Tag Archives: mothering

Wonder Woman Turns Six; Batgirl Inhales Watermelon

Raeli had her birthday a few days ago! We’ve had what feels like a whole week of birthday/holiday activities, culminating in the Big Superhero Party which felt like a crazed, sugary blur at the time, but people seemed to enjoy. Raeli informed me that it was even better than last year, largely because of the pinata (which from our POV was a dismal failure redeemed only by the fact that no one was actually hurt during the whole excruciating procedure). At the end, there were lollies, so no complaints from the kids.

Apart from the change in theme, from fairies to superheroes, I had planned to run the party the same as last year: simple food involving opening packets, I don’t make anything myself except the cake and fairy bread, sausages on the barbie for kids & parents alike, my Mum madly running the games (everyone needs a Glammer come birthday season) and no fuss. Naturally it got far more complicated than that, not least because, well, do we remember how last year I had a little 5 month old baby? THIS YEAR she’s a running, jumping, bouncing, psyched up little dynamo, and it took the 15 or so adults at the party to keep track of her. I’m not used to a feisty baby. Raeli was energetic but not one for hurling herself off furniture. Jem topped off the party by eating everything. Seriously. All the things. Once the big kids had abandoned the picnic cloths and gone to play games, she plonked herself down and ate more than her own body weight in chips, cheezels, biscuits, watermelon and… oh, I don’t even know. Hear that? That’s the kind of mother I am. I have no idea what she ate. I just know that she looked really, really smug about it.

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Monday Goodie Bag

I appeared on the Aqueduct Press blog this week, summing up some of my favourite things about 2010 – TV, podcasts, books, etc. Normally I leave my summing up of the year for New Year’s Eve (always a chance I might squeeze in one more awesome book!) so it was kind of warm and refreshing to get it over with now. I am a huge fangirl of Aqueduct Press, so was very excited to be included in this year’s list of awesome people participating in the “pleasures of reading, viewing, etc.” series of blogs.

I turned in a project today that on the surface looked small and dainty but in actuality turned out to be a mammoth effort, starting back in September right after Worldcon, and occupying a large part of my brain ever since then. I’m delighted with the results – and very proud of it. Possibly it’s the most ME I’ve ever written. In any case, I should be able to announce more about it in due course – but the important thing right now is that it’s DONE. That means the last deadline for 2010 has been met, and I can get on with cleaning the house for Christmas, and facing the impending school holidays with valiant readiness.

My next deadline is 10 Jan for the proofs of Book 2, and the copy edits for Book 3 should be arriving at the same time, which means I will be working through most of Raeli’s school holidays, though hopefully it’s the kind of work that can be done in large sections during sleepover visits, trips to the movies and other activities with people other than me. There are plans afoot.

Daniel Simpson has done a gorgeous review of Galactic Suburbia over at ASiF. It’s a lovely if surreal thing to read – most of the feedback we get is from people we know pretty well, so it’s rather odd to have what we do reflected back at us by someone who isn’t in intimate acquaintance. Also, he seems to like us a lot, which does not hurt at all!

Rowena gives Power and Majesty a shout out over on the King Rolen’s Kin blog. I know exactly what she means about the frustration of using strong stylistic visual images to inspire your writing, and then realising it doesn’t actually come across all that clearly in the text. Something I realised retrospectively about the Creature Court books is that other people didn’t see the 1920’s culture and fashions quite as clearly as I did when I was writing them! Not that these things should be allowed to get in the way of the story, but… sigh. Why don’t they illustrate adult novels?

Speaking of shout outs, I also got one over at the Writer & the Critic podcast, now in its SECOND episode. I am very excited that they are going to review one of the books I recommended to them, even if I can’t quite remember what it is I recommended. I’m sure they were AWESOME. Also I very much enjoyed listening to their contrasting reviews of Feed, both of which brought up a lot of issues about the book that I hadn’t remotely noticed. I’m glad I posted my review before I listened!

I caught a preview for the Doctor Who Christmas Carol on ABC TV this week – so exciting! Funny too – I like the way it totally looks like a proper BBC costume drama right up to the point where the Doctor arrives, covered in soot. I am just bouncing about getting the Christmas special on real TV here in Australia on Boxing Day – it’s going to be PROPER CHRISTMAS AT LAST.

