Things I Love Thursday

  • I freaking love this hella simple online to do list tasck thanks to @zen_habits for the linky. I have been using it to make a list of stuff I have to do before we…
  • Holiday in Rarotonga! We’re got tickets for August 19th, staying one week in Raro and then two nights in Auckland on the way back. (So I can go back to Tanuki’s Cave and $3 Japan). But the important thing is: Rarotonga! Hot weather, cool swimming, visiting my sister and her family, plus we’re going over with Lee’s parents so we can spend some quality time with them as well. I am counting the days, let me tell you. I’m also debating whether it’s too early to start packing!
  • 5pm
  • Those part 2 updates of The Event and trying to work out how to entangle my character’s story with the other characters….
  • Guilty pleasures, like bad movies, or Britney music. If you enjoy them, then why feel guilty at all? Revel in the silliness, that’s what I say!
  • Reading about travel and travel and packing and packing. I suspect my own packing list will be different again, but I love to read other peoples’ ones as well.
  • Going through my recently imported Old blog entries, reading them, weeding out the crap, tagging and filing the ones that can stay and watching my tag cloud morph. It’s very satisfying.

Honourable Mentions: Craft 2.0 was awesome, and has inspired me to make sock monkeys, sleeping, the film festival, sunshine on the balcony, toasted sandwiches, True Blood , thinking up presents to take with me to Raro, thinking about going to Raro, Raro, sock monkeys, writing lists of stuff to pack and playing on twitter.

And what are you thankful for this day? This Thursday where we might come to believe that spring is coming because its not pitch black at 5.29pm?

Wednesday Writing Guest Post – Debbie Cowens

The lovely Debbie is somewhat intimidating when it comes to her recent fiction output. Not to mention her passion for organising things like The Event and being a full time Mum as well.

Debbie sent through this rumination on how she maintains focus and tries to answer the infamous question ‘where do you get your ideas?’

I have a slight addiction to reading blogs, articles and books by writers about writing. I suppose it’s true of any hobby or activity that you’re into that you may also have a fascination with stories of how the people at the top made it there and what their experiences have taught them.

The advice famous authors tend to give is simple and down-to-earth. To the best of my knowledge not even Neil Gaiman has revealed the exact incantation required to summon and enslave a muse, and few claim that you need to quit your day job and adopt a drug-taking Bohemian lifestyle to become ‘inspired’.

Generally, the wisdom of most successful authors boils down to one simple question and answer: How do you become a writer? You write.

However, one frequently asked question that most writers are bombarded with in interviews, emails and Q & A at book signings has struck me as interesting recently.

How you do get your ideas?

Author responses to this questions tend to range from the sarcastic to a vague ‘all sorts of places…’ type answer, and that’s fair enough in my opinion. It seems like a horribly barbed question and one that could never be answered with both straightforward simplicity and accuracy.

For me, random ideas occur at all sorts of times and places. Sometimes it’s a crazy dream I had, other times something someone says or does strikes me as interesting. Sometimes it’s something that happens in my life or something I remember from my childhood. Maybe something happens in a book I’m reading, or a newspaper article, or a movie, or I overhear part of a conversation and it triggers another idea. Sometimes a photo or a piece of art I see or music I hear stirs up something in my subconscious and it manifests as an idea for a story. Ideas can spring out from any corner of my experiences at any time. It’s unpredictable and not something I can turn on or turn off.

Of course an idea is no more a story than a sense of being hungry is a perfectly cooked three course meal. Sometimes an idea might give me the beginnings of a character or part of the plot but then I have to tease the story out that fits around it. Sometimes a new idea will happily collide with some others that have been floating around in the idea cesspool in the back of my mind and the story comes together like clicking pieces of a jigsaw in place. Other times I to have to play with the ideas; warping and moulding them to fit together in any kind of useful way. This process can be quick or it can takes days, weeks, even longer. Continue reading

Film Festival reviews – Wednesday – Sunday

Best Worst Movie

A documentary about Troll 2, 20-ish years after the film was made. The documentarian was the child star of the movie and managed to track down all the other actors. The star of the documentary was George Hardy, the guy who played the father. George is a dentist and full of life and humour. He was a great centre point for the story, watching him as he discovered the cult following and signed autographs for the fans he didn’t know he had was a joy. Generously peppered with excerpts from Troll 2 and interviews with the writer and director made me and Lee rather desperate to see the movie. I have since bought it on DVD off Trade Me. Watch this space for a review, not sure it will ever beat out Manos: the hands of fate for my favourite worst film, but I’ll let you know.


