Cat Sheely

Writer and opinionated reader


An Eclectic Mix of Stories

It’s not strictly true to say ‘what I’ve been reading’, more accurately which books I’ve finished.  Beside actually reading a physical book or an ebook, I also listen to audiobooks when I’m in the car, knitting or just relaxing. I actually had no idea how many books a year I actually finish until I undertook the Goodreads Challenge this year.  I started out with what I thought was a reasonable number, 30.  I had to update that by end of March to 40 and so on.  Currently I’ve set the total to 65 and am only 6 books short of the target… again.  And then there is the slush reading I do for ASIM which at times adds another 3 or so short stories a week to my total reading list, although they do not count on the Challenge of course.

I love any sort of speculative fiction but will happily read biographies and good fiction, often because they have been recommended to me.  In the latter category I recently read ‘The Guernsey 8013752Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Shaffer, given to me by a friend last Christmas.  I took so long to read it even though it kept rising to the top of the ‘to read’ pile because it seemed rather ‘twee’ to me.  Silly me, really.  It is a delightful book, full of real people that captured my attention.  On top of that, the style of writing in the form of letters was unique and very well done.  I admit I had to stop looking at the dates of the letters because I kept wondering how these missives could flash across a city in less than five hours and across the channel to Guernsey in one day.  Once I just let it flow I became wrapped up in the story of wartime Guernsey and it’s people, and the unusual romance that eventuated.  Definitely deserved 4 stars out of 5.

13067519Another unexpected gem was ‘Athena’s Promise’ by Annetta Ribken. It was a delightful speculative fiction story that doesn’t fit into any specific genre although it had zombies, trolls, centaurs and vampires all dealing with a human heroine who was the front desk manager in a hotel.  The catchphrase ‘more numbah’s’  will stick in the mind after reading it.  Again, definitely deserves 4 stars from me.  I’m looking forward to the next instalment when it is released.

23264189I bought ‘Difficult Second Album’ by Simon Petrie at Conflux 10 held in Canberra on the long weekend in October and available from Smashwords and Amazon if you’re interested. My husband told me I wasn’t to read it in bed of an evening because I kept giggling and snickering and putting him of his reading.  Simon has a wicked sense of humour, is a wonderful story-teller and very, very well. Not all the stories have humour in them and they balance out the book very well. He also writes flash fiction and some of those in the book are real gems.  I highly recommend this one and give it 5 stars.

23056339Donna Maree Hanson’s ‘Shatterwing’ was another Conflux find.  It is a fantasy with very dark passages that some may find very confronting.  The world-building in this, the first book of the series, is excellent and I found myself hooked in the trials and tribulations of the characters.  I have a personal issue in that when I become interested emotionally in a character, I find it difficult to let them go halfway through a book and take up the point of view of another character.  The first half of the book is about Salinda who, after years of tending the vines for the Dragon Wine, undergoes terrible physical harm before she can escape the vineyard.  Salinda is the keeper of a power she finds difficulty using and does not understand.  We leave Salinda in a situation that seems somewhat safe and learn about Laiden who accompanies an elder mage who unexpectedly dies.  As a result she gains a similar power to Salinda and has difficulty managing it.  She must also run for her life.  I have the second in the Dragon Wine series and will read ‘Skywatcher’ over the next month.  Overall, I rate the first book a 3 stars, I liked it and am looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Now for a couple of audiobooks.  The first, The Child by Sebastian Fitzek, was an excellent story but the audio-play had too many distractions – rain that went on forever, pauses in dialogue that ended up being totally frustrating despite the fact that the actors, including Amelia Fox and Rupert Penry-Jones were delightful to listen to.  So I will have to find a written copy of this and read it.

Kevin Hearne”s ‘Shattered’, the 7th in the Iron Druid Chronicles, was the exact opposite.  The narrator, Christopher Ragland, did a wonderful rendition of all of the characters, male and female and18525883 irish wolfhound.  Atticus the last Druid on Earth now has graduated Granuille, his apprentice as well as liberating his Arch-Druid from a time spell – so now there are 3 druids in the world that can access the powers of Gaia.  Atticus and Granuille both have delightful companions in their wolfhounds who can speak and provide the light relief during stressful times.  If you love Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files you will definitely love the Iron Druid series.  Another 4 stars from me for this one.