Now I am collapsing in a heap after the 5 day marathon that was making Raeli write Christmas cards for her entire class. And birthday party invitations. Also, we have haircuts. There has been much organisation happening.

Phew. School play tomorrow. Hooray!

Lying to Children, Part II

So, last year I wrote about the icky feeling of lying to my intelligent child about the Santa myth. Well… the reindeer is well and truly out of the bag, thanks to the blabbing of young Dr Oscar, age 5.

“Oscar says Santa doesn’t bring the presents, it’s your parents,” she said, eyes welling in the back of the car as we drove home from a merry evening with friends (these questions ALWAYS come up from the back of the car). “Is it true?”

Caught on the back foot, I tried to weasel out of an immediate answer by trying to gauge whether she actually wanted an answer to that question, but when she said “I want the truth” in a solemn little voice, I crumbled and confessed all. She was sad and confused and it was HORRIBLE. I ended up trying to explain the history of Christmas over the next hour, tying myself in knots over the whole thing.

I’m still not sure how she’s taking it. She veers from excitement and delight at being in on the grand conspiracy, to being glum and dispirited. She did perk up a bit when she discovered we were responsible for the Monsters v. Aliens DVD (though she didn’t remember the Beauty and the Beast one that actually took effort to supply out of season, the wench).

Before going to bed last night, she firmly wrote a note to Santa. She seems to shift between accepting that it’s just me and her Daddy, and still believing in Santa. It’s like it takes time for the layers to peel away… today, at her insistence, we went to sit on the knee of a shopping mall Santa (which she had requested earlier, after a friend reported the experience – we’ve never done that with her before). If anyone’s looking for a good Santa in the Hobart region, by the way, I can recommend the one in Centrepoint – he was very respectable looking, the elves are well organised, and the photo only costs $10. After checking out a mum’s and bub’s forum I found out that some can cost as much as $25! There wasn’t even a queue.

Raeli and I spent time Christmas shopping, and she seems to have gotten over the whole experience. I’m not sure I have. I felt awful, every uneasiness about the Santa Lie that I’d ever felt just exploding, all at once. I don’t think I can bear to go through that again with Jemima.

Maybe I’ll just have Raeli tell her.

Santa's WHAT??? OMG, so who bought us the trampoline?

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On Work, and Work, and the end of the Working Year

So that was November, then…

I was pleased that I managed to make the month so productive, despite the urge to collapse in a heap in the wake of finally, finally, finally finishing the draft of book 3 (which it appears is most likely to be titled Reign of Beasts). Thanks to my List of Doom, I kept writing, putting together a draft of a publishing proposal for Fury to be polished up in the New Year, I started editing Blueberry again, which is going to be my summer project, I read books which had been archived on my shelves far too long, and I sewed – bookmarks for a friend’s commission, finishing the top of a baby quilt, and the beginnings of a new crazy quilt.

And you know, in the midst of all that I pushed through my copy edits for The Shattered City (Book 2), and prepared for & taught a one day course on writing fantasy novels.

One of the items on my list was to write a short story. Originally I had another plan for that, but then Alisa went and rejected two stories from a project we were doing together, which left me having to start from scratch! (In a good way. I am hugely excited now about what I’m doing, and she was totally right to kick those stories to the curb. Good enough is totally not good enough.) One of those stories is now done thanks to the List of Doom, and I have to write the other as soon as I can. I’m in a weird in-between-professional-deadlines space right now, where I don’t know where the next deadline is coming from. I will receive proofs for Book 2 and structural edits for Book 3 at SOME point, and everything will have to be dropped to do them, but I don’t know when. All the more reason to polish off my other necessary jobs ASAP, especially as I only have another fortnight or so before the school holidays hit, and there’s no such thing as a truly productive work day until late February.

But in any case, I did my not-Nano November, and while I never got up the high energy equivalent to writing 50K (as it turned out, writing about 5-6000 words as part of smaller projects was my limit) I managed to complete 34/35 items, and that last one was a crazy quilt square that I could have polished off at the last day if I’d dropped everything to do it, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to prioritise that way.

