It’s tabs for me

 

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It’s time to admit that I’m addicted.  Not to the nightly tipple or a secret stash of chocolate. I’m talking tabs people. Little dividers that I’ve devised to help me find all the little notes I leave in…well  notebooks.

It started with the diary or more accurately , my bullet Journal.  I’m never satisfied with the store brought ones. Some things will work and other parts won’t, so I made a little black and white number to sit on my desk and track my writing. Nothing out-landish about that, you say.

But it didn’t stop.I’ve gone overboard, there’s no denying it.

You know how it is when you’re on the move and an idea pops into your head. A line here or there. A lightbulb moment. A bit of dialogue that sings. Oh the time spent thumbing back through notebooks for that priceless spark that would make the paragraph come together.  In an attempt to find those little gems we all scribble down I took to my current writing project notebook and before you can say rainbow card-stock it looked like little tongues were poking out at me. This miraculous idea would see bits of coloured paper scattered across three rooms, sticky tape on the bottom of each foot in the household and a fiendishly happy mother writing on tiny rectangles and flipping through the results.

This has grown.  This has become a movement. This is now a revolution.

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It soon included  general notes. Now it’s recipe books, shopping lists, to do lists….it’s changed my life. OK that’s over the top but it’s safe to say I’m spending less time flipping through a book saying where did I write that….

 

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Stalking Sapphire – review.

This is a review for a copy I received for a review from Netgallery. 

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“Bite the heads off first,” she said. “That way they don’t suffer as much.”

It’s a great start to Mia Thompson’s debut that fits into a few genres. Stalking Sapphire is a book with a lot of bite, wrapped in a satirical pun fest with a smart talking lead and able bodied love interest running around in circles looking for each other.

At times I felt like I was reading a script for one of those humour detective shows like the Mysteries of Laura. Sapphire, our heroine with a sharp tongue and good right hook has an interesting hobby. She catches serial killers, of which there must be many in Beverley Hills as she’s caught eight in her short career so far. The police of course are interested in catching her and it all gets interesting when one of those killers set’s his sights on Sapphire. This is all accomplished while pretending to live the entitled life of the offspring of the rich and she does this with a self obsessed friend in tow.

When one of her prey pulls her closer into his web by tormented with stomach turning scenes that I won’t give away It’s when this fine book develops multiple personality disorder. Our protagonist is a nasty piece of work and these scenes add a contrast to the often delightful Sapphire and her romp through Hollywood with her endearing detective following close behind. At times I wasn’t sure this incongruous coupling of funny and torture worked, but having sat back after closing the book, it does. Mia Thompson has managed to create something with sparkle amid what can be a bile rising genre. These scenes add depth and spice to what otherwise might have been a prosaic Cagney and Lacey.

As a devoted thriller reader, Mia Thompson’s book gives some light relieve before something darker comes my way. It was a bit like a sorbet to refresh the palette.

This is a great first novel. It’s a quick read, it doesn’t struggle to unfold and the red herrings fit in beautifully. The dialogue is a little faulty in places but this is the authors first novel. There are a few unnecessary characters, AKA best friend Chrissy, but all in all, I enjoyed it very much and will read the next in the series. The Epilogue makes it possible to move right into it.

four stars

Productivity

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A week ago I opened my email to the usual long list of blogs, articles and distractions and thought why do I do this each and every morning? I really should go straight to the WIP and get started. I can be distracted for hours combing through the words of others rather than writing my own. A morning can drift by and before I raise my head for a cup of tea, I’ve done absolutely nothing.

In a world of apps I knew there had to be something that could cure me of distractionitis – I’m patenting that word by the way – so I browsed the app store, through the thousands of productivity apps they offered, looking for something simple that didn’t have a lot of settings or options and something that would track my progress. I’ve always been a star chart kind of girl.

After trying a few, I came across the Pomodore.  The theory is that we work better if we divide our tasks into manageable chunks of time – 30 minutes being the optimum. 25 of those minutes is used for focused work and the last 5 for a rest before we switch to a new task or keep going. The plan is to get away from the computer and move around for 5 minutes. After 4 pomodore’s, a longer break of 30 minutes is recommended.

The App I downloaded is called Pomodore One by Vojto Rinik. It’s absolutely free and very simple.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.08.57 pmThat’s what it looks like on the desk top. It sits very unobtrusively behind your work, your menu bar, what ever suits you,  doing it’s thing for 25 minutes.