23265559Finally, there is the audiobook of ‘Bones Never Lie’ from Kathy Reichs and read by Katherine Borowitz.  The last two Reichs books were a bit of a disappointment for me but this one returns Reichs to her previous best with detailed forensic descriptions alongside the continuing life of her heroine, Dr Temperance Brennan.  This is a 3 stars only because I have certain expectations from these books and I liked it but fell just short of loving it.

7028848I am currently reading Phillip K Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ and can see why it has become a classic.  I’m about 40 pages from the end and will finish it today.  It will definitely get 5 stars from me despite it being slightly dated because Dick wrote it in the late 1960’s and set it in the early 2000’s.  Not his fault that space exploration and the idea of settling on Venus and Mars turned out to be highly problematic.

18076835I’m also listening to ‘Lexicon’ by Max Berry and read by Heather Corrigan and Zack Appleman.  It is a story about the power of words and how some people are trained to use words to influence others.  It is intriguing and suspenseful and I’m not sure where it is going.  I like that, a lot.

My ‘To Read’ stack keeps getting taller and includes titles from Gillian Polack (Langue [dot] doc}, Craig Cormack (The Shadow Master) and an anthology by Tehani Wessely entitled ‘Phantazine’.  I guess I’ll make my 65 books this year, and maybe more as there are still 7 weeks to go this year.

 


New Qualification

Well, I did it.  I completed my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  Phew!  I admit I enjoyed doing it.  That probably had to do with the facilitator, Erin Riley from Wisdom Learning who, without a doubt, knew her stuff and was able to communicate it clearly while we were doing hard things and making it seem like fun.  And this time I didn’t have the pressure of a job to hassle with.  When I did my undergrad, I had a husband, new house and two kids under two as well as working part-time and studying full time.  It was, to say the least, hectic.  When I did my Grad Dip Psych, I was working in a senior position in Defence.  My Dip PM luckily was a case of getting documentation together to allow Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) yet even that took several intense weeks.  So getting time to digest the information, sit back and re-read notes and manuals and then doing the work was shear luxury. I wish I had realised that when I was a school kid *sigh*.  Still, can’t put old head on young shoulders as the adage goes.

One of the most interesting topics of this course was that of Adult Learning.  Although I had covered this in my Psych degree from a purely brain function/dysfunction point of view, I found the practical side of using the information and models much more compelling.  And of course, realised why I loved the way Erin facilitated the course. Crossword puzzles for review that tested key words from the previous sessions made ‘wracking one’s brain’ to go back a week to remember stuff a fun activity. She used minimal overheads and even when she did have them, she spoke to the topic so well I didn’t even read them.  The course was structured so we learned, practiced, built more learning, practiced and learned some more.  It certainly worked for me.

Now I just have to ‘do’ it myself when I do my first professional presentations i.e the ones I will get paid to do.  Fingers crossed…challenge-accepted.jpg.pagespeed.ce.9QPX0E4mDu


Conflux 10, NaNoWriMo, Life and Me

A little distance is often a good thing.  I attended Conflux 10 in Canberra on the October long weekend.  This is the fifth time I have attended the conference and each time I’ve come away happy, tired an9837-Conflux-10-Logod a little overwhelmed by the friendships I’ve begun and being included in the network of wonderful writers – both well-know published authors and those, like me, just learning the craft. Added to all this, I was joined by two writer friends from the Eurobodalla Writers and we shared a wondrous weekend, cementing friendship, laughing and learning.

On Friday I attended an all-day workshop run by Russell Kirkpatrick and Nicole Murphy on writing opening chapters that catch the reader, summaries of novels and letters to publishers to catch their attention.  All very important skills and a great workshop.  That night we dressed up and attended the Hogwarts’ Pyjama party and, along with some fun games and laughs, had far too much sugar just before bed.  Saturday consisted of an interview with Margo Lanagan, the launch of several books including Simon Petrie‘s ‘Difficult Second Album’ and a horror short story competition suitably won by Shauna O’Meara.  Her story of a WWI pet rat on a battlefield was both charming and horrible.  Margo Lanagan came in a close second with a Halloween story.  After that we attended the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with music, food, talking, a bit of dancing and, not least, the dressing up.  My friend Marisol Dunham won the price for best costume and thoroughly deserved it.  The best cosplay group was Tim Napper, his gorgeous wife and son, dressed in Deep Space 9 uniforms.  Very, very nice.  Sunday, a few more book launches including Donna Maree Hanson‘s ‘Shatterwing’ and Gillian Polack’s ‘Lang (dot) doc’.  Then the ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’ banquet to finish off the day.