A Christmas Tale

Our first disappointing movie, this was a french drama about a family reuniting at Christmas following the news that the matriarch has a rare disease and needs a bone marrow transplant. Kind of reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums but not as quirky, it gave us background on most of the characters. I was disappointed that the black sheep, Henri, was the default star of the movie, because I found him unsympathetic. Sure, it sucked that his sister caused him to be banished from family gatherings for five years, but it’s hard to be on his side when the first thing he does when reunited with her is to verbally abuse her. That said, it was a great film; beautifully shot and with plenty of humour, it was just very long.


The Secret of Kells

An Irish animated feature set in medieval times and following Brendan a boy monk. The Northmen are terrorising Ireland and the Abbot, Brendan’s uncle, is preoccupied with building a stronger wall around the settlement. Brendan is more interested in illuminating manuscripts and becomes involved in creating the Book Of Kells. The story is highly mythical, with him befriending Aisling, a fairy, quite early in the movie. The best thing about this film though was the design, it’s highly stylised and beautiful. The snowflakes are shown as Irish knots, the smoke is curled and braided, the characters are extreme caricatures.

Several of the frames were so stunning I wanted big prints of them to put up on my wall.

Movie website pretty pretty.


We were a little late for Departures because I wanted real food for dinner and it wasn’t quite quick enough in the half hour in between Kells and this. The food was great though, stuffed chicken breast, winter veges and beans. Nom.

Anyway, the movie was lovely. It’s a Japanese film about a cellist whose orchestra is shut down. He and his wife move back to his home town and he accidentally gets a job at a casketers, who are the people who prepare the body and put them into the coffin, working for the undertaker. It was very beautiful and moving, and perhaps hit a little close to home with the funeral we attended on Tuesday, but I loved it.

Departures movie website. I also found out today that it won the Academy award for best foreign language film. Well deserved.

Dead Snow

It’s a movie about zombie Nazis. Do I need to say any more?

I was a bit worried at the start that it was actually going to be scary, and I wasn’t ready to cope with that at 11.15pm after a long and hard week. However, it was just as funny and silly and hilarious as a Norwegian zombie Nazi movie should be. I laughed my ass off, fell in love with the bad-ass characters and can quite thoroughly recommend it.

In fact, go and watch the trailer now!!!!!

Coco Avant Chanel

Lee bailed on this one to audition for another community theatre production, so I took the Lovely Chelle with me instead. We had a good time, although the movie was quite sad. Audrey Tautou was her usual graceful and charismatic self, the other actors were also very good. Pretty fashions, pretty locations. I’ll watch it again I think.


Written by the guy who wrote Superbad (which I haven’t seen), this is the story of one summer, after finishing college James is set to go on to post-grad study at Colombia, but it turns out his father has been transferred to a lower paying job. James takes the only job he can get, working the sideshow games as a carnie at Adventureland. There he immediately makes geeky male friends and falls in love with Kristen Stewart.

It was a gentle, funny film with some real heart to it. It kind of reminded me of watching Garden State, except the characters were younger and dumber. I really enjoyed it overall and would recommend you seek it out when it comes back. I did feel sorry for the lead though, since it seemed like James was written for Michael Cera and he was directed to act like Michael Cera.

Craft 2.0

I hadn’t been to Craft 2.0 since before Christmas, so I asked around and got some friends to go with me. It dawned a beautifully sunny day and the drive out to Lower Hutt was a joy. I’ve never been quite that early in the day before, it was really packed. Like, some stalls were three layers of browsers deep and I had to make mental notes to come back.

Here are my highlights….

Bad animals makes beautifully cute toys, badges and keyrings. I bought a little toast badge after much deliberating. I really love the look of the yetis and the cupcakes too.

Sock monkeys! I didn’t get one of these because I ran out of cash, but I love the way they look.

From Leila Loves handmade I got some cute little hair clips and a set of matching earrings. Red with white spots! Cute and retro.

My favourite local crafter (excluding those I know personally) Super very had some new designs. I initially wanted the pegasus again but in wood but I fell instead for the wooden bluebird. It’s lovely, and on a chunky, coppery looking chain. So pretty.

Film Festival Reviews

Wellington Film Festival, movies I’ve seen Sunday – Tuesday of the first week.

The September Issue

A documentary about how the September Issue of 2007 is made at Vogue. Focussing in on Anna Wintour, who The Devil Wears Prada was based on, and the people around her. This was pretty much perfect documentary making – funny, entertaining, interesting.

I also liked how they made Anna seem like a real human being, in addition to being completely terrifying.


The new Haoyo Miyazaki film based on The Little Mermaid. Ponyo is a goldfish who is fascinated by the world of humans, she meets a little boy and decides to become human. For those who have seen Miyazaki films, this was more Totoro than Earthsea, which was a relief in a lot of ways. I didn’t enjoy Earthsea that much. Ponyo was lovely, funny and sweet and sad but overall very beautiful. Highly recommended.
Japanese trailer, no subs, but you can see the pretty.

