Monday, December 8, 2014

To overcome

I’m having troubles with the internet today, specifically my broadband connection simply stopped and I’ve had very little success with the service provider so I still don’t know what’s wrong. So I’m using a mobile wifi device which I’ve used before, but I’m having connection problems with that too – at least I am on my computer – so this blog post is being written in word and I’ll copy/paste it into the blog tomorrow I hope.
It’s exasperating and annoying, and it has driven me just that little bit lower than I already was. That black hole is waiting to suck me in and I’m partway there. Depression, it’s something that never exactly goes away. It’s always waiting in the wings to seize on any reason to envelop the sufferer in a black cloud. The cloud is heavy, hard to carry around and makes the sufferer exhausted. It’s difficult to do anything when you’re depressed, it takes almost all of the energy and leaves only enough to put on the mask of capability each day. There’s little left to actually achieve anything.
So why am I depressed? Sometimes it doesn’t take a reason, sometimes the trigger is a relatively minor thing. This time I suspect it’s because I’ve almost finished procrastinating about the book and will soon be sending it to publishers and agents. I’ve done the first edit, and I’ve made a (valid) decision to change something about one of the characters that I will have to make sure is changed right through the book. Once that’s done I won’t have any reason not to send it to my sister for her eagle eye to go over it. I’ll be writing the dreaded synopsis and then Zora’s Dawn will be ready to go out there.
That’s what’s causing it of course, not exactly sending it off but the ‘what ifs’. Not the positive ones, the ones that make me imagine being able to afford to live and perhaps living in a place where everything actually works. No it’s the other side of the coin, the fear of failure. Because if this book fails I don’t know what to do, how to make a living. This book is what I’ve been putting all my hopes into and if it fails….
Now if I was on an upswing, I’d be reminding myself that I can go the self publish road if necessary and I’ve learned a lot about that from the little books I’ve got out there (which by the way do sell, admittedly not many and not enough to make much money, but they do sell consistently). I’d be reminding myself that I haven’t even sent the book off yet, and I’d be giving myself a pep talk on my writing ability and generally lifting myself up.
But I’m not on an upswing, and I can’t, not right now, lift myself up. I’m scared, terrified that this will fail, and worried about what I will do if I fail. Depression loves fear, it feeds off it and grows bigger and bigger. And now it’s this dense black cloud that has descended on me so heavily that I don’t know how to throw it off. I will of course, in time. I always do. But until I do it’s a struggle to get through every day, a struggle to accomplish anything. Editing has been so hard, and I dithered about the change I’m going to make, not wanting to make the effort. But I really need to do it; now that I’ve reimagined this part of this character I’ve realised that it will work much better in future books in the series.
So for now I’m focusing on making this change to the book, focusing on the synopsis and trying really really hard to not think about the future. Depression, it loves you to look at the future and tell you there is not one, not for you. It loves to tell you that there is nothing for you so stop striving, stop trying, stop dreaming, stop hoping, stop being positive. There’s not point to it. That’s depression, a real party killer!
Now I know my mother reads this blog, so mum don’t worry. I’ve been down this road many times and I always find my way back and I will this time too. I just need a bit of time to work through it. And to the rest of you, same same. I will be back with a new blog soon and it will be much more upbeat, promise. Looking on the bright side, there is a silver lining to this depression; it’s great writing fodder. My main character will be going through it in the second book of the series. Not because I am but because of what she witnesses.
Do I suffer from depression because I am a writer? Do all artistic types have this personality glitch? Do we create because of this, or does this come with the creative package? I really don’t know. I’ve always had this black cloud. I used to try to explain it to family when I was younger and that was the best way I could think of to put it. My black cloud descends on me without warning and darkens the colour of my thoughts and makes the outside world seem frightening. When it lifts the world is brighter and I am lighter.

I will get through this, I promise.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

'Tis the season

Why isn't she posting?? I hope you are asking this question anyway. I haven't been posting mainly because I've had a sinus issue and a hormone issue. If you're a man you'll not understand the hormone issue and I don't mean that in a sexist way. Simply that men have to worry about only testosterone, whereas women have two pesky hormones that if not balanced cause havoc in their lives. I've had hormonal imbalances since puberty - they've caused physical issues and also made me live an emotional roller coaster.

Mood swings, depression; I can have more mood flips in a day than the Melbourne weather ( for non-Australians please substitute a city in your area notorious for sudden, frequent and unpredictable weather changes). Also, a quick digression: for the grammatically fixated among you please also note that I was taught to not use the Oxford comma which despite its name is more generally used in America (where it is also known as the Harvard comma). If this causes angst among the pro Oxford comma folks, I apologise and I feel your pain.

Back to me - so I've been moody, depressed and plain exhausted. Plus I've had a two week long headache which is a combination of hormones and the aforementioned sinus issue. I'm having a pity party, want to come???? Seriously, I've been feeling very sorry for myself but I'm on the way back up again. It hasn't helped that I've been having to take medication for the headache which has zonked me out and caused me to spend much of my time with my head several minutes behind my body.

Have I got any work done? I have, slowly but I have been continuing on with the editing process. In truth I have to edit slowly or I get impatient and rush it, and then the editing is not so much editing as skim reading. I'm almost done, and while I've been doing it part of my mind has been working on the sequel and also the prequel. That's my mind, it never focuses on the one thing exclusively, except when I'm drawing.

I don't think it's accurate to call what I do zentangle any more. I use the patterns a lot, but I also make up my own, and make designs to fill with the patterns. The last thing I did was not even zentangle, it was a mosaic. I really liked drawing it and then filling it with colour although it took several days to complete. It's not as popular with friends and family I show the pictures to, but I loved doing it. It made me want to start doing mosaic tiles and mirrors - but those must wait or they will absorb too much of my time. Plus I have nowhere here to put them, and lets face it, no money for the materials!