Highlights included a kaffeklatch with Isobelle Carmody and a beer meeting with Kaaron Warren.  Learned so much including that writers are normal people with some weird brains that I totally relate to.  I just hope I can someday become 1/10th as good as these ladies.

At the same time as all of this is going on, I’m completing a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.  Thoroughly enjoying the course facilitated at Wisdom Learning by a fantastic teacher in Erin Riley.  Lots of work involved and I’m doing it so that next year I can facilitate a Diploma Course in Project Management for Wisdom.

Prior to all this there was a wonderful week of babysitting my grandson Elliott and a visit to his cousin Ashlyn in Newcastle.  It certainly tested our resources but we did have fun with the grandkids.  They grow up so fast it’s hard to keep up.

The Tuesday after the return from Conflux the evening chapter of the Eurobodalla Writers met and we decided on our story for National November Writers Month – each of us doing a chapter.  The planning went very well and we are hoping to get it together in a book for our families.

I’ve finally got some time to get back to some knitting and writing and the weather is warming up so regular swims in the pool are a definite benefit of being home.  I can now take a deep breath before the onslaught of the Christmas silly season.  It’s silly because we end up running about like silly people to Canberra, Newcastle and even Sydney.  And then the family comes to us for a few days – which I love.  So I’m also looking forward to it even as I know by January I will be well and truly over it.

I didn’t quite get to all the New Year resolutions I made this year but I got to the most important ones – get fit, keep up with the grandchildren, learn some more about writing and writing itself.  I finished my novel but now am in editing mode and it’s going slowly.  However, it is going so that’s good.

I’m a contented Cat, YAY!

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Lifelong Learning

If there is one thing I love is finding out new information whether it be scientific, humanitarian, political or just fun.  Thus research for my stories is quite a bit of the fun of writing. But currently I’m doing a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.  It’s one of those things that I need to do if I’m going to provide training in Project Management. Yes, I’m officially going to undertake training with a ????????????delightful organisation called Wisdom Learning.  And boy, am I learning.  Not so much an issue of content but how to go about training in the current environment, how to assess that training and, as from this week, how to design proper training programs.

I thought it would be a slog but it’s fun.  And BTW, my mother is currently rolling around in her grave in frustration. She’s muttering ‘I wish you’d realised you were a good student when you were 10′ over and over again.  My response to my beloved but long departed mother is that the schooling in Australia when I was 10 was abysmal. The teacher, OK the Nun, stood in the front of the class and talked, scratched on the blackboard and talked some more, THEN, had the hide to give you a mountain of homework.  Like I was going to do that! And of course, there was the ruler… and my hand still bares the scars, as do the back of my knees from the cane end of the feather duster.  All of this was in primary school.

allgirlsclassbigLuckily, high school was better.  I had some great teachers.  Mrs Stanger (in yellow in the link) taught History and English and she was brilliant… she was a storyteller and that was utterly compelling.  And I did really well in her class: I even did my homework for her.

After school I went to business college and learned shorthand and typing.  The latter has been a beneficial lifelong skill – roughly 100 words per minute when I’m copy typing.  Shorthand went by the wayside very quickly. I tended to persuade my bosses that sitting in front of them taking shorthand was wasting their time and mine,  a dictaphone was a better option – we could both work and get more done.  Phew!  I never could read all my squiggles back anyway, and relied on short-term memory for some of it.

Two years into the workforce and I’d had enough.  I joined the Woman’s Royal Australian Navy (WRAN) and became a Medic.  I topped the class because I loved what I was doing.  Got promoted veryCatharina age 19 - Version 2 quickly and ended up a Petty Officer after just over 4 years.  Then I had the hide to get married and I had to leave the Navy.  The marriage ban was lifted some years before but there was absolutely no guarantee you would be posted with you partner.  It was bad enough that he would be away sailing the 7 seas, but being in another city when he was in Australia didn’t appeal, so I left.

When you leave the services they do provide additional training so I refreshed my shorthand and added bookkeeping.  Again, dropped the first but bookkeeping has been another lifelong skills that  stood me in good stead in my working and private life.  Got great marks because I loved it.

