Abstracted thoughts

Sometimes, particularly in December, I find life gets too much.   Out in the world it’s all go, go, go.   The shopping mall car parks are packed full of huge 4WD vehicles while inside their owners buy, buy, buy.    All to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’ or one I heard the other day in the supermarket ‘This is the most wonderful time of the year.’

It is?   I beg to differ.   I find the whole thing just a little overwrought and somewhat fraught.  Easier to let it go and take time out to meditate.

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The mind though just won’t shut up.   Concerns and worries rage around trying to find some resolution that just is not forthcoming.   What to get x for xmas?   etc. etc.

Let it go, relax – well try to anyway –

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Then of course there is the issue of xmas day – who is coming this year?   How many family members are now trans or agender or gender fluid?   I’m losing count.   Perhaps I will become ‘agender gran’ and wear a  T shirt, cargo pants and a flannelette shirt.   I’ll buy them at a second hand store – it’s more eco friendly that way.

While I’m at it I’ll move to some hidden cabin made from environmentally friendly bamboo.   There I will live off the grid.  Quite possibly I’ll totally forget its xmas and that I have a family for I will be living solely on higher light and not be concerned with worldly things at all.  I’ll just let all that float right away.

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Meanwhile back at the ranch  –

I’m still plugging away at novel writing.  I’ve decided it’s kind of like building a house from a plan drawn on the sand as the tide’s coming.   I never really know if I’m doing it right or if it’s any good or even if it’s structurally sound.

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prompt:  https://pilotfishblog.com/2019/11/30/lens-artists-photo-challenge-74-abstract/

… “go “Abstract.”  Feel free to go beyond the traditional realistic image of an object, scene, or element.  Take a photo of anything that catches your eye and allows you to express your artistic view of the world.”

It’s a wrap

Although November still has a few days to go I’m wrapping up my NaNoWrite involvement.

The structural edit is done!  Phew.   What a job.  I put my head down over the past few days and finished it.   There are so many ideas out there about how to organize a writing project but none of them worked for me.  What I did instead was get a couple of folders of clear plastic pockets.   I used a pocket per chapter and filled them with print outs of existing writing, relevant research, handwritten bits of prose and notes on what to cover in that chapter.

Now – finally – I can see where the project is going and what’s missing.

From here on I write – hopefully a chapter a day – or close too.   If I can keep up the pace I should have the second draft pretty much done by the end of the year.

I won’t write any more progress reports until after I ‘ve achieved that. I have enjoyed blogging about it though.  It’s helped keep me on track.    One thing I’ve noticed is that this kind of applied creative writing brings up a lot of fears for me – Things like – is it any good?  Will anyone read it?  Blah blah blah.

I might take a look at that side of writing in future blog posts over December.   A major blog sort is also on the cards but I might not get to that before the new year.  I’ll let you know what happens there.

Thanks for reading.

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Sometimes a fantasy

It’s been a slow week for book writing – my NaNoWrite efforts stalled as I back tracked into technical ideas about structure and underlying themes.

By Friday afternoon I was sick of going round in circles so I went bush at the local nature reserve.   Out there on my own  I let myself slip into a fantasy where I became the main female character in my novel.    I slipped out of my own reality and let myself dwell awhile inside the story I am attempting to write.   Walking along beneath the trees I started to get glimpses of the bigger picture.  dsc_0375-01-1481028924.jpeg

My novel (set around 150 years from now) begins with my main character walking through an environment devastated by climate change.   She is on a quest to find signs of hope and the seeds of renewal.

At first she is overwhelmed by everything she sees.   All seems hopeless:-wp-1574418334210449887579.jpeg

As she journeys further she meets people who are working to regenerate the land.  Listening to them and learning of their way of life she begins to think that all is not lost after all:-

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She sees some wonderful things and meets some inspiring people but it seems that, deep down, everyone is like her – they all know something is missing but they can’t quite put into words what it is:-wp-1574418171640-1481028924.jpegHer quest continues.   She meets new people and experiences new ways of living in harmony with nature.   Slowly it comes to her – what she has been seeking all along has been ways to become re-enchanted with the natural world.   What has been missing is a magical connection with life in all its myriad forms.

