Blog, Uncategorized

Two lifetimes ago

The boom and crack of fireworks echoed around, evoking the wonder of childhood. Tonight we were not eating grapes and cheese, snuggled en famille on a picnic rug, under the blossoming light show.

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My little 5-year-old ripped off her oxygen mask to run to the hospital window.

Continue reading “Two lifetimes ago”

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Book Review, Recommendations, Uncategorized

Top 5 of 2017

I nibbled my way through some really great books last year. I mean, really great. I’d like to share the best books I read in case anyone is looking for recommendations. Put down that Vikings box-set and READ!

Without further ado, I’ll count down my top five (totally subjective, as always) from last year’s Read pile.

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5. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

A wonderfully inspiring read set during the French Occupation in World War II. I loved the little details of what must have been a terrible life within an occupied country.

4. The curious incident of the dog in the night-time by Mark Haddon

I love the understanding of new perspectives that comes with reading. The main character is 15-year-old Christopher, who can’t stand to be touched, is a maths genius and perceives the world in a very logical way. This book shows what he is thinking when his behavior is not quite what we expect.

3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Prof Don Tillman writes a list of the variables needed for the perfect wife. Then he begins crossing women off it. A tale to keep you believing that love is in the ‘every day’ and that everyone has their soul mate. It just can’t always be boiled down to a science.

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2. Blackout by Connie Willis

A fantastic science fiction/historical set in World War Two. The author manages to give you a lot of detail without it seeming too dry. I enjoy books where I learn as well as being entertained.

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1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

This book poses the question: What if you could live your life again and again, until you get it right? Ursula is born in the 1910’s in Britain and dies immediately. I am so inspired by all the tiny details the author manages to tell us about each and every character in this book. The multi-layered plot has kept me thinking about this story long after I marked the eBook Finished.

This is all of the books I read last year in case you are wondering about the pool I chose these from. I’ve just noticed that three of the five could be classed as World War II historical fiction. That is purely coincidental. I don’t intentionally try to read that sub-genre, in fact it is quite the opposite, considering there is such a glut of historical set in that time period.

Join me on Goodreads or comment below if you want to discuss books.

What are your top picks? Any that you had great hopes for but were sadly disappointed?

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Writing

Blog share

This is a great site for blog promotion.

https://dreambigdreamoften.co/2017/11/02/leave-me-a-link-and-ill-share-your-page/

I think this is a great idea. After all, there are finite words in the universe but endless ways to arrange them, so writers should be supporting each other instead of competing. We can’t let the Goggle Box win, people. Anthing that gets people reading has to be good, right?

This is just some of my favourite blogs to read while procrastinating. Have a look if you have a particularly hard scene that you don’t want to write:

https://whatisnormalfor.wordpress.com/
https://readingwithjax.wordpress.com/
https://noellawrites.wordpress.com/
https://jennymaloney.wordpress.com/

I’ll add to the list as I find more great blogs. Or comment below and I’ll add any that I love!

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Writing

Flash fiction

The whinny of a horse slashed the dusk. Victory songs twisted into prayers as a blur of white invaded the clearing. One young guard, not long out of naps, left to protect the king.
I resisted the urge to fling the board.
“Think you’re gifted at chess, don’t you?”

This is a piece of flash fiction crafted for the Ramere Shorts Twitter challenge. It had to be 140 characters and include the words: blur, fling, gifted, chess, horse, nap, twist, slash.


The webs we weave

The hot venison filled his mouth with saliva. He washed it down with another swallow of lager.

He rubbed his hands together in front of the fire, thinking of sea-green eyes. They had creased with pleasure as the golden fabric flowed through his hands.

The little man let a giggle escape his lips. Tomorrow the plan would be complete. He could almost feel the weight of the baby in his arms, the same eyes staring up at him. Leverage.

A piece of dry pine became his partner in a jig. He slurred, to the frozen forest, “Rumpelstiltskin is my name”.

The above is 100-word flash fiction based on a fairy tale.