Once I get this last story done, which I have been plotting and replotting in my head so it’s just about ready to burn up the page, I am officially free of commitments, and I would love to have a little of that freedom before I get publisher deadlines again – one thing I have learned this year is that you can’t use ALL the time you have until the end of a deadline, as other things are always turning up to compete, usually in the last two weeks. I’ve always been one to start slowly and build up momentum to rip through the work at a high pace in those last couple of weeks, and so the stop-start-stop-start work pace this year has thrown me for a loop more than once.

I honestly thought I would never get to the end of Book 3. I seemed to be constantly one month from getting it done, and every time I had to stop and start again, I lost momentum and had to “waste” time scrabbling around and getting my zone back, only to be interrupted with a new urgent task as soon as I got up a decent head of steam.

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Saturday Soup

It’s been oddly productive around here, for a Saturday. Usually Saturdays are a mad haze of parenting, unrealistic expectations about work goals, a bit of hasty housework and occasionally managing to snatch a chapter or two of reading by flinging the children at my honey and locking myself in the library. Usually there’s guilt, either for not spending enough time with the girls, or for getting cranky with the girls after spending too MUCH time with them, or for not getting anything done, or for the house looking like a circus threw up on it.

But today I manage to hang out with the girls all morning (including a cranky teething baby), threw together a delicious lunch for me & my honey (leftover potato & cauliflower soup goes VERY WELL with added chorizo & bacon, served with hot cheesy muffins), put out some laundry, finished reading my 100th book for the year (a Joanna Russ, which seems appropriate), did a last minute podcast with Jonathan Strahan, got to the two-thirds mark of my copy edits, and played outside with the kids. I got to see Jem on a bike for the first time!

All this, and my honey is cooking dinner. Awesome!

Elsewhere in the world, Mary Robinette Kowal talks about how amateur writers should be given the same respect as hobbyists in other fields. I still can’t get over that Shades of Milk and Honey is a Nano novel! I had been meaning to lend it to [info] godiyeva already, but once I learned that, I practically forced it upon her, for inspiration.

John Scalzi puts his weight behind Nano being awesome rather than a waste of everyone’s time – I particularly enjoyed the comments on that one!

Ekaterina Sedia makes a great post about what you can say when men who don’t feel they’re sufficiently benefiting from the patriarchy derail a feminist conversation to talk about themselves.

Finally, some Bujoldy goodness. On Tor.com the very learned and well-read Jo Walton analyses the appeal of Aral Vorkosigan (lotsa spoilers) while on i09, Charlie Jane Anders asks whether Bujold writes “hard” science fiction, leading to many tangled comments as everyone tries to define what hard SF is. Sigh. At some point I am going to write my hard SF post. I think my philosophy comes down to “if Bujold isn’t it, and one of the best examples of it, then I don’t understand what it’s for.” Possibly I shouldn’t write that post.

On Mothering and Days Off

So I wrote the end of the last of the short stories I needed to write last night, and while it still needs some work, I’m pretty much done with that commitment – my plan was to enjoy one blissful day of baby cuddling and domestic catch up before I plunge into finishing that pesky third novel once and for all.

Ha, guess what happened? Yep, one sick child home from school.

In practice it hasn’t been too bad – I have reformatted a story, sorted some doll business and parcels, and otherwise am catching up on my reading, sewing and Xena watching when one child isn’t threatening to throw up and the other isn’t randomly screaming or clinging to my leg.

Then there’s the pipecleaners.

We’ve had an ongoing niggle with the school about notices – Raeli’s teachers seem to prefer the method of waving a small pile of notices around vaguely and *not* insisting that each child take one and put it in their bag. Five and six year olds. Uh huh. Which basically means that those parents who spend any amount of time in the playground chatting to each other are constantly finding out about things that we missed! You know, important things like notes to participate in school photos, or preparation for free dress days.

Last week, i discovered thanks to the parental gossip network that a flyer had gone out, detailing a particular “boat” that they wanted us to help our child construct for this week. When I asked the teacher about it on Friday, she had no flyers left and promised to have one there for Monday (which meant, as the boats were required this week, that we wouldn’t have the weekend to build the dratted thing).

With Raeli home sick today I was fretting a bit about that flyer, as we were running out of days when boat-construction was remotely practical. My honey, being the Best of Dads, volunteered to go to the school this morning and fetch the flyer. He ended up having to go to the office and photocopy it himself!

