“All I Want For Christmas Is You” … and books, mainly books

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Trust me, he wanted a book not that sweater.

Have you left Christmas shopping until December? Have you just realised that stores are now zoos full of rabid animals? Never fear, I can and will help you… well,  not so much me as books. Books can and will solve your problems. So here are my Christmas recommendations for those of you without the time to think.

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Where Do You Hide Two Elephants? by Emily Rodda. Ridiculously cute picture book.

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The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody. For the lover of fantasy. Added bonus, yes it is a series. We fantasy geeks love a good series.

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Impossible Quest Series by Kate Forsyth. The first two books are already out. Get into them before they blow out Harry Potter style. Fantastic kids series.

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The Protected by Claire Zorn. Incredibly moving YA novel about grief, resilience… I actually have to stop writing about this novel now because I’m tearing up just thinking about it. It’s powerful stuff. I’ll leave it at that.

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The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss. Non Fiction exploration of stereotypes and beliefs thrust upon women/Tara Moss. That description does not do it justice at all. Captivating read. Just go out and get it for any and all women you know.

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Under Siege by Belinda Neil. A memoir about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It rings true for a lot of mental illnesses though, such as depression and anxiety,  not only PTSD, so is highly accessible.

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Holiday in Cambodia by Laura Jean McKay. For you travel bug friend. Get Destination Cambodia by Walter Mason as a companion piece. Your friend will love you forever. I’m trying not to literally laugh out loud remembering the “dangerously jolly” scene in Destination Cambodia.

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The Black Dress by Pamela Freeman. Get it for the woman who wants to read about strong women and also anyone with an interest in religious history. A truly excellent read about Mary MacKillop.

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Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Yes, you can believe the hype. Buy it for yourself for Christmas.

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. For your historical fiction loving friends who enjoy some romance.

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The Nightingale by Fiona McIntosh. Another beautiful romantic historical fiction novel.

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Fishing for Tigers by Emily Maguire. For the Literary snob who secretly likes it a bit sexy. In other words,  exceptionally well written but they get down to business.

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Avoiding Mr Right by Anita Heiss. For the woman who likes the idea of chick lit but needs something with a bit more depth.

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Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan. Styled as young adult but so brilliant. Honestly,  it’s for any adult, young or old, human or seal. A beautiful take on the Selkie myth.

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Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood. Love a light murder mystery and the cover is very cool. Seriously, I know you can’t judge a book by its cover but… well… we do.

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Animal People by Charlotte Wood. Slightly traumatising but oh so good. For your friend who likes a bit of real life grit.

Okay Christmas peoples,  go forth and part with your cash. Probably online, so you can avoid the people. Mwah.

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Confessions of a Mad Mooer: screw you stress protect woman!!!

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Nivea Stress Protect Mum

I like many women have watched the Stress Protect Antiperspirant ads with much envy. She’s so beautiful, happy, well dressed and organised. She looks like the type of mum who has time to brush her hair every single day. The kind of mum who goes to the toilet on her own. In short, a total mole that we’re all jealous of. Oh how I longed to be her. Now I know better. That bitch has got nothing.

This morning as I walked around Darling Harbour, with my twins in their pram and my three year old on my back in an ergo, dripping with sweat, I thought, “Screw you Nivea Stress Protect Woman, you’ve got nothing on me.” And honestly,  she’s got nothing on any real mum. Sure she’s walking about looking all fresh faced and beautiful, but she’s doing it with ONE HAPPY KID, a phone and a bag of groceries, that’s it. Let’s see her do it with one angry kid, her work on the phone telling her that her miscarriage is inconvenient to them because now she won’t be on maternity leave (not that I’m bitter and still mad two years later… mofos), plus groceries in a broken bag, the toddler’s discarded shoes with a million other things the toddler has produced from seemingly nowhere, and a husband who turns up after the witching hour is over and is all like, “What’s your problem,  kids are fun, it’s not work.” Now that’s when you need stress protection. I want to see a mum with messy hair, being yelled at by an army of hangry kids, on the verge of developing an eye twitch, and then someone walks up and says,  “My goodness, you look atrocious but boy do you smell fresh, what deodorant are you using?” Not a mum on an easy day, a day when she’s returning home with her happy kid with the groceries whilst having a chat on the phone with a girlfriend to find her husband home from work early. Because that’s a good day, not a stress protection worthy day.

