Still Getting Back into the Swing of Writing

I notice my last post was written in April this year — five months ago. Seems a lot longer to me. Things continue to be difficult, draining, and I continued to not write.

However, thoughts of writing remain with me. I find myself looking at book covers and wondering if The Lion Gods or Domino Effect would suit them. Scenes of their plots play out in my mind. Character faces (how I imagined them when I wrote about them) pop up unexpectedly for a fleeting moment. Difficult scenes I need to write twirl around and fly away. I’ve even found myself on Pinterest reading writing tips and saving them to my writing board.

The urge to write is growing. I feel it will happen soon. It makes me happy to think and believe this to be true.

October will be the start of (another) new chapter for me. Between now and then I will move (again). When I unpack my belongings, which have been boxed up and stored away for over three years, I will hopefully be living in my forever home.

I intend to set up a writing space for myself. I have promised myself that when I get that space, I will write.

I will write!

Yes, I will write. My plan is to start with a short period of time, or a low word count. 10 minutes a day sounds good to start with. No pressure. Then I will allow myself to increase that to half an hour and eventually to an hour a day. The promise I made to myself does not go beyond that. One hour a day. No pressure. I want to write because I want to, because I have a story to share. Not because I have to.

Roll on October. 😀

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Two Years Later

Hello world!

Two years has passed since my last post. Two whole years, filled with so much I hardly know where to begin.

For now, I will settle for saying hello and doing some much needed housework around this website. I have already selected a new theme. I hope you like it. It suits my needs, but I think, in time, I’ll inject some colour into it to liven it up a bit. I will make some tweaks over the next few days, fix links, and some pages that seemed to have gone astray with the long neglect imposed on them.

Later, I will write a post to let you know what I’ve been through and where I’m headed. But not today. Today is the start of my new future. I’m told it can be anything I want it to be. I’m still thinking about it so I’ll let you know soon.

So, again, hello world. I hope you’re well and happy. What’s been happening?

Semi-Online and Forging a New Routine

The last three months has seen my entire life change. Sadly, Dad passed away at the end of June from lung cancer. Those last few weeks were horrible, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget certain details from that period. The pain. The confusion. The acceptance. The moment I realised he was gone.

Then the changes started. Moving house. Transferring location at work. Forging new routines. Learning to cope with Mum’s condition and the constant questions. It hasn’t been easy. In fact, at times I found myself sitting staring at the floor consumed with thoughts that scared me. But, like all bad situations, there were teething problems but it is settling down now.

My only constant during this time is that I have found time to read. I finished “The Lavender Keeper” by Fiona McIntosh, which was a brilliant book set in WWII. Thoroughly enjoyed it. I also finished “Wanted” (A Leopold Blake Thriller) by Nick Stephenson, which reminded me of The Da Vinci Code without the history lessons (and believe me when I say that’s a compliment). Currently, I’m reading “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. Many people that I trust recommended this book to me. At first, I found the backstory annoying, even though it is a large part of the plot, however, the storyline is quite twisted and I’m so engrossed in it now that I find it hard to stay away from. I look forward to seeing the movie when I’ve completed the book.

Anyway, I set up my laptop yesterday and here I am … checking on things, writing updates, sifting through emails, catching up with news.

I don’t think I’ll have the same internet experience anymore, not like I used to. I just don’t have the time. But I will write updates when I can. And I will attempt to start writing book reviews once more, but no promises.

And, no, I haven’t written during this time, but I have found myself thinking about my works-in-progess. If time permits, I think I’ll try to dedicate that time to finishing those works-in-progress rather than spending time on other activities.

Going Offline for an Indefinite Period

back-soonIn coming weeks, due to family illness and a need for me to become the primary carer, I will be moving in with my parents for an indefinite period of time. They don’t have the internet connected and due to the circumstances (my father has lung cancer and my mother has early dementia) I will not be pushing to change this.

I may be able to access emails from another location, but it will not be often, so I am going to say that even emails will not reach me.

Yes, I will be totally internet free for several months. Yes, it will feel weird, but we will have more important things on our minds.

Eventually, more permanent decisions will have to be made. I envision this to be two or three months down the track, at the earliest. And I suspect I will be relocating permanently at that time. This will mean lots of changes; selling my home and my furniture, making arrangements where my job is concerned, new routines, new priorities, but I’ll face that when I get to it.