To pull myself out of this funk I've been trying to count my blessings and feel gratitude. I do have a lot to be grateful for. I'm able to live here in Egypt and give this writing a go. I've got back enough of myself that I'm drawing again, I have two adorable cats that make me smile and a group of street cats that also make me smile. I have good friends who have stood by me, a family that loves me (well they have to don't they, that's the thing about families), and a roof over my head. Sure, money is tight, but that makes me grateful that all the superfluous stuff is gone and I can focus on what really matters. That last sentence could be a load of hokum, but really I do feel grateful for being so poor although of course the long term goal is not to stay this way! Poverty has a way of removing everything from the surface and leaving only what is important. It's a lesson I'm grateful to be learning. I'm grateful too that while I'm poor, I still have enough for a comfortable roof over our heads, food and clothing. We may not wear fashion items but we are clothed, warm (it's a little bit chilly now), and fed. We have all that is necessary and that is truly something to be grateful for.

Of course I am grateful too that I have a sister who opening her home to me and gamer son for Christmas. I'm sure I've said this last year - Christmas and I are not the best of friends. I don't look forward to it, I don't get excited by it. This season has the ability to bring me very low, so even if I wasn't struggling with hormonal and sinus issues, I'd still be feeling low now. So, I'm grateful that I will be spending Christmas with people who get me and don't expect anything of me, and I'm grateful that gamer son with be able to have a great holiday and will get a family Christmas.

So as you can see, I have a lot to be grateful for, and not that much really to feel sorry about. It's all about the perspective, and I really must try to make my perspective a positive one. Pics today include some of my artwork, and my mosiac which I am showing you simply because I like it!

Mosaic drawn but not coloured:

 Mosaic coloured:

Why did I put the pics in this order? I didn't, my computer did, and it's not even chronological. Everyone's a critic I guess...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Did she finish??

I did! I finished the book and now I am editing. And having major self doubt and insecurity as well. I am a member of a lot of writing groups and self doubt is a common theme so I'm not alone in this thinking. Editing is quite hard because you have to be ruthless with yourself, and accept that rewriting will be required. And also believe that just because rewriting is required that does not mean you are a sucky writer.

Editing means removing redundant words, sentences and paragraphs. It means checking for passive voice (and I suck at remembering to do that), checking for continuity, checking spelling and grammar. It means making sure that every sentence serves a purpose, either of explanation or of moving the story forward. Stephen King wrote a book on writing and his golden rule was during the editing process remove 10% of the book. It's quite easy to do that, for me at least. When I write I write everything including backstory. A lot of the backstory is not really necessary to the book but is necessary to me to build up my characters and my world in my mind. During editing I have to decide what parts of backstory to remove.

My sister will go over this after me, and edit further - bless her analytical and detailed heart. Then once it is accepted by a publisher (positive thinking there) it will be edited again. Then you the reader will get to see the finished product. Writing the book really is the easy part and the rest is hard slog. I'm dreading writing the synopsis too. I loathe synopsis writing but it has to be done.

So here I am, editing. And other events in my life? Well gamer son and I are going to visit my sister for Christmas, which is due to her generous heart since she is footing the bill for my airfare. I am still at the stage of financial woe that gamer son breaking two glasses and a plate caused a budgeting crisis as I contemplated the replacement expense. And solved the problem with plasticware.

So I have been getting the trip to the UK finalised as we will leave in about 5 weeks. The flights were sorted easily enough, and the airport hotel since we get in late at night and need to take a bus from Gatwick to Cambridge. Then before I got the bus booked my bank introduced Verified by Visa for all online transactions. Have you ever had a problem with Verified by Visa? I think it is the most absurd thing ever. If the address you give does not exactly match up with the one on their records your payment is denied.

This happened to me, repeatedly and even after correspondence with my bank. This has happened to me before with a different bank too, and there are memes about it online so I know I'm not alone here. It took days and days to get it sorted and meanwhile the cheap bus tickets were all gone so I had to pay more which made me even more unhappy. Verified by Visa, stopping people using their own cards since inception.

Anyway, we are now booked and everything is paid for except the bus back to the airport. I had expected to have this Christmas here in Hurghada, which though fine for me would have been a bit sparse for gamer son - but certainly a different experience! However we haven't spent Christmas with my sister for about six years, so it's an unexpected pleasure to be able to do so this year. I know gamer son would have liked to have gone back to Australia for Christmas but funds simply don't allow this time. Next year our lives will be different and while I don't know where we will spend the Christmas period I know we will be in a much better place financially speaking (positive thinking again).

In other news? The weather is cooling down. It's autumn in this part of the world and while it's not exactly cold it is much cooler, all things being relative. A drop from 42C to 22C is a substantial drop! There is a cool breeze most days, the temperature doesn't go above 34C during the day and is decidedly cool at night, and there are a few clouds in the sky most days. Not like rain clouds or anything, but nice white clouds that make for pretty sunsets.

Insomnia is still my friend, sadly, and I've been having vivid nightmares too which leave me feeling exhausted in the mornings. If this blog is a bit flat today, blame it on the insomnia!

Now I've procrastinated enough. While I needed to write this blog since it's been too long between posts, I also need to edit that book. Gamer son is up to the exam period/final assignments time in school too. Distance ed was a steep learning experience for us both but I think we have it sorted for next year. For those non-Australians reading this, our school year ends early in December so gamer son is almost finished school.

I think this was a dull post, apologies for that, next time I promise to do better!

See! It's not only me!

The plastic plate solution, plus some pretty good pikelets :)

Mornings may be 22C, but Sabrina thinks it's cold...

Pretty sunset from the roof of this building

Friday, October 31, 2014

Almost there...

There's been a bit of a gap I know, sorry about that. So what's happened in the intervening time? Well I'm now about 3000 words away from finishing Zora's Dawn - I have the story in my head, just have to get it down on the screen. I also re-read the entire book and have a pretty clear idea of the editing I need to do so I'm pretty happy with that.Well as happy as you can be at the prospect of editing.