So in short, don’t be jealous of the stress protect mother because you’re amazing,  we’re all amazing. She’s got nothing!

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My daughter sticking bunny ears on the baby of the family. The angsty middle child doing their own thing.

Confessions of a Mad Mooer: What Would Robin Do?

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I have been told that my last post, What Would Tara Do? leaves the question, What would Robin do… you know… when she wasn’t channeling people? So here goes:

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What would Robin do?

1. She’d ensure her hair was extra orange after each emergency. Ones hair can never be too orange.

2. She’d get a hair cut if she was having issues.

3. She’d get peed on.

4. She’d go all Madwoman in the Attic.

5. She’d swear.

6. She’d make a joke about it.

7. She’d drink a crap load of tea.

8. She’d hide in her blanket fort for respite.

9. She’d keep on going. Nothing gets this bitch down for too long. Not only does what doesn’t kill me make me stronger but it also makes me more determined.

10. She’d then blog about it.

I almost feel like making this one of those chain mail award things to find out what Helen and Lisa would do. I can’t see the, “‘What would you do?’ Award” catching on. People celebrating who there hero is then pretending they’re a hero… Awkward.

What Would Tara Do?

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What Would Tara Do?
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What would Tara do?

It’s no secret that I’ve got a bit of a Lady Writer Crush on Tara Moss. Of late I’ve been using expressions like, “I’m channeling my inner Moss,” and, “I totally Mossed it,” much to my friends’ amusement. And I’ll be honest, it has caught on with them. Anytime we appear particularly serene and confident when under stress we’ll say, “I see you Mossing it.” If one of us is flipping out we’ll say, “What would Tara do? Put on her lipstick and pull herself together.” I’ve actually started wearing red lipstick now. I had to go emergency purchase some the morning of Literary Speed Dating in order to “Get on Moss of it.” I’m now wearing my red lippy all over the place. This has come as a shock to people who have known me for years and are more familiar with me channeling my inner Woolf rather than Moss.

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What would Virginia do?

But you know what, it works. I feel much more confident with my lip mask on. So I drink a cup of tea, put on my lipstick and high heels, and I’m ready to face the day. However,  I’ll let you in on a little secret, lean in closer, closer,  I have to italics it because I haven’t let anybody else in on the secret,  shhhhh, Tara Moss isn’t the only person I channel. Gasp. Yup. I’m a bit of a Lady Writer Crush (LWC) hussy (LWCS???). Although Tara Moss is my go to at the moment I can’t solve all the world’s problems through giving it “a red hot Moss.” So here are some more LWC that you can channel.

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What would Emily Maguire do? She’d put on her pajamas and pull herself apart. Because sometimes you just need to get comfy in your sauce stained PJs to truly become one with yourself. If she was scared of something she’d go out and confront it. She’d research it, interview it, visit it, she’d get that business all taken care of because knowledge and understanding is power. Then she’d go home and get comfy. Because pyjamas are awesome.

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What would Kate Forsyth do? Plaster on a smile, sip some champagne and hug her many, many books, published in many, many countries. When you’re as internationally recognised as Kate Forsyth not much phases you, so just drink champers and be fab. We all need to just shake it off with a champagne and a smile every now and then. If I was to channel pre published Kate Forsyth (translation: broke) To “Forsyth it” would mean to be focused, devoted and don’t allow for distractions or detractions. Choose your priorities and go with that. If that means skipping a few meals to do a writing course then so be it. So really,  however you “Forsyth it,” pre published or internationally celebrated,  you’ll be doing something pretty amazing. Self belief is key.

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What would Nakkiah Lui do? No idea, she’s a bit like the Spanish Inquisition,  nobody expects them. The only thing I know is that she’ll challenge, she’ll be unique, she’ll probably swear and she’ll definitely make you laugh. So if you want to “Lui it” you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and always do the unexpected and BE the unexpected.

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What would Margo Lanagan do? Something so profoundly brilliant that it beggars belief and then be self deprecating about it. Modesty thy name is Margo Lanagan… Ok, I haven’t channeled my inner Lanagan yet, because I haven’t written anything as brilliant as her yet, but I look forward to the day I do… because then I’ll be smug as hell instead of self deprecating.