My Year Without Sex

An Australian film about a family, told in chapters for each of the months of the year. The mother has a brain anyeurism at the start and the rest of the film is about her healing and the family coming to terms with the way their lives have changed. It was pretty gentle, given the subject matter. Not nearly as depressing as say, Muriel’s Wedding. I loved the way they showed the emotions of all of the characters, it was very real without being cloying. I loved the humour and the fake-outs.


Two Irish ten year olds run away from their troubled family lives and spend the night in Dublin. It was a film where I was expecting terrible terrible things to happen, but it was actually pretty lovely. The child actors were superlative, especially cheeky, outgoing Kylie. The boy’s role was more understated but equally moving. It’s a bit sad and a bit lovely and a bit scary. Overall I enjoyed it a great deal.

Actually, this trailer is a bit spoilerific. I wouldn’t recommend you click on it unless you’ve already seen it…


Lee didn’t come to this, and I am very sad about that, because it was a fantastic film. It’s about Sam Bell, who has been working alone in a station on the moon for three years with only a robot for company. The robot is voiced by Kevin Spacey. Sam is about to go home, but the time alone has begun to tell on him. To say anything more (or indeed to link to the trailer) would give too much away. It’s a well paced movie, a character study more than an actioner, but with plenty of strange things and mysteries. Steve said the plot was too inevitable but I was too invested in the atmosphere to mind.

It should be coming back, and I urge you to see it and to avoid spoilers as much as you can.

Things I Love Thursday

  • The Film Festival . Of the seven movies only one I would rather have been asleep for. And it was a pretentious boring French film, which I love, so it’s fine. Movie reviews coming soon, when I actually have time to blog.
  • Editing . I have been reckless, I have edited with wild abandon this week. Cutting whole characters and scenes out of Kiki. It’s kind of scary to do, but it feels really good so I think it’s the right choice. Big thanks to Matt and Debbie who have given me some very good constructive feedback. Editing that way is pretty addictive. I blew off a movie yesterday so I could keep going and I am jonesing for my next editing fix.
  • New Projects. I’ve started thinking about what to have in my part two of The Event. I have a couple of notes and a couple of images and I’m looking forward to having the time to write it.
  • Honourable Mentions: love, whether it be platonic, romantic, familial or something else entirely, this old song from the Buffy musical..Give me something to sing about, family, this collection of people caught on Google Street View, heh. Crunchie bar icecreams, art, facebook photo sharing, buying Christmas presents in July, buying myself shiny new books and Children of the Dog Star on DVD, being inside out of the wind, twitter, parties, Rock Band, eating out and seeing my friends.

    Please share your own gratitude list in the comments section….

Wednesday Writing – Guest Post – Steve Hickey

This week’s guest post is by Steve/Hix, screenplay and roleplaying game writing extraordinaire.

Steve’s voice is one of the voices in my head when I’m writing. He’s always asking me ‘where’s the conflict?’ and also ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen in this scene, what would really screw up your characters?’ It’s a good thing. Steve is great to talk to about writing because he has massive amounts of insight into his own behaviour and is very good at calling me on my bad habits too.

… the thing is, if there’s a problem in my life it’s up to me to fix it. And I’m talking about writing here: if I’m not happy with what I’m writing, or with the amount of writing I’m getting done, I’ll have to change my life in order to get happy.

I realised this somewhere around Day 2000 of writing The Limit. I was 5 and a 1/2 years into writing my script (it turns out that criticism of my previous film + perfectionism + no job = a pathological number of rewrites), when I had to acknowledge to myself that I was stuck, I was bored, and my brain wasn’t fresh.

That’s important: my brain wasn’t fresh. While my writing was varying in its usual way (*), my mind had been focused on writing the same intense dark thriller material for way too long.

(*) My writing schedule varies between procrastination, not flowing, insights, and enjoyment, and then back to procrastination again once I feel I’ve done enough to rest on my laurels, or that I’ve hit a benchmark where I can tell myself I’ll stop writing for a while so I can come back and look at the script with ‘fresh eyes’.

So, that was the problem: non-fresh brain. It was up to me to find a solution and fix it.

Thinking about it, I realised that all my writing was being done under pressure. Pressure I was putting on myself. I certainly wasn’t being playful. I wasn’t writing just for the sake of it. I wasn’t taking a look at any of the many, many ideas that were building up in my filing cabinet as I struggled to finish The Limit.