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– all photos in this post have been digitally enhanced using the apps Snapseed, Pixlr and Photo Editor.

prompt:https://dutchgoesthephoto.net/2019/11/19/tuesday-photo-challenge-fantasy/

 

A progress report

I’m seeing this post as an effort to clear my thinking though it may actually be total procrastination.    During the past week I’ve been working on my structural rewrite of my old ebook.   It’s led me into a lot of different idea streams that are now swirling around my head and creating a kind of mental fog.    I need to get clear, focused and figure out where to next.

First – the practical issues.   I attempted to print out the old story and included some of the rewrites I’d already done and some of the stuff I have typed up from the Kindle version of the original novel (for those who didn’t read my last post – the published Kindle version is different from the USB version I had saved – due to several computer crashes).

A major problem arose.   My old printer – a Canon – died last month  from built in obsolesce and refused to print another page.   I bought a cheap new HP printer which drinks ink at an alarming rate.   I bought a $25 black ink cartridge this week.   It printed out 180 pages then started pushing out blank pages.   Apparently it was out of ink.   I’d been printing in draft mode too.     Several swear words later I printed out the rest of the story in a variety of faded coloured inks – mostly a faint red which is quite difficult to read!    Insert laughing manically instead of crying here.

So – major issue – what is a good brand of cheaper home printer that is efficient and economical?   Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Then – putting that aside – I read through the story as it now exists.   I quickly realised my main character in the original was completely unresolved.   At times she came across as arrogant and intolerant, at other times she was wishy-washy and indecisive.   That realisation led me to question what her motives were and what the underlying theme of the story actually was.

A broad sweep of the story –

it is set about 175 years from now and is about how climate change has effected the environment and the way people live.

Doing more research about climate change I realised that although no one really knows what will happen many experts agree it already happening and that the outcomes are totally unpredictable.    I have been reading a lot about what that means for humanity.

One book I have found to be very difficult, but ultimately very helpful from a writer’s pov, is “Coming Back to Life’ by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown.  Early in the book they write that in the industrialized world three major stories are currently available to us:-

  1.  Business as Usual.   This is the story presented to us by politicians, corporations and corporate-controlled media.  The underlying assumption here is that very little needs to change.   It’s all about getting ahead.   Weather events and economic problems are just temporary.   We can recover and even profit from them.
  2. The Great Unraveling – the story we often hear from environmentalists, independent journalists and activists.   This story is based on evidence backed data and focuses on the collapse of biological, ecological, economic and social systems caused by the business as usual approach.
  3. The Great Turning  This is an alternate story  about the emergence of new and creative human responses to enable the transition to a Life-Sustaining Society.    The central plot is about joining together to save life on Earth.

The authors of the book write “We can choose the one we want to get behind, the one that seems to hold the widest and useful perspective.

I am interested in writing about the third perspective but I think writing a cheery, it’s all going to be fine type story would only tell half the story.   I feel like I need to write about the devastating impact of climate change as well.

I read an article on the online journal ‘The conversation’ which summed up my thoughts here

“It is crucial that utopian cli-fi novels make it clear that for every utopian vision an alternative dystopia could be just around the corner. (It’s worth remembering that in Le Guin’s foundational utopian novel The Dispossessed, the moon’s society have escaped from a dystopian planet.) …

Forward-thinking cli-fi, then, needs to imagine sustainable futures while recognising the disparities of climate change and honouring the struggles of the most vulnerable human and non-humans. Imagining positive futures is key – but a race where no one is left behind should be at the centre of the story we aspire to.”

So there is the problem with main character – just who is she in all of the above?

Slowly, slowly I chip away at this and the structural problems I have with my story.  Earlier today I decided it would be fun to have a group of people living in an old church.  My dad was a very religious man.   When I was growing up he often insisted we go to church while we were on holiday.   We would get dressed up in our finest gear – gloves and all – and attend church services in little country towns.   The religion didn’t really appeal to me and I renounced it in my teens but memories of those old buildings still linger.

This morning over breakfast I speculated as to whether I could go for a drive to visit one this weekend.   I tossed the idea around for a while then decided not to.   Instead I went online and looked up country churches for sale in Australia.  It was the easiest way to examine the buildings, both inside and outside.