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What would Hannah Kent do? Start a bidding war over her first novel… haven’t channeled her yet either… sad face.

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What would Anita Heiss do? Be ground breaking,  brilliant,  devoted and still be family oriented… I hope my daughter channels her inner Heiss, Mummy will always be here, please don’t forget me.

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What would Pamela Freeman do? Say something sassy as hell and make everyone laugh, then follow it up with a ridiculously insightful comment. Pamela is cheeky, she’s funny, she’s willing to tease her writer friends on panels just to make them laugh and she follows it up with intellectual insights. In short, she’s as close as you can get to a Terry Pratchett witch in real life. So just go say what you want, write what you want, be who you want, that’s what Pamela would do, that’s why she crosses genres and age groups in her writing.

So who are you going to channel today?

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Stuff My Kids Need For Christmas Because I Want It!

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You know what, kids aren’t going to remember what you got them for Christmas when they’re little so you may as well get them stuff you want… or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
I’m a little bit obsessed with those GOOD / BAD Parenting signs so when I saw this I laughed… I laughed, and then I laughed some more. Love it!

If loving Gumby is wrong then I don’t want to be right. Quietly confident my kids dig Gumby despite not knowing anything about it.

Because sauce isn’t messy enough with a three year old I have to add a challenge. An awesome challenge. Behold the sauce ray gun.

Pretty sure this slightly creepy toy won’t give any of my children nightmares. I’ll put it on the list for one of my sons. I love it and I wants it. My precious.

My daughter is almost 3 now. High time she started looking after her own finances right?

My boys might not be one yet but they eat a lot. I have to say my daughter’s eating has improved no end since they started crawling because she knows if she leaves food hanging about then they’ll get it. What could be better for a couple of hungry lads than a lunchbox? I love this panda! So hilarious.

My favourite bath toys as a kid were a set of brilliant stacking ducks. Therefore my children…

I’m quietly confident that my love of sci fi has rubbed off on my kids and they need a jumbo rocket… and if they don’t like it I’m sure my husband will find the top of it interesting to look at.

And of course they’ll need appropriate bedding to match their rocket.

Anything can happen when they’re asleep,  I do have three kids after all so I better get them these for bed time too.

Shut the front gate! I can’t believe there are Arabian building blocks! Finally I can build the castles I want to build… I mean finally my kids can build the structures they want… They’re very architecturally savy amongst the three and under set.

You would not believe how much my kids love Final Fantasy!

Since my boys heard that there was a scene where Luke wears Yoda like a backpack and Yoda whisperers words of wisdom into Luke’s ears, my eleven month olds have not shut up about how much they want to carry around a yoda on their back.

And weirdly my kids want a pretty dress in my size. I guess they’ll grow into it.

…. I do have three kids…
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The Hidden Benefits of Writing Courses

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The Hidden Benefits of Writing Courses

I love a good writing course. You leave energised, focused and ready with a new way to attack that novel. Saggy middle syndrome? No problem, see if your midpoint reversal lacks punch or is too early/late. Characters all sounding the same? Make each characters’ facial expressions as you write their dialogue. You’ve got interesting characters and beautiful language but nobody is really “feeling” it? RESTRUCTURE! The matter of art advice that you come away with is invaluable but you actually come away with even more than technical solutions and professional insights. You come away with a whole host of what I call hidden benefits.

1. You open your imagination in ways you don’t expect:

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Knowledge is power, knowledge is sexy and all that Jazz, but knowledge is also creativity. From my perspective, I generally go to a course to fix a specific weakness I have in my writing or my current project. So for example I could go to a course on Graphic Novels with Pat Grant to work on my ability to combine language and visual art. I’ll be honest, I’m so far gone that even Mr Grant would not be able to help my artistic woes.

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On second thoughts, my "art" is so brilliant that I don't need any help...

But let’s say for arguments sake I go, not only would I learn about the visual medium, comments made in passing may get me thinking just as much. Pat Grant might mention that his mate DC Green got his start peddling his own wares from school to school and made quite a good living this way. Suddenly you’re thinking about how you can get your own work out in an unconventional way. One thought leads to another and suddenly you’ve started your own boutique ePublishing business for tea fetishism.  Or you undertake a course on being Fabulously Creative with Walter Mason and he mentions how he did his PhD on “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and next thing you know you’re completely addicted to spiritualism and have written a bestselling novel about Rodrigo of Spain. Your mind is basically a science experiment. You put a stimulus in and you really don’t know exactly what will come out but you can bet it’ll be interesting.