 

 

 

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Motivation, Writing, Writing in NZ

February – 55,320 words

My mind went blank. The Sensei, all 6 foot, ultimately disciplined fighting machine of him, clenched and un-clenched his fists. He waited for me to recall one of the precepts of karate. Just as he was about to lose patience and order me a dish of twenty press-ups, the words came to me in a flash of brilliance.

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“Karate is like boiling water,” I managed to say. I have never forgotten that. If boiling water is not kept on the heat, it will return to a tepid state. If you do not practice karate often and with maximum effort, you will not make progress. (Gichin Funakoshi, 1936)

Writing is also like boiling water – at least on the first draft. It is important to write at least a little every day to get into the habit. I joined in with a great writing community and we have been motivating each other. For the first two weeks of January, I wrote 3,500 words a week. For me, that is phenomenal. That was before my husband went back to work (and with him, my writing time without kids, and my sanity). The school year has started now, so onward and upward.

Happy New Year, by the way. For me, 2018 has started off. Not with a bang, but with a sizzle. It has been crazy, feet-hanging-out-of-bed, end-of-the-world hot in my little part of New Zealand. So, with the apocalypse in mind, I have decided this year to make resolutions that matter:

  • Self-care – Gone are the guilt-inducing resolutions of going to the gym and losing weight. This year, I am taking it easy on myself. Being out in nature is energizing for me, so I will swim at the beach and go on some lovely walks in our picturesque part of the world. This also involves yoga, taking social media breaks and just leaving the housework sometimes. What is more, there will be no slapping myself around the face if I don’t achieve any of these resolutions! It is really hard to beat yourself up in downward dog position.
  • Conquering fears – I have no idea how many things I avoid doing because of fear. I am probably too scared to count them up. Perhaps, conquering is not quite the right word – let’s try flicking with a limp wrist and a wee scream. Yup, I’ll keep you posted on this one.
  • Minimising waste – I know, I sound like a preaching hippie (Well, maybe I am) but I have recently had my eyes opened to the mountains of trash from the Western world piling up each and every day. The solutions are relatively simple – they just take a little effort and thought on our part.
  • Promoting kiwi writers – In a recent survey, only 32% of the respondents said they were likely to look for a fiction book by a New Zealand author in the next year (Source – NZ Book Council). These are adult New Zealanders who, on average, read 20.6 books this past year. And only a third of them would look for a book by a New Zealander! What are we doing wrong? I know that there are a lot of great writers in this little country creating some amazing stuff. So the problem is therefore promotion. I love promoting other authors as I now understand the blood, sweat and tears we put into each and every word.
  • Writing every day – Most people think they have a story inside them. I can easily write a book, I thought. Hmm, perhaps I was a little cocky. It has been a steep learning curve to discover the skill and craft that goes into each sentence. And the only way to improve at writing is to write. A lot. That goes for blogging as well.

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The goal here is really to finish my novel by the end of 2018. So far, it has been three years from the spark of an idea to the dubious achievement of being two thirds of the way through a first draft. That is a fair chunk of my life. I owe it to myself to finish the book this year. Look forward to a battle of epic proportions as I wrest the book away from my inner editor and actually say, THIS IS DONE.

Looking back to karate class: In that moment of mind-numbing panic, I forgot the Sensei, the threat of press-ups and the rest of the class (who would have had to do press-ups too). All that mattered was overcoming the stress response to find the answer. Body vs Brain. It is just as important to look after your mind as your body. Boil water under your goals this year; practise regularly if you want to succeed. But be kind if you don’t achieve exactly what you expected to. Look after yourself. No one else can.

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Book Review, Historical fiction, NZ Authors, Recommendations, Short story

New Zealand Author Spotlight

One of my resolutions for 2018 is to read more books by New Zealanders. Of course, I have read and love Jenny Pattrick, Stevan Eldred-Grigg and Janet Frame. But I owe it to the country and myself to branch out and find some new favourites. So far in January, I think I have done pretty well. From steampunk adventure to early settlers, I have been really impressed with my start to the reading year. I will update this list as the year goes on.

