Four Kids

When people ask me what it is like having four kids under five, I tell them that it is like being a Triage Nurse in an Emergency Department.

You know the one.  S/he is the gatekeeper who decides which cases are the most important.  So when my son broke his arm, the Triage nurse sent him straight through to the Emergency Doctor.  Even though he had only just arrived, the nurse decided his case was more important than Mr Forty with an unexplained rash or Ms Seven with a pea up her nose.

That is my life at the moment.  I am an Emergency room Triage nurse.

Let me illustrate.

I am sitting on the couch feeding my youngest.  Child A says he’s hungry.  Child C says she wants a drink of milk.  Child B wants me to read a story.

I triage and read the story while feeding the baby.  The others must wait then I get child C her milk (because thirst trumps hunger) and then get Child A their snack.

Or the house is a mess and one child is wearing no pants but another child is crying from a bump and the baby needs a change and another child wants to tell me about a bug he just found.

I first comfort the crying child, then change the baby nappy while listening to the bug story, then I find the pants and assist the child to put them back on.  The house remains a mess.

Or One child wants a push on the swing while another is wearing no pants and another wants a drink and the baby is awake.

So I get a drink for the thirsty child and put the baby on the mat outside while I push the other child on the swing but wait I forgot the pants just wait a minute darling I’ll be back in a minute I just need to dress your brother/sister.

And of course, different things take precedent at different times.  If someone is coming over then tidying and wearing pants goes straight to the top of the triage list.

But then sometimes one child is reading a story while another is singing to the baby and another is telling me the names of all the train stations from Belgrave to the City.

And then it is just the best.


2017 Writing Lessons- The Power of Distance

It says something about the start of 2018 that I am only just getting around to this post.  Blogging has once again dropped down my list of priorities, as I navigate life with 4 kids and settle my boys into a new kinder year.  But I am keen to blog, and I thought the best way to start the year was to give you a picture of how my writing life has been tracking.

2016 ended with the excitement of knowing that I had actually finished something.  A full first draft of “The Librex”; my first novel.  There were no such exciting milestone’s last year. Yet 2017 was probably one of the most significant years in my writing life.  I decided to take a little break from my work-in-progress (WIP) to work on other projects.  I though it would be prudent to do some more formal learning, so I enrolled in an on-line Fantasy writing course.

The lessons that I learnt last year will be crucial tools in the years to come.

One of those lessons was the power of distance.

One of the most repeated suggestions for editing a first draft is that you need to have a break from it to get some perspective.  That distance can help you to see it in a realistic light.  But having just finished my first ever novel draft I was itching to work on it, to make it better, to bring it closer to the stage where I might actually be able to get it published.  But I made myself promise to leave it alone for three months, while my sister and husband read through it and gave me their feedback.

That three months became six months because my husband was still finishing off his feedback.

Then six months became almost a year because editing is soul-crushing and writing from scratch is much more fun.

But as 2018 begins, I am beginning to edit.  And I am amazed at how helpful a bit of distance has been in how I edit my novel.  I am willing to scrap. I am willing to change. I have the gained the ability to read my work almost as if it wasn’t me who wrote it.

A year ago, changing the name of a character seemed impossible because I-love-that-name-I-picked-it-because-of-XYZ-He-Just-Couldn’t-Be-Called-Anything-Else.  Now I am willing to cut characters, scenes and events, because I am more committed to what the book can be, than to what I originally wrote.

Though changing the name of that character is still heart-breaking!

I may not always have the time or opportunity to get a years break from a writing project.  But I’ve found a little distance is a great gift to the editing process.

Review: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth


Reading books is an absorbing experience for me.  I find it very hard, in the middle of reading a new story, to put it down and return to the real world.  Reading new books usually involves sneaking off to my room to avoid interruptions, nights of “just one more chapter” insomnia, and doing all my daily task and human relating through a fog of other-worldliness.

So as much as I love diving into new fiction, I have to pick and choose when is the right time to do it.

Walking through the seaside town of Lorne on holidays, I walked into a bookstall and saw Veronica Roth’s new book “Carve the Mark”.  It had been on a list of “Most anticipated YA books of 2017”.  That was enough for me to get it, and my family had spacey-other world Belinda for the next day and a half.

I had enjoyed Veronica Roth’s first ever novel Divergent, though the subsequent novels in that series had lacked a bit of the originals spark.

But Carve the Mark is a much more complex, clever, and entertaining than her previous books.

Carve the Mark takes place in space, on a series of planets that are part of the “current”.  The “current”, which appears as a visible coloured line in the sky, runs through people and is viewed as almost a spiritual essence.  It can power ships, it can be used in weapons, and it even causes flowers to bloom at the right time.

When every child in the galaxy comes of age they receive a “current” gift, an super-natural ability that comes from the current and continues with them for the rest of their lives.

The book follows two main characters, shy Akos of the Thuvhesit and Cyra of the Shotet.  They are two people groups, living on the same planet, and great enemies.  When Akos and his brother are kidnapped and held captive by the Shotet royal family, these two characters are forced together and must decide if they will remain enemies or will work together.