I've had a birthday, not very good at birthdays so pleased it's passed by without too much trouble. I've discovered that if I ignore all of the guidelines of zentangling and just go with whatever my pen does it is actually quite relaxing - although I still feel the need to finish whatever I start without taking a break.

I've been sick, a touch of Pharaoh's Revenge from I think some pickles. My previous experiences of pickles has been pretty limited - gherkins and onions. Here, everything is pickled and it's delicious. Carrots, lemons (the local name for limes), chillies, capsicum, cucumbers and onions and others I'm not sure what they are except that they are vegetables of some sort. I love them, and I bought these from the Metro so I thought they would be ok - but they were the only different thing I ate and the next day I was sick. So sad face, wasted day zonked out on Antinal, and throw away the pickles.

 I am considerably sleep deprived but that's not something that will change soon and not because of my poor sleeping habits. There are three things that are disturbing my nights right now. Firstly mosquitoes. This apartment is not fully screened and those that are in place have holes in them. Until now I have not had a problem with mosquitoes but recently they have been driving me crazy at night, even though it is now autumn in this part of the world. The local mosquitoes seem to thrive in the cooler weather, sigh.

Secondly, someone nearby has a dog, possibly it is on a lower floor in this building but I'm not entirely sure as I can't really tell where it is coming from. All I know definitely is that this dog is either bored or unhappy and it likes to let the entire neighbourhood know by barking incessantly ALLLLLLLLLLL night. I believe its owners must be deaf...

Thirdly, I think a mosque nearby has new speakers. Usually the call for prayer comes from multiple speakers (that are not synchronised) but they are all faint and so do not wake me or disturb me in any way. Usually I like to hear the sound of the call drifting on the air. But now one of the speakers has become really loud, like megaphone at your front door loud. Now I am woken - should the dog have shut up and I have managed to kill all the mosquitoes and I am actually asleep - at 4.30 every morning.

Sigh, complaint over. Of course I will get used to the sound of the dog and the speakers in time, and I'll find a way to control the mosquitoes but for now, bedtime holds no charms for me. So I draw since writing at night guarantees sleeplessness.

One thing I've found since coming here is that everything I have experienced in the last several years has unlocked the block I had put in place on my creativity. I am writing more than ever, and ideas are coming all the time. I love writing the short read books even though they don't make much money for me. I love doing the non-zentangles and have started drawing other things too, even though an artist I am emphatically not. I feel like I am finally being who I really am - although the poor as a church mouse thing I'm pretty sure is not who I really am! But all things come in time.

So here are a few of my non-zentangles, and the drawing I did last night when I emptied my mind (I know, I'm shocked too and the words in my head must have totally panicked!). The last one is not good, I know that, but it's interesting that it formed without conscious thought by me.

Next time I write here, Zora's Dawn will be finished and I will be deep in editing and probably very grumpy about it. Meanwhile have a great day/night/morning/afternoon whichever it is in your part of the world whenever you read this :)

Some non-zentangles:

I did this one on my birthday:

Fun with feathers:

Work in progress:

And finished:

What it looks like when my mind is empty:

And finally...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

About sleep and noises and colours and things

Last night I actually got some sleep! Insomnia seemed to be out wooing somebody else - he does like to have many strings to his bow. I was completely exhausted and went to bed early last night, embarrassingly early but that's what happens after several nights with next to no sleep.

I slept almost straight away and had normal dreams and it was all good, until around 11.30 pm. Today is Sunday, last night was therefore Saturday night and here in Hurghada Saturday night is a big night. For most people who live here Friday is the weekend and marks the end of the week, so Thursday night is their Friday night. But Hurghada is a tourist town so the resorts and clubs cater to the tourists.

As I have said before, my apartment block is very close to Sheraton Street. Even though the street I am on is very quiet, Sheraton Street is busy until around 3 am. I've got used to this, my night time sounds have gone from distant traffic and close birdsong to very close traffic and horns beeping and the rather mournful sound of the boat horns.

But on Saturday nights the sounds intensify and added is the sound of the music from the night clubs. This is heard every night and I usually don't even notice it any more, but Saturday nights it can be very loud. There are also searchlights that swing through the sky every night from one of the beaches, South Beach I think it is but I don't see that after I go to bed and I quite like to watch it from my balcony.

So what was different last night? The clubs are close enough that I can often hear whole songs and not just the bass, especially when the volume is a bit lower. But last night they cranked up the volume and I was woken by the sound of drums. This is on its own not a bad thing, a good drummer is great to listen to. I don't know if this was live music or recorded, I don't know if there was more to it than just the repetitive drumming that I heard - I assume there was or the people in the club would have revolted! What I head was the same drum melody, over and over again.

Have you ever heard something that put all your nerves on edge and made you want to smash something? A sound so irritating that you felt like your skin was being peeled off bit by bit? A sound so annoying that you just wanted to go and stop it, somehow, anyhow and homicide seemed like a viable option?

That was what the drumming was to me last night. I entertained visions of tracking down the source - not knowing which club it was coming from but figuring it couldn't be hard to follow a sound that loud and annoying - and eliminating it somehow. If it was live music I was imagining impaling the drummer with one of his sticks. The less aggressive method I envisioned was to find the speakers and cut the wires. I planned on  going with whichever one felt right at the time.

Fortunately for all concerned the music changed and the drum melody stopped and all was ok in the world again. With only the cars and horns and far less irritating music I went back to sleep and didn't wake again until morning, when I realised it probably wasn't a drummer at all but just the bass amped up and obliterating the rest of the music.

We all have eyes and ears and they work with differing levels of efficiency depending on the person and possible malfunctions with either sense. Some people have problems with their vision or their hearing. For those with fully functional vision and hearing the experience is still different. Even though we are made the same way, ours brains interpret things differently.

Some people have a highly developed sense of colour and can see variation in shades which to others looks exactly the same. Likewise with hearing, some people - especially musicians or others who have had extensive training in which their hearing is important - can hear shades of sound where to others it is just a noise. Some people like certain types of music which to others is a horrible sound. We are all individuals and our experience and environment dictates how the receptors in our brains interpret the information they receive.