Right now, I am spending time pulling back from anything that can be put on a back-burner, including writing. I have spent hours unsubscribing to websites and newsletters (I don’t want to log in to my email in six months time to discover 1,000s of emails sitting there waiting for me). I have loaded heaps of ebooks on to my iPad in anticipation of having time to read in the evenings (I won’t be able to take a multitude of books with me, so this is a fabulous option). I have prepared this website so it can be left unattended.

I will return. Not sure exactly when, but when decisions have been made and put into action, and when I am settled in then I will return to the internet. Until then, I hope life is good to you.

Game Review: Heavy Rain

Heavy Rain PS3 CoverThe image and description are courtesy of Wikipedia.

Description:

Heavy Rain is an interactive action-adventure psychological thriller video game created by French developer Quantic Dream exclusively for the PlayStation 3. The game is written and directed by Quantic Dream’s founder and CEO David Cage. Heavy Rain‘s story is a dramatic thriller modelled after film noir, featuring four protagonists involved with the mystery of the Origami Killer, a serial killer who uses extended periods of rainfall to drown his victims.

Ethan Mars is trying to save his son from being the next victim, while investigative journalist Madison Paige, FBI profiler Norman Jayden, and private detective Scott Shelby are each trying to track down clues to the Origami Killer’s identity. The player interacts with the game by performing actions highlighted on screen related to motions on the controller, and in some cases, performing a series of quick time events during fast-paced action sequences. The player’s decisions and actions during the game will affect the narrative. The main characters can be killed, and certain actions may lead to different scenes and endings.

Review:

Now this game was totally not what I expected. It was a Christmas gift from my son, who thought it was a ‘shoot-em-up’ game. He knows I enjoy that type of game and he told me that’s what he got me. So when I started playing that’s what I thought I was going to be doing. You know, shooting everything that moved, as well as the normal things that don’t move. In other words, shooting everything and anything!

But it’s not a ‘shoot-em-up’ game. It’s an interactive movie. That’s the best way I can explain it. At first I was thinking get on with the shooting but then I was drawn into the storyline and settled back and…well, I interacted.

Strangely, I was captivated. It’s like I (the player) was the director and I made the decisions on how the characters would react and what questions they would ask. I could have (and did) make some of the characters do good things and some, well, not so good. The decisions I made had an effect on the outcome of the story. The main characters can die if you can’t get them through certain scenarios and you gather less clues if you’re slow in responding too.

I literally spend hours at a time watching and playing as the storyline unfolded. I found myself eager to return to the ‘game’ whenever I turned it off. I wanted to know what would happen next. I wanted to solve the murders and work out who the murderer was. And, when the story ended, I was pleased to discover that if I play again and make different decisions then the ending will be different.

This is not a fast-paced game with earth shattering explosions every second of play. It’s a well thought out game that will have you totally focused on what’s happening on the scene. It’s a brilliant game that I wouldn’t have purchased for myself if I had read the reviews for it first. But it’s a game I’m certainly glad I’ve had the opportunity to participate with and enjoy.

I recommend this game.

Main Website Problems

In April this year, my main website experienced a sudden jump in bandwidth usage. It went from the normal 2gb per month to over 5gb in a couple of hours, which caused the site to go offline. My host gave me some extra bandwidth and two days later I was offline again.

Upon the end of the month, start of May, my website came back online. However, ten days later 7gb had been used and I was shoved offline yet again. My host gave me another gigabyte and before the end of the day I was offline until a few days ago.

I don’t expect to be online for long!

My investigations have shown that Googlebot is the culprit. These necessary evils have been coming to my site and, after 100,000 hits in a matter of hours, causing my website to go offline. It really is frustrating.

Research have instructed me to do multiple things to fix the problem, but nothing (yet) has worked. My resolve to fight is waning and now my thoughts are turning to moving my domain to a host that gives me unlimited bandwidth, because that will definitely solve the problem once and for all.

Yes, the host I’m with has such a plan, but it’s expensive. I can move elsewhere and get six years of unlimited bandwidth for the price of one with them. My gut is telling me to start packing!

With six months already paid for, I will wait and see what happens this month. If I do go offline, and I’m 99% sure I will, then I will start the moving process. Because, in all honesty, what’s the point of having a website if it’s not accessible to anyone, including me?