One of the churches I discovered is currently for sale in a small country town in north west Victoria.   For the past 25 years it had been owned by a poet and has had a rudimentary renovation.   I really liked the look of it and for a wild moment speculated about buying it.    It’s quite cheap as far as dwellings go in this country – only $170,000.    Of course to get that amount of money I would have to win the lottery and to do that I’d have to buy a ticket.   So unless some mysterious benefactor suddenly gives me the money it looks like I can’t give up book writing, move to the country and put some of the ideas I’m reading about into practice.   Instead I will write about how such a church and the land around it might look  175 years in the future.   That is of course, if I can figure out just what motivates my character to go on an adventure and meet the people living in the church…

to be continued (maybe next week)

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An update

In case you wondered where I disappeared to here’s what I’ve been up to.

I made my blog private for a bit while I had a big rethink.

That led me to read through a book I e-published a few years back. I always felt I published that story too soon and – oh boy – was I right! Re-reading I could see that it was actually a first draft.

That led me to start a structural rewrite. At first I was full of confidence and thought I would be able to rush the thing out as part of NaNoWrite challenge. I did some of the prep exercises they offer and found them very useful.

Full of confidence I jumped into the rewrite only to find I hit the wall after a few days. Bye bye – NoNoWrite – hullo sheer hard work!

To make matters even more complicated I discovered the version of the original book I had saved to a USB stick and lovingly held on during several major computer crashes was actually a very early version of the book. There were whole chunks missing.

I am now finding I need to type out the story I published from a copy a friend downloaded to their Kindle – not an easy task! If you are wondering why I don’t figure out some way of getting the manuscript off the Kindle site I deleted the book from there a couple of years ago when I realised I’d published too soon.

I am at the stage now where I’m wondering if

a) I have gone insane

b) if the book is even worth resurrecting

c) exactly how do you do a structural rewrite. There’s loads about writing first drafts online but very little about structural rewrites. I have decided I need to make my main character 25 not 15 for a start and that I need to include more chapters from the pov of other characters.

Beyond that the original story was inconclusive so there are a bunch of new chapters to write too – if I ever get that far.

So there you have it – on top of that there is a whole load of very strange stuff going in my family… but then that’s usually the case with my family… they are a strange bunch.

I miss blogging but am up to my eyeballs in other stuff at present. I might get back to blogging here at some stage but I’m not sure.

Earth Sense

photo credit and prompt: https://scvincent.com/2019/10/10/thursday-photo-prompt-stillness-writephoto/

Kira perched on the headland and looked out at the stillness of the evening. This was one of her favourite spots but it had quite a while since she’d been able to visit. The winter storms that lashed that part of the coast so fiercely had kept her away for months. Now with spring she was able to get out there once again.

Looking around at the surrounding coastline she saw that sea was lapping at the caves just past the headland. She would have to wait for the low tides of the summer solstice before she could risk venturing into them this year. Every year the water crept higher. Perhaps the cave entrances would be entirely submerged during the coming decade. It was hard to say. Some experts felt that the rate the oceans were rising was finally beginning to lessen. Others felt it was too soon to say. As had always been the case with climate change, predictions were often totally wrong for there were so many variables involved.

All in all it made very Kira very glad she’d overcome her aversion to caves and ventured into the deepest one last summer. It was there she found the journal stowed carefully on a high rock ledge. Wrapped in many layers of yellowing plastic it had glowed like treasure in the long rays of setting sun that illuminated the shadowy recesses of the cave’s rear wall in high summer. She could imagine that Ash, the author of the journal, had placed it there on a similar evening decades before. Of course the sea levels were lower then and he would have had to scramble up the cliff for a few metres beforehand.

Those past times when climate change was wreaking havoc on the world had always been hard for her to get her head around. She’d never understood why so many people had been in denial and why so many of those that comprehended something of impact of climate change were utterly panicked and fearful. Why hadn’t they just gotten on with and worked together to ensure that people were better prepared and protected? It was only when she read Ash’s journal that she came to understand what it was like back then.

Ash had hidden the journal the day before his family were due to leave on the cruise liner that had been repurposed as an evacuation vessel. They were to be taken to the designated ‘Green City’ further north. Anyone else who could pay the exorbitant ticket price and then fork up the $100,000 entrance fee that granted them residency in the city was leaving with them. Once there they’d have to spend even more purchasing a secure place to live and setting up businesses that could operate within the strict environmental guidelines enforced by the International Green Cities Group.