We ended up in Canberra 6 months after the wedding when hubby paid off from the Navy.  Yes, of course I married a sailor. What else would you expect?

I finally got into the Australian Public Service, after building a house and having two kids when hubby also left the Service, and found I hated the low-level I was working at i.e. lousy pay with heaps of responsibility (my boss had me and three other staff, I had 24 secretaries and 12 people in the typing pool to look after as a Typist Controller – and all the other bosses to deal with when their secretaries/PA’s were sick, did the wrong thing, were unhappy etc – shitty job). So it was suggested I go to uni.  And then of course there was the delightful Mr Whitlam who had made uni free.  So I went. And I did well.  And yes, I loved it.

After my undergrad, I managed two post-grads and an advanced diploma among other things like OHS, law and IT courses.

project-management2And now, after nearly 25 years of being a Project Manager and Director, I get to go back to learn how to train people.

Both in my Psych Degree, various Train-the-Trainer courses and this Cert IV, it is very clear that people have to invest in their learning to get anything out of it.  Well, DUH! I guess I learned that all by myself over the years.  If you like/love what you are learning it’s easy… even when it’s hard (like assignments and research and writing papers on boring stuff).

But knowing this and then being able to develop training that people want to do, have an interest in, get something out of… that’s now my challenge.

I will say that my current trainer, Erin Riley, is one of the most dynamic and motivating people I’ve ever had the pleasure to be educated by.  I’m taking lots of notes and if I can come halfway to being like her, then I might just make a success of it.

Guess by now it’s clear that I also love a challenge.  Fingers crossed I can meet this one and haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.  OK, probably have but I will just chow down and keep chewing till I get it.

Truth is, I hope I can keep learning new stuff until the day my number is up.  And then I might still learn something… what, if anything, comes after.

Cool huh.

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Retirement and Timelines

timthumb.phpThis week I will celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my retirement. Well, almost retirement I suppose.  I’ve done a few small jobs to keep my hand in and, of course, the writing. But there is an interesting thing happening with me in terms of the work vs retirement mindset. I’m really beginning to hate, with a  passion, deadlines – even ones I’ve set for myself.

I’ve always been one to be early or on time for whatever I’m doing; appointments, work deadlines, submission deadlines and so on. Always. Yet over the last few months I’ve found myself turning away from deadlines. I’m beginning to feel they are an infringement of my newly found freedom. I don’t set alarm clocks and make all necessary appointments (doctor, dentist, coffee with friends) for a decent hour i.e. 10am or later.

So.Am I getting lazy? Becoming an old fart? Or is it just that I’ve finally settled into retirement and there is an adjustment I still have to make? For example, I still want to finish my book, send it in to a few publishers in case it’s any good, and see what happens. I still need to finish short stories for various anthologies I’ve set myself a goal to submit to. And yet, I’m  avoiding doing anything to achieve these self-identified tasks.

I think a lot about doing all this stuff I’ve set for myself. But hey, were did my motivation go?  Come BAAAACK!Layout 1

Yes, I’ve visited my family often, and managed to get every virus the grandkids have picked up. And Yes, hubby and I have done some travelling. But I’ve had days where I’ve sat and knitted or cross-stitched rather than sit at the computer.

I think it’s a reaction to over 40 years of the “MUSTS”; must get a better job, must get a promotion, must to well and prove myself, must get another degree, must get another qualification, must… must… must….

Now it’s all about my own wants, and I have got a definite aversion to the ‘must do [whatever]’.

Is it freedom? Is it just a short term thing and I will get my motivation back? Is it ‘old fart’ syndrome? Who knows, but I wish it would stop.

Yep, I hear you. Only I can make it stop. You’re absolutely right. But send me some good vibes so my mojo returns.

 


It’s Done! And more as well.

So I’ve blogged about procrastination and wanting to finish my novel.  Well… I did it!  It’s finished.  77, 984 words.

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OK, the writing is finished.  Now comes the editing.  And believe it or not, I’ve already started that.  I think I mentioned I went to a great workshop with Ian McHugh on editing and I’m trying really hard to follow the guidelines.  Read and fix structure, then check characters and only then worry about the line edits.  So I’m reading from scratch.

