Damage Report

On Sunday night, we experienced a bad storm and you can read more about that here.

Here’s the damage report. We rent so the structural damage isn’t our problem. The landlord will be arranging for those things I mentioned in my previous post to be fixed.

However, our personal belongings are a different matter. We had boxes of books that cannot be saved. The water damage is too great – they smell terrible and mould is already forming, not to mention the warping and mushy pages. They will all have to be thrown out.

I had a box of curtains that belong to the house in the garage too. These are sopping wet and need to be washed and repacked. We need to put these back up at the windows if we move out. No big deal, except they are old and will probably fall apart upon washing. Great! If they do manage to wash without falling to pieces, I’ll have to buy a plastic container to pack them in so that we never have this worry again.

The CD’s we had packed away will probably be fine. We’ll find out the full extent of that damage on the weekend.

Now for the photos and other items that are not replaceable. Luckily, I had brought my “history” — such as my children’s keepsakes (locks of hair, first toys, hospital tags etc) — inside to show my oldest son’s girlfriend, but G’s “history” may not have been so lucky. The saddest thing is that he had so little to show for his long life. I remember my youngest looking through G’s photo album once. He looked up at me and asked if that was all there was. I told him it was. My son said “how sad”. Like me, G lost everything when his marriage broke up. But unlike me, I managed to get photos and keepsakes back, where he didn’t. I’m hoping that we can save his things. He’ll be crushed to lose them now.

Meanwhile, there’s an old man who lives next door to us. His home was flooded – 150cm of water sloshing about throughout the entire place. The pool of water has gone but the carpets are soaking wet and need to be ripped up and replaced. However, he also rents, and the people in the real estate are uncaring bastards and haven’t done a thing to get this problem fixed. While the old man waits, he’s open to infection and disease because he’s walking around on that carpet. He’s old and shouldn’t have to worry about this. He has nowhere to go, no family to turn to. We offered him a bed in our house until the problem was fixed, but he’s too proud (and independent) to accept.

The Blogosphere

The blogosphere is an ever growing place. In the past year or two, blogs have become the favourite way to maintain a website. Why? Because it’s so easy to add information and most templates look fantastic with a bit of tweaking. Also, there’s no coding to do, hence it saves time.

Yet, over recent weeks, I’ve noticed more and more blogs turn away from their original purpose and enter a new zone. That zone is full of blogging about blogs, about making money and filled with advertising.

I hate it.

Once interesting blog are no longer interesting. Once good looking sites, that were pleasing to the eye, are now heavily burdened with google ads, which looks shocking (and earns the owner little in return for the space taken).

I find myself visiting these sites less often. I continue to look for new sites to visit but I see that a trend has started, and this saddens me.

Personally, I think this isn’t good for bloggers because the once unique looking sites filled with information and personal views are disappearing. People are obsessed with getting as many readers as possible to there site. Whilst I have nothing against that, in general, I think it’s stupid to have a thousand people a day visit, if only six people read. What’s the point of that?

As far as I’m concerned, blogs crammed with advertising are just as bad as my inbox being filled with spam. It’s unnecessary, ugly and unwanted. 😡

Edit – 11 June 2007: How things change, for now I have advertising on this website, but I’ve tried to keep it sane. 😀

Flooded

I live in a draught stricken country, but last night we saw a storm that gave us more water than our “system” could manage.

The thunderstorm struck around 7pm. It hit fast and hard. The water tumbled down in torrents. It grew instantly dark. However, we were inside. The sounds of thunder and rain has always been pleasant to me, so there was no need to worry. Besides, we certainly need the rain.

Well, we got plenty. In fact, the rain tumbled down faster than our stormwater pipes could manage. When I say “we” I don’t mean just our house, I mean the whole city of … well, where I live 😀 .

Many of our roads were flooded, but more importantly, our street was completely under water. There was no road, no kerb and guttering, no grass or driveways. There was just water…everywhere. Right up to almost the top of our veranda!

Five more centimetres would have seen the house flooded.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen. However, the garage was flooded. We will have to go through everything and, I fear, a lot of stuff will be water damaged and will have to be thrown out. Luckily, the things that I consider “keepsakes” are packed in plastic containers, so I won’t lose any of those things. There are boxes of books which will probably have to go though.

At the back of our garage is a small storage room, which we don’t use because there’s no lighting in there (and spiders have moved in). The inner ceiling of this area caved in completely. There are also two cellar doors which are buckled and broken apart, which the landlord will have to fix because I can see an accident waiting to happen there.

My 18 year old son was out with his girlfriend, he had to wade through knee high water for several blocks to get home.

With him home, my worry turned to my little Jasper (one of our two kittens). His sister, Sophie, came running home as soon as the first spot of rain appeared. However, Jasper was out exploring and didn’t come home. Then…he couldn’t get home unless he was willing to swim, and we all know how cats hate water. This really had me worried.

Around 11pm, even though it was still raining lightly, the water started to recede. I don’t know what Jasper did, but when we heard him calling out to us. We opened the front door to find a drenched cat, with large green eyes, staring up at us. Poor thing. He was eager to get inside, and then I had to try and dry him off.

Relieved that all were safe, and the water was receding, we were able to go to bed. My last thought was “please don’t send us another thunderstorm overnight”. I doubt we would be so lucky the second time round.