Not just a paper boat, as it turns out. It’s an elaborate sail-car which requires all kinds of crafty ingredients. Bendy straws, beads, toothpicks, pipe-cleaners… I have all of it except the last item, and my one attempt to leave the house was stalled by that promising-to-throw-up child again. Gah.

Pipe-cleaners. Really. This is my life, where the difference between a calm day and a stressed day is the lack of two freaking pipe-cleaners.

What I want to know is, how do families with two working-outside-the-house parents possibly cope with the weight of expectation that comes from primary schools? if it’s not baking cakes and constructing articulated vehicles it’s attending assemblies, sports days, fundraisers, meetings and that’s before we get to formal parent help – something I constantly feel guilty about not volunteering for.

Bah. What is a blog for if not whinging? Everyone cross fingers with me that my tykelet will be fresh as a daisy tomorrow, so my first daycare afternoon of the week can be spent as it should be – finishing a novel!

Of Pork Chops and (not so angry) Penguins

We have been back to real life for some days, though not really real life, because my honey was still off work, and we’ve returned in the middle of the school holidays, so basically we’ve all been in our pyjamas since Wednesday night.

I have short stories to write, many of them, and the only time I have to do it in is during Raeli’s school holiday, because that is non-novel time. Only a fool would try to write a novel during school holidays.

Do you see the fault in my short-story-writing plan?

I negotiated a chunk of writing time the other day and indeed managed to draft an entire short story in my 2 hours at the library, but while it is most excellent it is entirely not one of the short stories I was supposed to be writing. Also it was really quite short. Surely I have not forgotten how to write short stories!

Then there’s the reading. Immediately after Worldcon, my usually-teetering pile of books had turned into an exceptionally high teetering tower of books I DESPERATELY WANT TO READ RIGHT NOW. And at the same time I want to read nothing but books set in Ancient Rome this month. These two reading plans do not schedule.

My brain has kicked into domesticity gear, while all this is going on. It is planning decadent slow cooked meals involving pork chops and apples, and deciding that I really need to have a few new cakes in my repertoire, the kind you just whip up when the vicar comes to call, and did we remember all that quilting I have been building up towards, and promised myself I could do when I got home from Melbourne?

WTF, brain?

But wait, there’s more. If I was truly a good mother, I would have something better and more awesome planned for my daughter to do this holiday other than playing Angry Birds constantly on the iPad (we do it together, okay, it’s a shared mother-daughter activity!) and watching ABC2. (omg the lack of ABC2 in the Melbourne apartments almost killed us! Sweet sweet digital television, how we missed you)

Eh, she saw penguins this holiday. What more does she expect?

Mothers, Authors and Milestones

I’ve spent a lot of the weekend so far reading the comments from this great blog post by Yarn Harlot, about the double standards inflicted on female vs. male parents, especially when it comes to travelling for work. It took me a little time to realise why I was particularly entranced by this feminist rant out of the many feminist rants I read each week – but of course, I have Aussiecon coming up, at which I will be trying to balance the needs of my family with the needs of my career, with an added bonus guilt portion that comes from the fact that the “needs of my career” also happens to be, you know, awesome fun times.

That, and I’ve been starting to think of the actual practicalities of going to Swancon next year on my own…

Anyway, the post is great but the comments are even better. I am delighted to hear so many women (and some men) being vocal about having “non-traditional” family and work arrangements, about the negotiations that go with balancing domestic and paid and family work, and acknowledging just how hard all this stuff is, even with partners who are pro-feminist and supportive.

Some other links that caught my eye over the last few days include Kate Elliott on Authoral Intent in which she sensibly lays out the role of the reader vs. the role of the writer in fiction, in a post which has sparked off some great recent conversations. I particularly enjoyed Sarah Rees Brennan’s response on Twitter a few days ago, where she laid out the various “stories” people read in her Demon series, depending on their priorities as a reader.

It reminded me very much of a dialogue that went around the blogs earlier in the year, about how the reader’s default vision of who characters are and what they look like can often outweigh not only the author’s intent, but the author’s own words. This is particularly the case where characters are often assumed to be white unless the author beats their non-whiteness over the heads of the readers – but I’m sure there are lots of other examples of this happening!

The “women authors speak out about male privilege in literary reviews” story continues to spread, with Jezebel doing a piece on it. Nicola Griffith weighs in with a post about Books and Girl Cooties, discussing how her own work has been packaged and marketed.