I'm pretty sure I was the only person lying awake last night feeling my insides twisting up and growing thorns as the music irritated me more and more. And this being Egypt where they are all pretty nocturnal I was in truth probably the only one trying to sleep anyway!

Did you know there is a condition called synesthesia, in which people have an involuntary pairing of different senses. For some, sounds are linked to colours. By this I mean that for some people sounds have colour. People with this may see different colours for different sounds. For some it is triggered by music with the notes a different colour. Some people have perfect pitch not because they hear the notes so clearly but because they see the colours of the notes. How cool is that?? Some people see letters and numbers in different colours. What a great world that would be, I truly wish I could do that. Then the script in front of my eyes would be in colour! There are others that taste words and each word has a different taste. It's a cross wiring in the brain that causes two senses to work together.

I have not idea if I have a form of synesthesia. For me, I see sounds as letters and words except for music. I do see music as colours but not all the time and not enough that I even thought about it until I read about the condition. Last nights experience was jagged streaks of yellow and black. Discordant and uncomfortable like the music. Bagpipe music is green, all brass instruments are golden. But sounds, cars on the street and horns and animals - when I hear sounds like that I see the words in my mind associated with them. I see whoosh, beep, meow inside my head. And I hear noises for actions that are silent, like changing the television station, I hear a beep every time I press the button on the remote and see stars coming off the beep too, like little exclamation points. When I see the leaves on my little gardenia on the balcony being blown in the breeze (when the door is shut and I can't actually hear anything) I hear a swishing sound and see little strokes coming off the sound too. Ok you know what? Now that I'm writing this all down I'm beginning to realise just how strange I really am. I think I'd better stop now!

ANYWAY, I actually wanted to give you the link to my new little book, a wee little bit of fiction on how my street cat Sabrina came to be alone. Go take a look, if it's not free now it will be in another few hours - it seems to start the free promotion at different times in different parts of the world. The look inside bit unfortunately stops at the end of the introduction but the story follows and there are pictures too :)

Now it's time for me to go start work on the real book, Zora's Dawn.

Here's the link for the little book, Sabrina's Story:

A world of colours :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I may be losing my mind...

Did you ever wonder what your brain thinks when you are not paying attention? The brain is made up of three major parts; the cerebrum which is the part of the brain I'm about to talk about, as well as the cerebellum which controls balance and coordination and the brain stem which controls the automatic functions - breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.

The cerebrum is the part which does the thinking, remembering, problem solving, feeling and movement. The cerebrum is the part which we are conscious of. Now of course there are many more parts to the brain and much more detail about the functions of each part. I'm not here today to give a lesson on the brain function, just where my thoughts led me last night.

So, last night I was, as has become usual, lying awake in the wee small hours. I wake at around 2am each morning and then can't go back to sleep for about three hours. It's very annoying as it makes me tired and irritable the next day. With this in mind I was determined to break the wakeful habit and banish my old friend insomnia. I decided to do this by using one of my old methods, counting.

I have rules of course about counting to get myself to sleep. The idea is that I bore myself to sleep so I count very methodically. Whenever my brain goes wandering off on its own I start again from the beginning. Usually I don't get very far over 100 because I have to start over so many times.

Last night I didn't get to 30 for about two and a half hours. I would get to 28 or 29 and then realise that my brain had gone off for a stroll down a little used corridor and was thinking something totally weird so I'd have to start again. After a couple of hours of this I was really seriously wondering just what goes on inside my brain that my conscious self has no inkling of.

I mean, I caught my brain wondering why potatoes come in so many different types and if those types all taste just a little bit different. And who was it anyway who decided that a potato was a food that could be cooked and eaten. Who was it decided cooking was a great idea and who came up with different food combinations? Back to the beginning again, 1 2 3....

I can't remember all of the strange things my brain considered in those three hours, I'm just recounting to you now the ones I can remember. Sadly, the more bizarre thoughts that made me go 'ARE YOU SERIOUS MIND???' have vanished with the morning light and all that is left are the more normal ones, such as a green and black caterpillar climbing up a plant (in my imagination) and I wondered why it was decided that caterpillars should exist anyway. Of course they are food for birds - but which bird first looked at a caterpillar and decided it looked good to eat.

It wasn't all questions though. I had the usual money worries, worries about where I will be in a year's time, all those things. But in between were all these weird thoughts - pieces of the sky turning into butterflies, a sudden failure of gravity and everything floating which in turn caused agonising about which things would float higher without gravity or would they all float at the same height in which case it would get very crowded. How long would it take for this town to be reclaimed by the desert if it was abandoned. If I planted a bougainvillea at the base of this apartment building would it eventually climb up to my balcony on the fifth floor and if it did would its branches be strong enough for me to climb down on - and just how did the writer of Jack and the Beanstalk ever come up with that idea, was he drunk every day for a year?

By the end I was actually imagining my mind finding dusty tunnels - I was picturing my thoughts inside my mind exploring twists and turns of brain matter and beginning to seriously doubt my sanity. In case you want to know what this looked like, it was a miniature brain rolling through dull yellow tunnels of brain matter and finding random thoughts tucked away in pockets on the walls which it plucked out with little blood vessel hands. The lighting was very dim inside my brain which seemed appropriate as I think my brain power was on extremely dim wattage.

At this point I had been lying awake for three hours, and decided it was time to play hardball with my brain. I started counting in earnest, colouring each number in rainbow colours and spelling it inside my head and picturing the background to each number. Anything to stop the random thoughts. Finally it worked, or perhaps exhaustion got to me and I slept.

When I woke this morning I still had the thought, where does the brain go and what does it think when we are not actively using it? Dreams come from the subconscious which is always active and apparently quite strange. I know when I write it comes from somewhere I am not exactly connected to. I never know what I'm going to write until I see it on the screen. My fingers just move and my mind is still. The only mental activity I am aware of is the script of words scrolling across my eyes.