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You can see it here counting down at the top of my menu bar.

For that 25 minutes, I write and for 5 minutes I make a cup of tea, use the loo and walk around a bit.  I can decide to do another 25 minutes or not. Of course a physical timer would work just as well ( though the ticking would drive me nuts.)  A stop watch, a phone timer or your microwave are going to work.

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When the 25 minutes is up,  it dings ( so you need your volume up) and it begins at 5 minutes, giving you another ding when that rest period is up.

I like the app because it sits at the top of the screen doing it’s thing and I need only lift my eyes up every now and then. It’s amazing how quickly the 25 minutes goes by and when I take my 5 minute break my mind is jumping with ideas ready for my next pomodoro.

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I can easily see how much work I’ve done during the week and yes, I can see where all my time has gone.  So rather than thinking about working, I’ve been writing in 25 minute chunks and it’s paying off.

I love the simplicity of this app.  This is going to be too regimented for some, but for those of us who love our star charts and progress bars it’s fun.

Have you an app that is helping you work?  Please share it.

Can Creative Writing Be Taught?

Confessions of a Creative Writing Teacher

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Just before Christmas, my friend and colleague Ashley Stokes was interviewed by Cheryl Whittaker at Mash Stories. The title of the article was ‘Can You Really Teach Me how to Write?’ This is a good piece on writing and teaching and well worth checking out. To give Cheryl her due, she was taking the counter position – as, obviously, was Ashley – and arguing affirmatively against the common barrier statement that ‘You can’t teach a person how to write; they either have it, or they don’t.’ This she ascribed to ‘those possessive over their field, wanting to maintain a certain elitism.’ While I applaud Cheryl’s commitment to Michel Foucault’s theory of power and discourse, it seemed to me that this misconception is actually much more widespread and commonplace than that (while allowing that she’s spot on about elitism in some quarters, naming no names). Every time the subject…

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January 1st needs a holiday.

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Another year is here, at least for some of the planet. I’m thinking about all the people waking up to new resolutions and having none myself this year – other than to enjoy enjoy enjoy – I’m wondering if we put too much pressure on the January 1st.

If January 1st were a person I imagine it to be an neurotic elderly lady who wears a rather ostentatious red hat and one the other days avoid. She’s under a lot of pressure, they say to each other as she walks down the street.  Some may even cross the road to avoid her. They wouldn’t want to get into a conversation after a harmless “how are you, January 1st?”  was uttered politely.  They remember the morning March 15th was trapped in the bakery for two hours listening to the outrageous resolutions that fell on her shoulders in 2008. It was a particularly difficult year and she still has a small eye twitch.

This year I will not add to January 1st’s load.

Instead I have hopes, and they are hopes because they are out of my hands.  My hopes are that my family remain well and happy,  that my two boys at university enjoy each day even though the work load is heavy. I hope my husband is not too stressed with work this year and that my youngest son stays as sweet and funny that the age of thirteen allows him to be.

What I have of myself are expectations.  I expect that I will continue writing and continue loving life each and every day.

I wish, readers, that your hopes and expectations that you place on yourself remain solid through out 2015, and that January 1st can put her feet up and get some group therapy with February 14th and December 31.

Where are you having Christmas?

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This seems to be the question of the moment. I’ve been asked a dozen times in the lift  by neighbours trying not to peer into my shopping bags.

For the first time in my life, I am hosting Christmas for the whole family. That means 22 people in my apartment, one new Christmas tree, three hired tables, 14 hired chairs, one tired old dining table with her tired old chairs, four different kinds of meats, vegetables Maggie Beer would be proud to grow, wine, and a husband who is sick of “just pop out and get me some figs will you honey?”

What are figs?  Really, he asked that.

Normally Christmas is held at my mother-in-laws, but now that we are firmly ensconced in the area once again, it’s now mine. Had you asked me yesterday how the preparations for Christmas are going I’d have fallen to the floor with a dramatic faint, but today I am in control. It’s amazing what setting the table will do for you. Oh, and wine. Lots of wine.

I am having a relaxing moment watching Kirstie Allsop teach me how to decorate a tree after shopping for groceries with every other Christmas host on the planet – yes I forgot the figs.

So I ask.  Where are you having Christmas?