And, I might add, this is the reason I have a backup website. I have and will continue to post here while trying to sort out the problem with the main website.

A Stroke in Life

Life is short. This is something we are told regularly, but – in truth – I believe we don’t take much notice of this saying. When I was a kid, a year seemed like a lifetime! It took forever to go from the first day of term to the last, let alone getting to the summer holidays. I always believed we lived forever (even though I knew this was not a reality). But as I got older, the years went faster. Much faster. It was almost as if the years became shorter somehow.

It wasn’t until I lost my son almost six years ago that I realised how short life really is. But then you never truly know anything until it smacks you in the face. Not really. I became complacent and allowed the knowledge to start slipping away. Until … Wednesday, the 25th of January.

When I had a stroke.

Don’t worry is was only minor, but I did suffer a bit of brain damage … again, only minor. Nothing that is noticeable. I was extremely lucky!

My specialist said that next time I might not be so lucky. Now that is scary. Hopefully there won’t be a next time, but I’m not going to take any chances and for that reason I am following instructions and have been injecting myself and making myself very, VERY sick.

I have a blood disorder called Essential Thrombocytosis. This means something inside me isn’t working properly and I’m making red blood cells constantly. I’ve been on tablet medication for about 18 months. It worked to begin with but then not so much. My blood count started climbing again, I had the stroke and now I have to go on injections (twice a week) in an effort to bring the numbers down to a safe level again.

Thing is, the injections make me sick for at least two days. As I have two injections a week, this means I’m sick for four days a week, but this past week I’ve been sick all week. I’m told my body will get used to the injections, but it will take about six weeks. I’m in my third week. Half way there. But the side affects are numerous – headaches, shivering, fever, aches and pains, confusion, depression, weakened eye sight, hair loss, fatigue, nausea and some other things it doesn’t seem right to put here. I have all these symptoms. It can also cause the patient to feel suicidal, anorexic and have breathing difficulties. So far, I do not have these symptoms.

It doesn’t sound bad in writing but just as I start to feel a little better, the next injection is due and I slip all the way to the bottom again. And I’m finding it more difficult to hold on to the fact that this is meant to be short term. But I’ll get there. I just remind myself how bad it could have been, and that helps me move forward.

My life has changed since the injections started. I don’t have a life. I go nowhere and do nothing because I’m too sick. I do go to work when I feel I can (this week that was only on Monday). Surprisingly, I have managed to do some writing. Never much in any one sitting, but at least I am putting some words down. And I have stayed on top of major projects. I hope I can keep that up over the next few weeks too.

When my body adjusts, I hope to have a healthier lifestyle and not have to worry about the possibility of another stroke. For now, I will just push on through and hope the next injection – due tomorrow – will not be as intense as the previous ones.

Paperbacks v Digital Books

There was a time in the not so distant past when I clearly remember believing paperbacks would always be my preferred reading source. I love books. I love reading. It’s the one thing I do constantly in my life and have done since I was a very young child. Books are important to me.

I love the feel of them. I love the smell of them. I love seeing them lined up in a book case, showing their vivid colours and inviting me to jump into their secret worlds. These things cannot be said about digital books.

I love walking into someone else’s home and viewing their books of choice scattered around the place. It hints at the type of person they are, the imagination they might have. It’s possible to spy reference books which tells you of that person’s interests too. And in moments of quiet, they allow you to point to a book and ask them about it … which may well lead to a very interesting conversation. Again, these things cannot be said about digital books.

I love walking into a book shop and browsing the shelves of unknown authors, never before seen covers. Picking them up and flipping them over to read the (hopefully) catchy blurb on the back. Will it intrigue me enough to want to read it? Or does it sound boring or too serious for me, which will make me put it back on the shelf? At the risk of repeating myself, this cannot be said about digital books.

Yet, with all this said and done, I can’t help but prefer to read books in digital format these days. In 2011 most of the books I read were digital. 2012 has only just started, but my reading list comprises of digital books only so far. I have a beautiful wooden bookcase in my bedroom, filled with wonderful books. I want to read them all. They deserve my time, but I feel pulled to my reading device.

It’s a small object really. Most people would lift an eye brow and scoff at reading on it. They mumble things like “small screen” and “eye strain” but I always assure them that the size of the screen is not noticed and I’ve never had eye strain whilst using it.