In his journal Ash had been both excited and dismayed by the prospect. Once in the Green City he would be forced to comply to the rigid societal codes that governed all aspects of life there. There’d be no more wandering off his own to explore the rugged, ever changing coastline that fringed the coastal town he’d known all his life. Not only would he be leaving behind his freedom he would be leaving behind friends and acquaintances who couldn’t find the money to get out.

Kira’s grandparents were among those who had stayed behind. They had no other option but to stay on and attempt to survive as best they could. Oddly enough, once the richer members of society had gone things got a little easier for them. Kira’s mum Ruby was a young teenager at the time. Just as now she had an acute political awareness and was always telling Kira how repressive society had become back then. There were rules and regulations governing every aspect of life. Of course dwindling resources meant some kind of control was necessary but a lot of the rules had been downright petty and, as was often the case then, they favoured rich. Once those in charge has abandoned them the people left behind put fairer measures in place.

“A lot of it was just plain common sense,” Ruby was fond of saying. She was a great believer in common sense and credited it with way her own parents had relocated their family to higher ground and helped set up the organic gardens and water storage facilities that now supplied the community that had grown up around them.

Kira was not as politically motivated as her mother. She grew bored listening to the convoluted discussions and decision making by consensus processes that her mother loved. The discussions about common sense seemed to be merely stating the obvious.

Kira and her friends agreed politics, environmental policies and common sense had their place but there was more to it all than that. Between themselves they speculated as to just what that other quality they sought to bring into their lives was. Together they’d come up with the term – Earth Sense. This they were still defining. It had to do with awareness and with basic values. When the Earth and it’s health were placed as the prime value everything changed. The values of late capitalism that Ash railed against in his journal no long applied. Instead a new value system began to assert itself.

As Kira and her friends saw it their generation had a responsibility to define those new values for they would take them forward into an ecologically viable future. Their parents and grandparents were great people, there was no doubt about it, but so much of their energy was directed into survival issues. Any left over energy went into setting up environmental, political and economic structures that supported everyone equally. The Green Cities with their rules and regulations had taken a different route. At some point in the future the residents of those cities would seek to expand into the surrounding countryside – the land they’d abandoned all those years ago. When that happened the people in the communities wanted to have structures in place that would prevent the exploitation the Earth’s resources,

While Kira and her generation respected those ideas they felt they didn’t go far enough. In face to face conversations and in internet forums they communicated their intuitive understandings. Together they felt that a spiritual connection to the Earth had to become the paramount value that underscored everything – only then would a new holistic society evolve across the globe.

Lament for the Bogong Moth

I read recently that the Bogong Moth is critically endangered because of climate change.*

I have an affection for the hairy Bogong moth. When I lived in the eastern part of the state the moth would visit me for several weeks over the summer. During that time whenever I pulled dry clothes off the outdoor clothes line Bogong moths would suddenly fly out at me. If I forgot to shake the clothes I would sometimes unwittingly carry moths inside. Hours later they would find their way out and blunder around the room making the children squeal in alarm. Sometimes they would remain hidden in clothes and sadly meet their demise deep within the folds of hoodies crammed hurriedly into drawers. Often tiny holes would mark the places where they’d nibbled away at the cloth.

Back then I found the moths mildly irritating. Now when I hear of their decline I am surprised at how sad this news makes me feel. So often now I hear of different animals, birds and insects becoming endangered. Part of me has become immune to this kind of news. I have erected walls in my mind that shield me from the emotional impact. Strangely it was the news that the little Bogong moth is under threat that bought me undone. How sad, how very, very sad, I thought. Solastalgia wrapped itself around my heart and I could do naught but make images in my journal to try and express how I felt.

Along the way the walls in my mind started to crumble and the deep sadness I feel about the state of world poured out. At the same a part of me was experiencing a deep but simple joy that the grey clouds that have hung around down here in southern Australia for these long, cold winter months are finally clearing away. Everywhere I look flowers are blooming against skies of brightest blue. The sight fills me with happiness yet at the same time solastalgia gnaws at my heart.

What strange and difficult times we live in.

Journal page – Lament for the Bogong moth

* https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/25/decline-in-bogong-moth-numbers-leaves-pygmy-mountain-possums-starving