Kitty by Deborah Challinor

Historical/romance  **** 4 stars

Set in the Bay of Islands in the early 19th century, the author vividly describes the setting and the tensions of early settler New Zealand. The romance trope is a little done but a satisfying read nonetheless.

The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward

YA  **** 4 stars

This is the author’s debut novel. It is an adventure set in a gritty, fantastical steampunk world and I thought it was fantastic.

In a German Pension by Katherine Mansfield

Short stories  ****  4 stars

What can I say? What sharp wit and biting commentary. Thirteen short stories written early on in her career when she stayed in a German hostel in 1906. Thoroughly enjoyed.

Join me on Goodreads to discuss books!

my read shelf:
Kim.J's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)

 

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Sustainable Living

Break the plastic habit

Plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, getting tangled around fish and turtles. Mountains of plastic rubbish in China. We have all seen the images. But what can we do?

Recycling used to be the buzzword. This is one solution but it uses energy-intensive processes and creates pollution. The idea here is to reduce the amount we buy, choosing products that are not enveloped in plastic. We will be voting with our wallets, hopefully forcing companies to be more innovative about sustainable packaging. Re-using plastic products you already own is part of the andwer too. So don’t throw away those Tupperwares and plastic pottles from the supermarket deli.

You don’t need to save the world immediately. Zero waste is a journey for me, making mistakes and learning along the way. Baby steps are fine. These are a few top tips that anyone can do right now.

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1. Supermarket Bags:

THE PROBLEM: Plastic bags for produce and from the checkouts can be recycled in Australia however this is an energy intensive process.

SOLUTION: You probably already know to take a reusable shopping bag with you. Better yet, always keep one or two in your car in case of unplanned shops.

Did you know you can ask for a cardboard box when shopping online with Countdown supermarket? In the ‘Special Requests’ box type ‘Please provide groceries in a box instead of bags’. The boxes can then be returned to the store or recycled.

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To reduce the number of produce plastic bags used, consider buying from a farmers market. Fruitguys.co.nz can deliver fruit and veges in a box. Or check out your local vege co-op for locally sourced produce boxes ie Christchurch South Co-op

HOW EASY? Once you get into the habit, it is pretty easy.

2. Takeaway coffee cups:

THE PROBLEM: Takeaway coffee cups cannot be recycled in New Zealand (and some other countries) because of the thin layer of plastic (PE) inside the cardboard cup.

SOLUTION: Buy a ‘Keep cup’ or other reusable cup with lid and keep it in your car or office. Or drink at the café.

HOW EASY? This one really is a no-brainer when you get used to it.

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3. Plastic meat trays:

THE PROBLEM: Styrofoam meat trays have to go in the rubbish. Foodstuffs brought out clear plastic meat trays that were meant to be recyclable. However, these meat trays cannot be recycled at a lot of councils around New Zealand.

SOLUTION: The best solution is to go to the local butcher and take your own containers. Plastic takeaways containers can be re-used for this.

HOW EASY? It is not as convenient as the supermarket but I think it is worth it.

4. Plastic cutlery:

THE PROBLEM: You know the plastic fork you get with your sushi, it has to be binned. Straight to landfill.

SOLUTION: Throw a spoon or fork from home into your handbag or car.

HOW EASY? Easy.

5. Water bottles:

THE PROBLEM: Every time you buy a new water bottle, it is resource-intensive to recycle it. Our tap water is clean so there is really no need to buy water.

SOLUTION: Take your own water bottle. Re-use the ones you have or buy a metal one.

HOW EASY? Pretty easy.

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6. Glad wrap:

THE PROBLEM: It can be recycled with the soft plastics but, like plastic bags, it is a resource-intensive process.

SOLUTION: Consider purchasing beeswax wraps. Just wash them in water and detergent and they are good for another round.

HOW EASY? Pretty simple after the initial cost of purchasing.

With a little forward planning and change of mindset, you can start reducing what goes to landfill in your house. Pretty soon, you will be preaching to your friends and family. The movement grows exponentially from there.

To find out more, join the Facebook Group Zero Waste in NZ.

 

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