Perhaps it’s my personal circumstances that make reading this way more attractive. Our lounge room has no lighting except for a single lamp. Reading in the evening is difficult due to shadows across the pages. To avoid the shadow I must sit in an uncomfortable position. I’ve tried using a book lamp but it was more trouble than it was worth, to say the least. However, when I use my reading device I can sit anywhere I want, however I want because the backlight on the screen is just right (for me) for reading.

If I can’t sleep, I can sit in bed and read in comfort. If I want to sit in the garden, I can. I can read on the train, and can swap and change between books if I want to. I can take a selection of books with me on vacation or to work or to the hospital. There’s no weight, no storage problems. If there’s a power source, I can plug in and read. If not, the battery lasts for an entire week if all I’m doing is reading on the device.

I have purchased ebooks from online bookshops, but there is no personality and no feeling of belonging. Shopping in the virtual world is not as good as shopping in the physical world. I still want to browse books, pick them up and flick through the pages, read the blurb and make a decision. But I think when the decision is made I’d like to be able to go up to the counter and say I want the digital version.

Bookshops need to get with the times, and I believe this is starting to happen, but it’s not something I’ve seen for myself. Bookshops draw booklovers to them, so why not entice the booklover to walk out of the shop with a book in hand (be that paperback or digital). Instead of denying the existence of an ever changing world, merge with it and grow.

People will continue to buy printed books, but more and more people are swapping to digital reading. Once, I would have vocalised loudly about the need for paperbacks, but now I find myself vocalising more loudly about reading itself, not the format it’s done in.

My Favourite Fiction Books for 2011

It seems to be the ‘in thing’ to write about your favourite books for the past year. And who am I to go against the grain. Of course, your favourite books are not ones you’ve heard about or like the cover of, they are fiction books you’ve actually read.

Here is my list of favourite books for 2011:

1. Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb
2. Full Circle by Pamela Freeman
3. Hater by David Moody
4. A God-Blasted Land by Lee Carlon
5. The Broken Thing by Peter Swift

The first two books on my list are the final books in a series. It was difficult to determine which of the two would make it to the top of the list, but ultimately Hobb’s The Rain Wild Chronicles was read more recently so had a better imprint on my mind. The first two books of Freeman’s Castings Trilogy were read over two years ago and the story was not as vivid in my mind. However, having said that, both series were excellent and highly recommended.

The next book on the list, Moody’s Hater, was a good zombie type story that told of how our world (as we know it) might end tomorrow. I could relate to the main character and for that reason felt a strong connection to the story.

The fourth book on the list is Carlon’s A God-Blasted Land, which is a post-apocalyptic story. It’s a story where the characters ‘spoke’ to me and I loved the unexpected twists and turns.

And, last but not least, is Swift’s The Broken Thing, which is a scary story for younger readers. I love reading books for younger people and this book appealed to me from the moment I saw it.

I’d like to point out at this stage that I am not a fast reader, but I do consider myself to be an avid reader. I read most days, even if it’s only a couple of pages. I’d love to read more and faster, but that’s just not me.

I would also like to point out that I will read books by any author – well known, unknown, big publisher printed, indie printed. It makes no difference to me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not about how famous the author is, it’s all about the story and what it does for the reader. And two books on my list are written and released by the author. Those two books were more enjoyable (for me) than some of the ‘big names’ I read this year, such as Terry Pratchett and Cornelia Funke.

Before I end this post, I’d like to give an honourable mention to one other book – Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter. It’s a short non-fiction book on how to write fight scenes and it’s written especially well and gives the reader the confidence to write the fight right.

That’s my list of favourite fiction books for 2011. What are yours?

Ripping Ozzie Reads Interview

It was an honour to be interviewed by Ripping Ozzie Reads in the last few days. Being a quiet person by nature, I feel totally “out in the open” right now. It feels strange to bring my personal life and writing life together and just be me for a change, to share the emotional journey through to the end result – Hope.

Each day brings a smile to my face when I discover another book (or two) has been sold. It makes the long hours and sometimes stressful times totally worth it. Finally, I feel like I have done something worthwhile and will help other families avoid the loss I endured. My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who made this possible.

Hope is beginning to make an appearance on the world wide web. It is now available in paperback and ebook versions on Amazon and will soon be available through other online bookstores.