That's kind of weird all on its own. Writing is a creative process and yet I don't consciously connect to that part of my brain that produces what I write. Do other writers experience this? Is it the same with artists and sculptors and any other sort of creative person? Or is it just me, is there a tiny other me living in my brain that controls that creative part and it goes kicking around the dusty brain corridors looking for ideas?  Or is there some being that is sucking out the electrical energy my brain produces when I write and that's why I get so tired after writing for several hours without a break? It's at this stage of my thoughts, lying in bed this morning, that I decided it was getting a little bit Stephen King and perhaps I should stop thinking about it.

So I am quite possibly losing my mind, or maybe its the effect of sleep deprivation. I'm seriously considering taking an Antinal tonight, not because I have a stomach upset - I've pretty much adjusted to the food here - but because one of the effects of Antinal is that it puts you to sleep. I'd like to sleep the night through, I really would...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Where is the 'zen' in zentangle???

Probably it's just me, most likely it's just me. I have such problems with everything that's supposed to soothe and calm and relax a person. Meditation? Well you all know how that goes for me and there's not a lot of meditation in it.

Listening to music? Well that is relaxing to a point, but if I listen to whale song or waves on a beach it soon irritates me and there's very little zen in that. If I listen to classical music that is soothing as well, until I try to pick out each individual group of instruments - was that the flutes? Did I hear the trombone there? Then I start to try to listen to each individual part played by each individual group of instruments and then try to pick out the different melody played by the same instruments within the piece all AT THE SAME TIME and that's decidedly not relaxing.

Go for a walk, that's relaxing and it is, it really is. Until I start timing myself and try to beat myself each day. Great for fitness, not so good for relaxing. Needlework, well that is relaxing, I love to do cross-stitch and tapestry. One of my sorrows is losing all but one piece of my work in the floods a few years ago. The only problem I have with needlework is that it tends to take over my life and I do it to the exclusion of everything else. Then I get the guilts about not doing other things I should be doing. Moderation? What's that??

So zentangling, it looked like the ideal thing to do, a small square, not too much time involved and a satisfying result. And it is. Well it is if you do it the way I believe you're supposed to do it. I believe the idea is one square at a time, learn the different patterns and then let the pen wander as it will over the paper. But of course me, I spend all day working on it, trying to learn all the patterns at once, doing square after square and then trying to make a collage effect from them all, so that each square has to be pre-planned to make it work.

Without scissors (remember, glued them shut in a stroke of genius) I've become used to using an A4 size sheet divided up into 9 squares, until I decided that sometimes maybe it should be two or four squares, exactly in the middle of course and with a large framework of zentangling around it. Lots of measuring and swearing by me - can't draw a straight line to save my life so have to use a ruler and do lots and lots of measurements to get my lines straight. Supreme lack of zen.

So the zentangling has been put in the cupboard. I will do it of course, I have already got two new pages ruled up after all and it really is addictive. But since I can't trust myself to do only a little bit and then move onto something else, it will wait there until I finish the work I have set myself with Zora's Dawn.

Where is the zen then? I added the 'then' only because I like the sound it makes, zen then... The only place I find zen is when I write. And now that I am trying to make a living from it I don't need to get the guilts if I do it all day and get up in the pre-dawn to do something that came to me in a dream. Writing does everything that everything else is supposed to do. I focus on it, lose myself in it, forget the rest of the world while I'm doing it. I'm calm (except when it's not going so well), relaxed and my mind is not spinning.The words still scroll along on their script inside my head but it's only the words I'm writing and the rest of them disappear for a while. I am in fact living exactly in the 'now' and that's the zen.

I really loved writing the various cat books, so much so that I have almost finished another and have yet another one in my head. They are very satisfying for a couple of reasons. One is that they only take a week to write and publish because they are short reads. The other is that I am writing about a subject that I really love - cats - and so it gives me a lot of pleasure to write about them. And geek that I am I love to do research so I find the entire experience a great deal of fun.

But Zora's Dawn is waiting and growing impatient. Last night I dreamt I was sitting in a cafe and the person at the table next to me turned so their face was in profile and it was a wolf face. So time to get on with that too. I have a plan, so that I can do both types of writing. Zora's Dawn needs to be finished and the editing well under way in a couple of weeks, as a person I need to interview about the shelter book will be available next month. Once I've talked to her and two other people it will be time to put that book together.

So, I will write my fun writing for part of the day, and work on Zora's Dawn the rest of the time. There's only about 5000 words to do to finish Zora's Dawn but they are the hardest since I know where she has to be at the end of the book (to lead properly into the next in the series which is already planned out in my head) but I'm not quite sure how to get her there!

And of course I have to overcome the paralysing procrastination. Once the book is finished I have to put it out there, and if it fails it will be quite a devastating experience so of course I'm procrastinating with all the skill a lifetime of doing so has given me.

So, I am off to read, edit and write :)


Sunday, October 12, 2014


Have you ever wondered what it's like to publish a book on Amazon? Amazon is huge, there is the potential for your book to be seen by millions of people - got to be a good thing, right? It is of course, in a way. But in another way it's not so good.

It's very easy to publish an eBook on Amazon, once you figure out the conversion process from Word document to kindle format. That's actually easy too, just tedious if you don't set it up before you start to write. But there are millions and millions of books published on Amazon, some great, some good, some not so good and some terrible.

If you're an indie author publishing on Amazon you are competing with all these millions of books and if you're unknown you have your work cut out for you to get noticed. People want value for their money, and people also don't generally sift through pages and pages of books to find something new to read. They may go through the first 10 pages of a genre but usually not any further. They are also suspicious of new authors and use book reviews when considering someone different.

How many of you leave a book review after reading a book, even if you really love it? I know I hardly ever do, and I think that's pretty normal. But if I'm considering a new author I look at the book reviews. It's contradictory of me I know but I think we are all much the same.