Shimmer

I started reading Shimmer by Kathryn Deans. She’s an Australian writer (by night) and works in a bank by day. Now, this is no reflection on the writer or the book, but…I stopped reading it. I’m not all that keen on trolls, ogres, dwarves, elves – and this story has all of them. I only read the first 20 pages and I found that my mind kept wondering. I just wasn’t in the mood. I can tell you that the author writes with a humourous flow, which I liked, and the main character was well crafted. I’ll put the book back on the shelf and will come back to it at a later date. It’s also been taken out of my sidebar and replaced with another book I’ve started reading instead.

Why do we edit?

Editing means that we try to make our story as flowing and reader friendly as possible. It means that we take away the confusion of awkward sentences, bad grammar and spelling and allow our readers to enjoy the story. Constant mistakes will distract the reader and eventually they will focus on how terrible we write, instead of the plot. No writer wants this, so editing is essential.

The first thing we must do is read the entire manuscript through, just like we read any other book. As we read, we should use a red pen to mark problem areas – confusion, something missing, waffling, point of view shifts, format problems etc. Don’t stop to fix them yet, because that will stop the flow. Just mark the area and keep reading. If it doesn’t sound right to you, the author, then it’s going to sound even worse to the reader.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

1. Is the style and voice consistent?
2. Do I use the best word possible in every single sentence?
3. Is the flow smooth?
4. Do I use proper sentences?
5. Is the point of view consistent?
6. Am I using passive sentences?
7. Are the events in the right order?
8. Do I have plot holes?
9. Are my characters realistic and growing?
10. Does every scene move the story forward?
11. Is the dialogue natural?
12. Is there enough description, without going over the top?
13. Is the title appropriate?
14. Is the opening sentence catchy?
15. Will the resolution leave the reader satisfied?

Now work through the manuscript again (is it any wonder we end up hating the story?), and this time, fix the errors. Take your time. Be careful, don’t trust your spell checker, so watch for words that sound alike, ie their/there/they’re. And don’t be afraid to cut huge chunks of writing, even if it is your favourite part of the story. If it doesn’t move the story along, delete it.

When you’ve finished, you should have a polished manuscript. However, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to rest until you read the entire manuscript again, and hope with all your heart that you don’t find any errors. If you do…you know what needs to be done!

In the Shower

I have a few polished short stories, but all of them are for adults. Yet I recently decided to write for children. Hmm, it’s good to be able to write for different age groups, but as I will be attempting to find a publisher for my chapter book later in the year I thought it would be a good idea to write some short stories for children and see if I can get some publishing credits beforehand. Anything to help reach my goal faster.

Squatters is such a story. I have been planning the story for a couple of weeks. I even started writing it in longhand, but I wasn’t happy with the way it was coming together. It didn’t feel right so I went back to think mode.

This morning, in the shower, I suddenly thought of the real reason behind my main characters actions. It’s perfect! Previously, the plot felt a little “pushed” together, but now it feel natural and strong.

And now…I can start writing. 8)

Getting over the Hurdles

Are you stuck? Are you finding it difficult to put words to paper? Maybe it’s time to turn your focus to something else for a short time. Here are some exercises to help you start writing again. Don’t worry about quality, just focus on getting words on paper. Let your imagination go wild and just write. At some stage, you will turn back to the scene causing you stress and you will find yourself working your way over that hurdle.

1. Look at a photo, any photo, and write a few paragraphs about what you see. It can be what really happened at the time the photo was taken, or you can twist it into something weird and wonderful. The choice is yours.

2. Write a page on a child waking up on Christmas Day, or on their birthday. Show the child’s excitement and dreams. You could possibly even make this into a short flash fiction piece.

3. Look out the window and imagine everything you see…gone. Tell a story about what happened. How will you survive?

4. Write a page or a story with the title “My First Day”.

5. Use this as your first sentence: “Samantha, watch out!” Now continue writing.

6. Write a page or story that ends with, “and I never spoke to him again.”

Good luck!

Book Review: The Pit

thepitThe cover of The Pit by Ann Pilling captured my attention straight away. I knew by the “bird man” that the plot involved the plague and I was right.

Briefly, the book is about Oliver, who lives in London. He’s a 12 year old boy who has a fascination with all things spooky – horror films, spooky comics, death. He’s a bit of a loner, so doesn’t have a lot of friends. A girl tries to befriend him but he’s not really interested, but somehow gets talked into having a “shared” rat for a pet (even though he knows his mother will be angry if she finds out about it). At the same time a strange old man moves into his parents boarding house. Then, things start getting strange.

A “darkness” keeps coming for him. It takes him back in time to 1665 when London was experiencing the plague. He experiences life through the eyes of a five year old, whose family is struggling to stay alive as thousands of people die around them. For several weeks, Oliver lives two lives – awake in the present day; and, at the oddest moment he passes out and is taken back in time. Can he solve the riddle that brings the events of the past and present together? Is he strong enough to handle the truth? Will life ever be the same again?

The first two chapters of the book were mediocre, but after that it came alive. Being interested in the historical references, I knew the author had done her research. Yet it wasn’t until the end that I discovered that the idea for the book came about from a real event written in the diary of Samuel Pepys, who lived in London during the plague and recorded the daily events and happening of the people. This diary is referred to in many books and does exist.

The subject matter drew me in, and the plot held me. I liked the way the author put real events into the present day. I enjoyed following Oliver’s journey and his sense of discovery. And I learned that, in children’s books, you can write about death, suicide and mangled bodies and get away with it.

This is a book for young readers. Yet all readers will reach the end of the story and know what life was really like in 1665, during the plague. It was a great read. I wasn’t disappointed.