2. YANA:

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You are not alone! Sometimes writing can seem almost like an existence of hermitude and madness. Trapped,  alone in the dark, with just your thoughts and your hands, expressing yourself away from prying eyes where you can hide your shame. But there are many of us out there. You are not the only one who secretly pretends to be texting when you’re actually noting an interesting phrase you heard. You are not the only one who uses toilet time to dream up new ideas. You are not the only one who never leaves the house without a variety of notebooks and pens in an array of colours so that you can colour code your ideas. You have others like you out there. You don’t have to like them, you don’t have to communicate with them, just knowing there are more like you out in the wild can be enough. It takes away the shame of your secret habit of hibernating over words because now it’s a community thing not just you. I did the Year of the Novel with Emily Maguire and it was fantastic because although we were all writing for different audiences, in different genres, we were all mad writers in it together.  YANA.

3. Friendship:

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But you just said we didn’t have to make friends! You don’t have to. Many courses I walked away with a knowledge glow and a bit of a YANA sentiment but no friends. That’s cool, that’s normal,  that’s what I expect and pay for. But guess what, sometimes you get more. You get to meet like minded individuals,  who aren’t desperately paranoid that you’re out to steal their ideas, or desperately competitive and want to tear you down, and they just want to do their best and for you to do your best too. You see, the more Australian authors published,  then the more people reading Australian authors,  then the more people wanting to read Australian authors, then the more Australian authors who get published. So really,  helping others is helping yourself, so play nice people. Just let any paranoia or competitiveness go and be receptive to new things… I think I’m channeling my inner Walter Mason. I’ve met some absolutely beautiful friends through Kate Forsyth courses, one of the most exceptional teachers that I have ever met and so keep going back for more, and have felt very supported to expand my own ideas and writing. Writing friends are the best. Not only can they give you ideas about structure,  plot, characterisation and dialogue but they also understand when you explain quite calmly that you cut five human characters from your novel and replaced them with a pet rabbit. Not to many people can do all of that for you… and writers tend to like wine, so they’re often fab if you need a boozy lunch. Admit it, we all need a boozy lunch from time to time.

4. Positivity comes from negativity:

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Not everyone will get you. Some people will think you’re writing about weird crap and have spent far too much time researching the exact atmospheric  composition required to make a vanilla sky. They might think writing for children is stupid. Hell they might write in the same genre as you but actually hate the genre and want write in it only for that sweet writer cash, whilst you love it and want to stay true to those who came before but add your own stamp to that. Or you could actually be craptastic. For whatever reason,  some people will just hate your writing,  and for that same unknown reason, some people will want to say it in the nastiest way possible. Usually not out and out aggressive but very passively aggressively in a manner that will cut straight through the bone and right to your soul. Heck, I got a little note written to me that said, Nice try, but your story is really stupid and it is a stupid idea, even the teacher clearly hated it, but good effort.  Keep trying and you’ll eventually get there. I admit that zen like thinking did not envelop me immediately. I thought, Bitch you be like half my age and haven’t even finished your first chapter let alone your novel so just go over there in the kiddy pool and bite my arse you meany poo poo head! I don’t like you! And you don’t get to speak for the teacher!! And your face is stupid!!! And you’re stupid!!!!  Fortunately this is rare, most people are truly constructive but there are those special folk amongst us who really like to go for the jugular. I am quietly confident that our teacher would have been utterly mortified had she seen that note. Although this can feel negative in the moment it is actually quite positive. It will force you to think about your writing. Are they right? Is there a weakness?  If so, fix it. Not in the way they tell you too, it’s your story not their’s, and also, because if they can’t phrase criticism constructively… then communication just isn’t their strong point so their suggestions will probably not be spectacular. If they aren’t right, you’ve spent a lot of time going over your novel and making sure it is strong,  it is necessary and come away with renewed confidence. So even your harshest critics eventually give you a positive lesson in any class that you attend.

So what are you waiting for? Go do a course today.