The reason why I put up all my new books for free for five days is to try to get a higher rating on Amazon, to get noticed. There are thousands of good authors languishing on the bottom of Amazon's lists, not because they are not good but because they don't have an audience. If you look up my name on Amazon you will get a hit, but otherwise you won't see my books unless you specifically type in the title.

To get an audience as a new author you need a huge dose of luck, and good book reviews, the more the better. Some authors buy them, in fact I believe a lot of them do and I can't really blame them, simply because unless you have an audience of millions, you just don't get reviews.

The advice given to new authors on Amazon is to build up a public profile with facebook, twitter, a blog page etc, and to put your book up for free to get higher on Amazon's lists, and to publish a lot of books. All good advice but you still need luck and reviews. So guys, if you downloaded any of my books (and you liked them) please go back and give me a good review!

I wrote the cat books, even though they are a different genre to Zora's Dawn for a couple of reasons. One, because I'm following instructions to write more books and two because they have links to the Bluemoon Shelter book I'm working on. I really don't know if I'll release it on Amazon, I'm getting a little disheartened with Amazon in truth. I think I'm better off getting a print publisher and going the traditional route with that book. But I figure a print publisher will release on Amazon as well and if I have a presence, however tenuous, it has to help get noticed. There is one final reason I wrote these books - I love cats and I love research and I had fun with the whimsy of two and the research of the other.

I'm giving the cat books the three months they are locked to Amazon, and then I'll shop around print publishers because I do believe in these books and I know they would have an audience that will like them. They do now, just not a big enough audience to keep them up on the lists so others can see them.

So how is Amazon really, from an authors point of view? If you've been lucky it's awesome, you get a higher percentage of royalty payments with Amazon than through a traditional publisher. You can use Createspace to turn your books into paperback on demand, a lower royalty but useful for people who prefer to have a real book in their hands and on their coffee table. You can publish in a few hours, without having to go through the process of writing a summary for a print publisher and sending off query letters.

But, and it's a big but, if you don't have a big enough audience your book will sink like a stone through the ranks of the millions of books. Because Amazon only requires proper kindle formatting the quality of the books published can be questionable. There is no team of editors to help polish your book to take it from good to great. You the author have to be writer, editor, proof reader, marketing manager and publisher. You have to find a way to get past the scepticism most people feel at seeing a new author on Amazon and get them to give you a go, and when they do hope that they a) like what you did and b) leave a positive review to help convince others that you have a good product.

Amazon is a lottery. I don't think many people succeed instantly, unless they have a great marketing strategy in place. I know I need reviews on my books but I'm not sure how to get them without asking you guys :)  So I'm just plugging away, and hoping that Zora's Dawn will be more successful. From my observation readers of the paranormal genre seem more willing to give a new author a go, and my sister is going to be my editor. She does things in computer programming so she's brilliant at details, and she's a very creative person herself even though she will say not.

So where do I stand? I know people have read and liked all three of the cat books. I know Zora's Dawn is good, and with my sister's perspective the editing process will be better than just me doing it (it's awfully hard for an author to cut any part of a book, I take out unnecessary words and change some wording and cut a sentence here and there, but I don't remove entire sections and I'm sure she will be far more ruthless). I know that with a bigger audience my cat books would do better, and I haven't given up that they will pick up on Amazon. And I can always try print publishers if they don't.

So I'm still poor, but I've had the experience of people reading and liking my writing and that's great to know and gives me a real belief that I'm going to make it - maybe not in a huge way but certainly in a way that will provide a modest living. And I love what I'm doing, I'm fulfilled and I'm getting rid of some of the words in my head so my brain is less chaotic. Sadly this has not yet translated to better sleep but I bet that when there is more money in the bank sleep will not be so elusive :)

In other news - it's really hard to find self raising flour here. I don't bake because the gas oven in this rented apartment has a slightly disturbing tendency to make fireballs instead of just heating up the oven. To entertain itself it only does this at random times and not every time I light it, and also at different time intervals. I find it too nerve racking so I've given up on the oven. But I do make pancakes most days, and it's easier to do with self raising flour.

There are all kinds of flour here - some with only arabic writing so I've no idea what it is, cake flour, pancake flour, biscuit flour, bastry flour (that's the writing on the packet - there is no 'p' in arabic so 'b' and 'p' is often confused), and all purpose flour. Now for me, an Australian, I know plain flour and self raising flour. I'm bewildered by all this choice. But I've found that bastry, biscuit and all purpose are all plain flour and cake and pancake is self raising flour. However at this time for whatever reason there is only a wide range of plain flour in different names and the mysterious arabic flour. So I use salt and baking powder to turn it into self raising flour. This works most days, and some days I actually make awesome pancakes with it - for Australian readers, I'm actually making pikelets.

Yesterday my pancakes/pikelets were amazing. Today while measuring the baking powder I spilt it into the flour. So I guessed it was about the correct amount - most of my cooking is based on guesswork. Turned out it was waaaaaaaay too much. My pancake/pikelets bubbled and fizzed in the frypan like little school volcano projects. Actually they burned and bubbled and fizzed. What they did not do was rise, or cook, or look remotely like pancake/pikelets! I tasted one, and it tasted pretty much like what I would expect to taste if I were to eat a school volcano project. So gamer son got toast and vegemite for breakfast today...

Publishing on Amazon...

Pretty much what I made today, sigh

These are not mine, but I promise this is what they looked like yesterday!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

headache... oh and new book

Good morning/evening/afternoon, whatever the time is wherever you are. It always amazes me that people all over the world read this blog. I hope you get a little bit of entertainment from it.

Today is the second day of one of my headaches. I've been getting these all my life and they last for three days, often on one side of the head and then after three days going to the other side of the head for another three days - even my headaches like things to be even and balanced!

I finished the book on the street cats the day before yesterday and published it through Amazon, perhaps that's why the headache hit yesterday. They seem to do that sometimes, lurk in the background until I finish something I've been focusing on and then strike.