But I keep wanting to pick up line edits and stuff.  It’s taking quite a bit of concentration and putting data into a spreadsheet as I do it, to ensure I’m sticking to the plan.  After all, this is the first book I’ve edited and it’s much more complex than a short story.  For one, there are many more characters and for another, it takes place in multiple locations.  Have I got all the elements I need? Are all the story elements covered and resolved? Is it logical in terms of the storyline?

So far, after 2 chapters, it’s OK but that, I think, is the easy bit.  It will take a bit of work before I can go on to making sure the characters are as rounded as they need to be and have their own voices.  Actually, that latter bit worries me but maybe I’m OK.  We’ll see.

On top of that I’ve been searching for a topic/theme/storyline for the next CSfG anthology ‘Never, Never Land’.  I don’t think I’m much good at Mad Max stuff and apocalyptic themes are a bit overdone for me.  So, horror, scifi, fantasy or what?  No answers for that here but I think I might have something that I can work with.  Finger’s crossed.

All in all, I’ve found my mojo again after months of … what? Thinking?  Wondering?  Worrying? Well I decided to stop the latter, keep wonder at my core and use it for good and stop thinking and write.  Seems to have worked for me.


Writing but not Blogging

So.  It’s been a while… again.  I have been reading and writing.  Just not writing about reading and writing.  Mainly because I haven’t had anything very interesting to say.  I don’t blog just for the sake of blogging.  I prefer to have an idea, an opinion or a happening I want to share.

Oh yes, I’ve been a busy girl.  Haven’t we all.  It’s been about family and that’s very satisfying.  But I don’t feel I need to air my family good times online.  Those are personal times and I love them.  And I am very cautious about what I actually send out into the great big permanent world of the internet.

What I have been doing is reading a lot of other people’s blogs on writing and spending time with local writers doing ‘stuff’.  I’m trying to improve my writing to a point where I believe I can let it out into the world and be proud of it.  Yes, I’ve been fortunate to have several stories published.  But today I would probably write them more tightly were I to do them again.

I’ve also been working on a novel since NaNoWriMo last November.  I’m working on the final chapters and it’s getting hard to wrap it all up.  I’ve been to courses including Ian McHugh’s ‘Polishing Your Turd’.  And that is actually what’s next for me.  Taking my creation and whipping it into shape.  A bit of a daunting prospect.  I’ve read that some writers actually enjoy that bit most… just not me.  As Ian said, I will have to ‘put on the overalls’ and begin the hard work.

And what have I learned over the past four months?  That I’ve still got a long way to go but that I’m determined to go there.  its_a_long_way_to_go____by_moonshadowgirl

Oh, I’ve equivocated.  The old ‘I don’t need to write, I’ve proved myself in other ways’ thoughts, or ‘I’m retired, I don’t need to push myself,’ or ‘I’ll never be as good as [fill in popular author] so why try.’  But then the mood hits and I have to sit at the computer and create a story; good, bad or indifferent.  I’ve been doing that most of my life, if not on computer than in notebooks while sitting waiting for someone or something, at coffee shops, in airport lounges.  I realise, looking back, I’ve always written and I feel happy when I do.  And therefore I MUST finish this book.

And I have also realised it’s not that I want anyone to say how wonderful it is, or it could be a best seller (a highly unlikely scenario).  I want to create something and finish it as best I can.  And if others like it, it’s a bonus.  And this has been the most important realisation, that I NEED to write, and write for me.

I do have two people to thank for all this ‘realising’.  The first is my dear friend M.A. Dunham, Marisol to me.  We met at the evening meeting of our local writing group the Eurobodalla Fellowship of Australian Writers (EFAW).  We’ve become fast friends and she’s a delightful and very talented writer.  She’s been chivvying me and we’ve spent days writing together.  And then there is Ian McHugh.  Beside being a delightful friend he’s a wonderful teacher.  He makes difficult issues like editing your own stuff seem a simple process of knuckling down and going through a process.  Of course, that’s what it is, but until he laid it out clearly, I really don’t think I had any idea of how to go about it.

And then there is the crew at CSfG.  How can you not be inspired by ‘Writers of the Future’ winners like Ian and Shauna O’Meara, and all the other wonderful published authors that make up the group.

So, to finish where I started.  I’ve not been blogging but I’ve been busy with family and writing.  And maybe, sometime this year, I will have a novel to put out there.  Fingers crossed.

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