So, I created something I call “PLAY”.(*) I decided that every two months, after working on a single project, I would take two weeks off. During those two weeks, I could PLAY with any project I wanted. Anything that inspired me or that took my fancy. I’d pull out my folders of TV ideas, skills I wanted to learn, blog posts I wanted to write. … And then I’d just do it.

(*) Yes, for some reason the all-caps are important to me.

I’m in the middle of PLAY right now, and I’m working on “a game to change the world”, and a pitch for a TV show (that I’m also going to use to learn a layout programme with). I’ve also varied when I PLAY a little: it turns out that 2 months was just a little bit too long. I’m now on a six-weeks of focused writing followed by 2 weeks of PLAY, which seems to be a better ratio for me.

PLAY has changed my approach to writing. It’s a reward for hard, focused work. It’s an opportunity to get inspired about stuff I might do next. It takes the pressure off me to create ‘good’ stuff, and instead lets me explore.

So there you go. Identify a problem in your life. Try a solution. Don’t be afraid to make radical changes. This why I admire Matt trying out different schedules; and Jenni for taking Wednesdays off to write. It’s the sort of stuff we need to do; as writers, we need to create a life that works for us (and the people around us).

Blog news

I finally managed to import my blog entries from the old stonesoup blog over to here. So there’s suddenly a heap of archives that weren’t there before.

I’m going to go through and delete the ‘nothing’ posts and memes and tag the ones that are staying. In the meantime let me know if you find a broken link or anything that makes no sense. It will take me quite a while to do this, as I’m sure you can imagine.

I’ll probably do a ‘best of’ as I find the old gems, so watch this space! Tomorrow you have another writing related guest post to look forward to 🙂

Writing news

I finished the second draft of What’s the Worst That Could Happen? big thanks to Regan for her notes, typo spotting and grammar pointers. I’m feeling pretty good about this manuscript. Next step there is writing query letters, just need to decide if I’ll try shopping it around New Zealand first or go straight to a US agent, which is what was recommended to me on Friday evening over Asahi and takoyaki.

Next thing on the writing to do list is finish the latest edit of Kiki, which, thanks to Matt and Debbie, is going very well indeed.

The promotion for the RPGirl zine has stepped up and because of this I was name checked in a podcast interview with the editor. Big thanks to Steve and Morgue for alerting me to this!

The online Exquisite Corpse I was involved in has been completed. Here’s where it started, which has now been updated with the complete list so that you can read the whole story. Personally, I like the way it jumps genre all the time.

I am involved in another collaborative online writing project, organised and driven by Matt and Debbie, whose enthusiasm is catching. The Event is a five person, five character, five episode story about an event taking place in Wellington. Everyone’s part one is now up. I am writing a character called Adam.

And now I’m off to a funeral.

Actual Play – Fall ‘This is Your Brain on Drugs.’

By the way, I don’t think I ever mentioned this but our theme song for Fall is Fall to Pieces by Avril Lavigne.

School on Monday. Calvin is in his classes, and paying *so much attention*. Alex is trying to be a good student. Darius is being his normal self and Megan is struggling to regain control of her flock of betties. At lunch time Darius sits next to Alex and talks to her about what battle to fight next. He points out that they never figured out what was going on with the Old Folk’s home. Alex is a little distracted though, she keeps looking over towards Calvin’s table where Mason is paying attention to some other girl. She’s not sure if he’s actually flirting with her or if its just her jealous mind working overtime.
Darius: So, the Radiant Retirement Home.
Alex: Yeah, but how are we gonna get in? Visiting grandchildren worked so well.
Darius: We could say that we’re doing research on the area, see if we can talk to someone who was in the civil war?
A:History’s not your forte is it?

They agree that the basic plan might work and Alex excuses herself to go to lacrosse practice.
D: Don’t forget to suck!

Darius moves on to Calvin, his initial plan of sitting next to him is thwarted though, Calvin has a girlfriend now and she’s on the side not taken up by Mason. Darius sticks his head in next to Calvin’s and asks him to join them after school. Calvin declines, giving some completely vague reason like “I might be busy”.

Darius lures Megan away from the cheerleaders with some totally subtle and cool gestures. Megan goes to him but is observed by the girls, who decide that based on some of the emphatic gestures Darius uses that he must be gay. They decide that Megan is super lucky to have a gay guy for a best friend, because that’s all the rage now and totally better than a dog in a handbag. Megan agrees to go to Darius’ after school.

In between classes Calvin meets up with Alex and asks nonchalantly how things went with Haruni the day before. Alex tells him about the TV and Bob Barker and they have a little laugh together. Then things quickly become awkward when Alex asks Calvin if he’s joining them after school and he says no. They both stare at each other for a moment and then part. Continue reading