Before I forget to share it (because headache, inefficient brain usage) here is the cover for the cat book. I had to choose between two and I liked them both for different reasons. One was a kitten close up, and the other was a kitten in front of a door. But in the end the decision was made for me because on the one of the kitten close up I couldn't get the words of the title to stand out in a thumbnail pic, so the other one became the cover and here it is:

And here is the link to the book. It's about to go into the free for five days programme, for now it's full price. So wait a few hours to get it free (or you know, go buy it and help support your local starving author)

I loved doing this book, I was completely absorbed in the history of the cat in general and in Egypt, and I'm really happy with how it's turned out. I'm going to see if I can get a print version available too.

Yesterday I had decided to take a day off writing before the headache made sure of it. Soon it will be back to Zora's Dawn, reading what I've done, editing and finishing the final chapter. I'm looking forward to that too, I've been dreaming about the werewolf the last couple of days.

So what did I do on my day off? Well I had planned to do the always fun activity of house cleaning, but with my head threatening to explode decided (reluctantly as it's soooo much fun sweeping and mopping) to put that off until I can walk a straight line. So instead I did what I've been wanting to try for quite a while. Sounds exciting right? Sadly no, not exactly exciting but enjoyable nevertheless. Also probably pretty dumb with the whole headache thing going on.

I had a go at zentangling. Now I only learned about this a week or so ago so I'm going to assume that a lot of you don't know what it is. Here's a brief explanation. Zentangling is basically a way of creating art through using repetitive patterns. The shapes used are simple ones like lines, dots, and circles. It's done on a 3.5 square inch sheet of white paper with a black pen. There is no erasing as the idea is that each zentangle is unique and there are no wrong pen strokes. You draw in pencil what they call a 'string' which is a free form shape inside the square, and then you use the divisions you have made to create your piece of art. You're supposed to focus on each penstroke, the idea being that by doing so you have a mini meditation. It's supposed to help clear the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. Here are some diagrams to illustrate better what I'm trying to explain.

Here is an example of a string:

And this is a finished zentangle:

There are many gifted artists who do this - I am not one of them, my artistic ability lies in words, not drawing. But it's a way for me to pretend I can do art. So here's my first go at it. Being me, of course I didn't do just one, no I did nine and then did extra so that there were no spaces at all left on my sheet of art paper. You will notice that my sheet is much larger than a 3.5 inch square block. Nine times in fact. Well that's because I discovered that the scissors have been glued closed (and I did it so I can't blame gamer son!). So I decided that I'd do a group of them, one at a time. 

And I did, one at a time - just all at the one sitting because once started I couldn't leave any white spaces. 

It looks kind of cool, but I have to admit it looks better in the pic than it does for real. But I'll keep practicing, it's kind of addictive. Probably easier without the little men rearranging the landscape of my brain with their tiny jackhammers though. 

Well that's it for today, I really am having trouble focusing, next time I'll write more, promise! I hope you all have a great day wherever you are and thanks for reading me! And go buy my book...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't panic!

Panic attacks, yeesh they are well named. The panic truly does attack you at unexpected moments, like when you're asleep. At least that's when they get me the most often. Last night I was relatively peacefully asleep. I say relatively because lately I've been dreaming every night about somebody dying. Sometimes it's someone I know and sometimes I don't know who it is. But it's always set in one of my childhood homes, and most of the time it's people from my past. Some poor people die repeatedly. I'm sure a dream expert would tell me it's about cutting ties with my old life, starting on the new or some such thing. But for me, it's just very distressing. When I was a child I had a recurring dream that someone had dismembered our dog and left him beside the rubbish bins which were located below my bedroom window. Every morning I had to go look to be sure he wasn't lying there. Analyse that folks! Maybe I'm just a bizarre freaky person.

However I must have run out of people to kill because last night it was quite a nice dream about two dogs I once owned, both dead now but they were both great dogs and in my dream young and strong and happy. So I have no idea why I woke feeling like I was strangling from a panic attack but they've been happening quite a lot lately. I used to have them all the time, pretty sure I've written a blog about them in fact but too lazy to go check...

Last night, well it was actually 3am - the prime time for me to wake with some sort of issue it seems - anyway it was dark and I was in bed and should have been asleep. Instead I woke to the spirals of panic threatening to squeeze my lungs. The first few times I had these I was sure I was having a heart attack, but no, just my body messing with my head. Or maybe the other way around.

So I lay there, trying to apply the tricks I've learned to calm down. It's really hard to do with my body flooded with adrenalin and the fight or flight instinct high. I lie as still as I can but I can feel my legs twitching as the primitive part of my brain tries to make me flee. I've tried lots of ways to stop it happening. I've tried getting up and watching TV to distract myself which sometimes works after a while. I've tried walking around the house which does work but only after half an hour or so - but good exercise. I've tried meditation but if you've been reading my blogs you'll know I pretty much suck at meditation when I really need it - like when I'm having a panic attack.

Slow even breathing was what I tried last night, along with the whole breathe in peace breathe out anxiety thought process. Didn't work. The panic was spiralling higher, the muscles in my legs were actually spasming, the need to run was so strong. I was beginning to have difficulty breathing and my heart was doing the whole pitter pat patter pit thing. I decided to get up and write a blog - this blog - on panic attacks and see if that stopped it. Now when I have insomnia I often lie awake and compose a blog post or plan out a chapter. I always say 'I'll remember that' and I always forget by the time I wake again. Last night I started to plan the blog post while I tried to calm myself enough to get out of bed without falling out.

Well I got so caught up in my mental writings that it served to calm me down. So instead of getting up I finished the post, chose the type of pictures I would use and went back to sleep. Of course when I woke I had no memory of the blog post I composed, but full memory of the panic attack. That's the insidious thing about them, you remember them very well and then the next night you're already anxious because you're afraid of having another one. Which of course you do since you've got yourself in a state of high anxiety.