Cyra’s  current gift that doesn’t feel like a gift at all.  The current exists as pain on her skin, she is in constant agony and whenever she touches a person that pain get’s past on to that person.  This “gift” would be terrible enough fate, but as the sister of the tyrant ruler of the Shotet, her gift is used as a means of control and torture.

But Akos’ own current gift could prove to be the solution she has been craving.

I loved Carve the Mark.  It is such a creative, different world.  The concept of character’s developing magical skills when they come of age is not new in Fantasy stories, but the idea of the current’s role and the sheer scope of unusual manifestations is one of the highlights of the book.

The two main characters come from warring enemies, with negative views of the cultures they have observed from afar.  But as the two observe each other, they see a different side to the culture they have loathed, and to take a more critical eye to their own deep-seated prejudice.

A key example of this is the “mark” in the title.  The Shoet people carve a tattoo to mark every life they have taken.  For Akos with his preconceived notion of this “warrior” race, he viewd this as an aggressive boast.  Yet as time goes on, he learns to appreciate it, as he sees the appropriateness of having a physical and ceremonial acknowledgement of the cost of taking a life.

The highlight for me was the unique cultures of the book, how their histories informed their practices, and particularly how each had such a different take of the role of the current in their lives.  The book has faced some criticism of racism based on some misunderstanding of the basis of the two main races.  Veronica’s response is worth reading not only for her humble, thoughtful reply, but also for the insight into her process of creating the languages of the people.  Her post has helped me think more carefully about the way I create cultures within my own series.

My bug-bare is that while this book is the first in a series, there was no indicator on the book that it wasn’t a stand-alone book.  It is frustrating to get to the last page of a book and say, “Wait a minute, you mean they are not going to resolve that?” The ending would have been much more satisfying if I had been prepared for it.

It is very much a young adult book, filled with teenage hormones and complicated romance.  I found those aspects of the Divergent series not particularly subtly done, and while Carve the Mark was a step up, it still jarred occasionally.  The concept of two enemies learning to respect and then care for each other is not new, but the way Veronica uses their gifts and cultures in their relationship is entertaining and new.

As someone who has friends who struggle with chronic pain conditions, it was helpful to get a window into the life of Cyra and to see the impact of her “gift” on her.  Veronica even acknowledges her friends with chronic pain at the end of the book as the ones who inspired her to write of Cyra.  But I did have some hesitation about this connection.  Chronic pain is a difficult thing for much of the community to grasp.  I worry that some of the story elements of the gift (that it is somehow ‘chosen’ by Cyra and the ‘romantic’ source of relief), makes trite  a very serious and debilitating reality.

If you liked Divergent, or if you just like Young Adult/Teenage books with a little with a fantasy and/or space thrown in, then I recommend Carve the Mark as an entertaining example of the genre, and a very enjoyable way to loose yourself for a few days.

The first fear hurdle

Dreams are delightful.  They start when you are young.  For me it was always the dream to be a famous author.  When I realised I didn’t have the face for TV/Movies, or the voice for singing, I was left with writing.  But don’t misunderstand me, it was not the poor cousin!  Writing was the best of the lot.  Books were magical. They transported you into a new persons head and let you live out their interesting/scary/powerful/exciting lives.  The idea that I could make such a power object was a rather delightful fantasy, even as a small child.

And dreams are a lovely distraction.  Walking along my leafy street, pushing a heavy pram filled with heavy children, it is wonderful to dream of a possible future time where people might want to read my books.  Of book-signings and fans and travel and money.  And even knowing the reality that at least number 4 is unlikely to happen, it is still delightful to dream.

And the beautiful thing about writing a novel is, that for most of its creation there is no one to question your dream.  There is no objective voice saying “I’m not sure you are really capable of this task.”

And then you finish.

On the 1st of Jan this year, I stood by the desk at Officeworks, chatting with a friendly shop assistant about why I wanted two bound, identical copies of my 400 page document.

“I wrote a novel.”

“Oh, really, I want to read it.”  She grins and turns to the screen between us

“No, don’t.  I’m embarrassed.  It’s only a first draft” I splutter, throwing up my hands to block my words.  She frowns and nods, and then begins to interrogate me about how one goes about getting such a thing published.

I answer, the awkwardness of the exchange fading.  But it hit me then what it meant to be finished.  Suddenly my novel wasn’t just my novel, and my dreams weren’t just a fun distraction from the ordinariness of life.  My novel and my dreams were going to be tested.

I have taken the first step of that testing, passing those 400 pages on to my sister and my husband.  And as much as I love them and they love me, it was a terrifying step.  There has been helpful and painful feedback, in fact some of the most helpful feedback has been encased in some painful truths.  But this is only the beginning.  Not just for my novel but for the short stories that I am currently writing.  They will be sent out to magazines, and according to every authors biography that I have ever read, they will be rejected.  And people who have no interest or investment in my dreams will read my novel and decide that it is “not a good fit” or worse, “not of a publishable quality.”

There is a great deal of fear that I must push to through if I am ever going to get my novel published.

One hurdle down.  Many, many more to go.

Welcome to my new blog.  This blog will be a reflection on writing, some reviews and reflections on books and television, and bits of everyday life as well. Thanks for reading 🙂