writing often is; you know it’s good when you’ve finished the novel and you can’t remember when you started reading. I’m a fast reader and Siler’s fast-paced silken prose suits my style. I didn’t get caught up over awkward phrases or phony lines. It just worked.

To the plot. Well, ok, this is always going to be hard. It’s Sci-fi, you know? Therefore a reasonable suspending of disbelief is required when reading the stuff. But it’s fine here. The plot in this space opera is pretty good and mostly believable. The plot is a straight forward chronology, tightly focused on a single team of astronauts travelling to Mars on a recon and rescue mission, and the surprise they fly into. Siler’s understanding of pace and climax, plot twists, cliff-hanger chapter endings, and climactic battle scenes are all fine. The exposition is a little long in comparison with the remainder of the novel, but not tiresomely so – it’s just when you get to the end you realise how much exposition there was. From my perspective this makes the novel just a little unbalanced.

Siler sticks to what he knows about current science and this serves him well. A light touch of the absurd includes tech objects such as i-lids (I’m not explaining this, you’ll have to read the book), BLINKS (hilarious, Siler), and auto-cars, all based on readily available technology, and scarily prescient, I suspect. He also reveals a healthy skepticism about wireless networking, reminding me somewhat of the 2003 Battlestar Galactica series premise. I hear you, Luther.

Characters are well drawn, and I particularly like Gabe and Ezekiel’s cheeky x- and y-gen personas, if for no other reason than they seem authentic. Zvi is an hilariously over the top rendition of a typical stern soldier type, and intended to be a nice foil for his mad-scientist gen-y nephew Zub (Ezekiel). Siler’s writing of women is a little more problematic, given a slight gamer preference for ridiculously GOOD-looking curvy doctors, however at least they are not pneumatic in the way Huxley’s Brave New World paints women. The two women – Kathryn and Celeste, apart from their ridiculously GOOD-looking exteriors, seem like normal, sensible, clever humans who have as much air time as the other characters. Whew, that’s a relief. It’s apparent from Siler’s writing that he has been influenced by a generation of well-written modern sci-fi in which women are, well, fine, if somewhat ridiculously GOOD-looking.

Finally, it’s clear from Siler’s writing style that he is a problem solver. Much of his writing style revolves around fixing stuff, making stuff, wondering how and why stuff works the way it does. He’s a bit of a McGyver, and this is appealing, because sci-fi fans want to know how stuff might work. At the same time I’d like a couple more things from Siler. The first is: more about the living conditions aboard Johannes. I know it falls under the realm of exposition, but with all the problem solving about what’s needed for all the living, we then didn’t get to live it. The second is, dammit Siler, you finished this novel on a cliff-hanger! I need the next novel NOW!

This is a most enjoyable novel, and well worth the tiny $5.00 for an easy day’s read. If you love sci-fi space opera, crime-fic and robot-wars, you will love this novel. 4 stars. You can find the book on Kindle Australian Amazon here.