Panic attacks aside I've become completely absorbed in this third book about the street cats. I decided to write a brief introduction about the history of the cat in Egypt and did a little bit of research. Well as my friend Sheena would agree, I am research girl and once started don't know when to stop. So my brief history is still brief but a lot more detailed than I had originally planned. And I'm having a blast writing it. I've only written a couple of thousand words but they are the result of hours and hours of research. I've been out searching for the street cats and taking photos of them too. I'm only using my iphone camera (did I say that already?) as I don't have another camera and anyway the point is to showcase the lovely scenes you can find if you only look. Even an iphone camera can capture wonderful shots - albiet without a terribly good zoom feature.

So why am I having panic attacks when I'm having such fun writing this book? I don't know. Perhaps it's because Zora's Dawn is languishing and so is the shelter book. But I'm doing this deliberately to give myself distance from Zora's Dawn so that I can finish the final chapter and edit with a more detached viewpoint. And this book will be an excellent companion book to the shelter book. Plus there is someone I need to interview for the shelter book and I must wait to do that. So it shouldn't be that. Perhaps it's that old insecurity rising up telling me I'm wasting my time and why would anyone want to read a book that I've written. I guess that might be it. I really don't know. If I did, I think I wouldn't be having panic attacks. And I think I'll be having the panic attacks until I figure out why which is a pretty depressing thought really.

Well that's still not the blog post on communication difficulties due to shades of grey in word meanings. I guess that will be next time. For now, I'll show you the book cover as it is right now - subject to change and a couple of the photos I have once I get to the photographic section of the book. I do have lots of illustrations in the front part of the book since I believe history is more alive with pictures. And I have a reference page that's rather long - a non fiction book needs references after all. Anyway, here are today's pics:

Book cover

Try not to anyway :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Work work work

You'd think being an author means that you write books, right? Maybe once that was how it worked, but not these days. I have spent the last few days fiddling about with Amazon things. I've created an author profile, apparently a good thing to do. That took ages because it also meant that to link this blog to the page I had to figure out what the RSS URL for this page was. This meant first I had to figure out what an RSS feed even is. Turns out it stands for Really Simple Syndication.

According to the web, everyone knows how to find their own RSS URL because it took me hours to find a page that explained in terms I understood - please, no tech talk - how to do it. And of course once I had figured it out it was indeed really simple. (It's one of my pet peeves - why do computer people drown the layman in tech talk when the actual process is very simple. Is it to justify those exorbitant fees?) So now this blog is viewable on my author central page, along with the twitter feed. Yes, I've had to become active on twitter. In truth, I really don't know how that's going to work for me because on twitter I'm pretty much twittering away to myself. But I'm dutifully doing everything I'm supposed to be doing and twitter is one of those things.

I also have an action plan, for future growth as it were. All the 'how to' pages say that to raise your profile on Amazon, apart from the twitter, facebook and author profile thing, you need to write and publish lots of books. Well duh...

But taking this a step further I thought why not write a couple more short books and get them published. But they can't be random books, they have to tie in somehow to the bigger books I'm working on. The first wee little book, How to Train Your Human, (link here - was 'written' by Sabrina. Sabrina is my rescued street cat here in Egypt. Sabrina also features in the werewolf book, Zora's Dawn. She's not exactly as she is in real life, but she's the inspiration for the character. She's going to be in all the books in the series.

So the next book which I published yesterday - using those publishing skills I learned with the Sabrina book - is 'written' by Amadeus, (link here - ) Amadeus is my other rescued street cat. This book is about his experiences coming to live with Sabrina. But there is a section at the end talking about street cats here, and the need for programmes such as that run by the Blue Moon Animal Shelter. They also have a clinic and they will vaccinate and castrate any street cats brought to them. The Blue Moon and its owner Monique are the subject of the non fiction book I'm writing concurrently with Zora's Dawn.

So weak though the links may be, both of these books have a connection to the bigger books I'm working on. I'm going to publish a third book too, another short one. This one will be a compilation of photos I've been taking of the street cats here. There are thousands of them, all over town. Well no doubt they are all over Egypt. There is beauty to be found everywhere if you look for it. Even a pile of rubbish will have a pair of gorgeous green eyes set in a furry marmalade face peeping out of it. Look closer and you will see the beautiful street cat, and probably its family. Egyptian street cats are descended from the oldest breed of domesticated cat in the world. Tests have shown that they have the same DNA as mummified cats from ancient Egypt. They are living history and I truly feel they deserve to be seen.

So what about the first book, Blank Canvas? (and yes, link here - )
Well it's doing ok, but not brilliantly. I remember my first rejection for this book, some years ago before I decided to self publish it. The agent was from a large company in the UK and she wrote me a personal and quite lovely rejection letter. She said that she loved the book and she loved my writing style, but she felt the subject matter would not sell well. I guess she was right, I guess the subject of child molestation is one that most would prefer stay in the closet with all the other skeletons. But I'm still proud of this book and I still hope people will buy it and read it.

And Zora's Dawn? Well these last two chapters are very important and have proved difficult to write. I hate reading books where there is a loose thread the author has forgotten to close off and I don't want to be one of those authors. So I'm going right through the book from start to finish, not with my editing cap on but with my reading cap on. I'm looking for loose threads, and for unnecessary and distracting passages. Then I will write the final chapter and a half, and then comes the editing. I also will write the prequel which I think will be only about 20 000 words. After all that is done it will be time to finish the book about the animal shelter.

So I have a lot of work to do! And this totally wasn't going to be the subject of this blog, truly. I sat down to write about the difficulties of communicating here where almost everyone speaks english only as a second language. The specific difficulty I planned to talk about is that people who have english as a second language tend to know the most common dictionary meaning of words. But of course the english language is full of words that have many shades of meaning depending on context. So what I mean often becomes lost or confused as the Russians/Germans/Swiss/Dutch/Egyptians try to apply the only definition they know of a word and get the wrong meaning. But that will have to be the subject of the next blog :) :)



I know this isn't a great pic, but this is a street cat mum, a kitten from a previous litter (I think) and one of her tiny new kittens

Look at this tiny wee thing