And finally, my mother Jilli made a rare appearance on the blogosphere this week, showing off her garden as part of the World Kitchen Garden Day held in the little town of Cygnet last weekend. Checkout her homemade milestone, a replica of the one that sits outside her home town in Lancashire, only with a lot more miles on the clock.


I’ve spent the last several weeks sinking into a slow swamp of rewrites, but I can finally see a glimpse of sunshine, and if you don’t record the good days, somehow they get forgotten faster than anything else.

So today I:

edited seven chapters of Book 2, including three really tricky ones that needed New Writing, and one scene I’ve been planning to write for several months and only just got around to.

while also: shopping for baby food, doing laundry, ridding the kitchen of a scary large pile of washing up, cooking a beef casserole for dinner, baking a batch of cupcakes for Raeli to take for a school fundraiser tomorrow (Children’s Book Week means CAKE)

Partly I want to point out to myself that I can in fact do enough work to justify putting Jem in a full day of daycare a week (though she’ll be back to half days from next week – this was an emergency measure put in to help deal with a sudden extra workload.

And then I get worried that I’ll expect myself to achieve that level of domestic/professional awesomeness all the time, and fall in a heap.

Then I remember all the other things I should have done today – or, more properly, BEFORE today.

Then I tell myself not to be so hard on myself, because I had a good day, and the chances of a day available to work and a GOOD DAY’S WORK actually colliding are pretty rare, actually, and the very fact that I have only had a few full days of daycare in itself piles SO MUCH PRESSURE on that day that the fact that I get anything creative done is in itself a miracle.

So um yes. It was a good day, which is not something I take for granted. And I’m almost done with this book. Then I get a few days of leisure (ha!) to plan the trip to Melbourne, prepare for my panels, and hang out with my girls before I neglect them for a week.

Tomorrow I will take Raeli to school (the one day a week I do the drop off), take baby Jem in later to visit Raeli’s school for the Book Week Parade, take Jem to daycare in the afternoon, spend the next two hours doing a small amount of work such as editing two chapters and possibly posting some dolls, then pick up Raeli and take her to gymnastics.

Heh. Possibly all my days contain awesome achievements, just of different varieties. Thank goodness all my favourite podcasts have new episodes out. It makes the drudge work so very undrudgey. I look forward to housework now!

Some weekend reading

Mary Anne Mohanraj’s excellent WisCon GOH speech about heroism. Her descriptions about the hardships of looking after a small baby, and balancing traditional women’s work with your own professional work, which can be struggle even with an enlightened feminist partner, hit home for me in particular. She also talks about educating people on the internet through 101 and RaceFail type discussions, and how hard and painful that can be to do.

An article about the parental leave payments in Sweden and how they are still working to enact social change. I wasn’t going to read this article when I first saw it widely linked because, let’s face it, do we need another article about how great parental support is in Sweden? I was glad I finally did, though, because it addresses some aspects I didn’t know about, and shows that yes, you can make social change that genuinely improves the life of both genders. Though as always, there is the question of choice, and I do wonder if the changes (potentially making up to 4 months of the 12 months parental leave payments compulsory for men to take) are going to reduce benefits for single women. There isn’t a mention of non-nuclear-families in the article at all. One thing that genuinely shocked me that I didn’t know about Sweden is that they also have a system for paid leave days for sick children – what a difference would that make to working parents around the world!

Finally, a great post at Tor.com about the importance of accepting criticism in order to improve your writing. This is of particular interest to me this week because, you guessed it, it’s editing time! My structural edit for Book 2 of the Creature Court (which will not now be called Cabaret of Monsters, though we don’t have an alternative yet) has arrived, I’ve discussed it with my editor, and as soon as the school holidays end, I’ll be digging into that for three weeks. The reward at the end of it will be a) a better book, obviously b) it next goes to my favourite freelance editor for the copy edit, she only being available in July and c) once it’s done I can go back to finishing Book 3! Hooray! My reward for work is more work!

In the mean time I have been utterly spoiled on Twitter by a whole bunch of my favourite people finding my book “in the wild” or indeed “in captivity” and sending me a series of pics of Power and Majesty on shelves across the country. Very exciting! Even nicer is to hear word of shops where it is already sold out. Still no word yet on anyone from outside the country managing a successful purchase. Where did you get YOUR copy?