Lockdown Eleven

Actually it’s only our fourth lockdown. But it was my daughter’s eleventh birthday recently and the promised trip to the mall (to see if she could figure out what she wanted, since she has no ideas) never happened.

What she needs is a hoodie, and she only likes the zip-through ones. For older girls these are very hard to find! She’s outgrown cutesie stuff made for little girls and while she’s tall enough for age 14 clothes she doesn’t like the ubiquitous logo black and grey stuff made for teenagers.

What on earth are tweens supposed to wear?

And guess what her birthday present was? An executive chair for her desk. She spends a lot of time at her computer because of remote learning, and because she’s writing spreadsheets with her dad for a card game about dragons. Until now she’s been sitting crunched up on a dining room chair, often sharing with a cat.

I also gave her these…

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Family Fun for Real

What are your go-to family favorite games? As a child, we were a Scrabble-or-Canasta family. Friends in America introduced us to Euro boardgames 15 years ago, and we’ve been crazy about them ever since.

My state is currenly on lockdown for a week – no leaving the house except for essential shopping, work, medical, and exercise, as well as remote learning for school kids.

I’d like to achieve something concrete during this time, so as mentioned in my last post I’m clearing up my front room. We have one games cabinet and I need to cull our boardgames to fit in there. My daughter and I piled every single board game we own on the tables and… well, we have 87. That’s just ridiculous. Some are decades old, belonging to my husband – he hasn’t played them since before we met. We have 10 or so that we regularly play, and another 20 we enjoy a lot, but surely the rest can be thrown out, resold, or at least stored away until they’re forgotten about? To that end, I’ve ordered three huge heavy-duty storage crates!

I’ll take you on a tour of some of the games we enjoy as a family. None of these are the classic “roll the dice and move” games such as Monopoly. Euro games, if you haven’t tried them, well, you’re missing out! They’re often not particularly competitive, which makes them less stressful for kids, and for me. You build your own worlds rather than fretting too much about what other people are doing, so the experience is fun even if you don’t win.

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My Lockdown Project

You know how there’s that one space in your home that becomes a junk space? A drawer in the kitchen, a closet in the hall, a basket on the countertop, a corner in the bedroom… or sometimes, an entire room!

My state of Victoria just went into lockdown after a new outbreak of COVID-19. I have lots of writing to get through, but I also have a mess of a front room to deal with, a year’s worth of junk piling up as I clear out other spaces in the house… and I think it needs to become my lockdown project.

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Xay in San Francisco

I just uploaded one of the final chapters of The Beat Goes On (Wynter Wild Book 10), where Xay plays a concert in San Francisco. He’s supporting Destructex, a band of “aging rockers” whose heyday was the 80s although they retain a massive fan base, which of course can’t hurt Xay’s fledgling career when he opens for them.

Here are a few more details about the venue and the concert that essentially launches Xay’s career into the stratosphere.

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Why My Books are Not YA

What happens when young adults read your book that’s not YA?

I love all my readers, so I don’t mind at all! But here’s the thing – young adults weren’t the audience I intended to attract when I wrote the Wynter Wild books, and I don’t believe I’ve written a YA story.

Wattpad tells me that readers of Little Sister Song (Wynter Wild book 1) are one quarter aged 13-18, and one half aged 18-25. Of the rest, about half are over 25 and half don’t give their age. (In addition, four-fifths are female and the rest don’t say.) This age spread is similar to Wattpad’s overall age demographic, which skews young, and my feeling from reading comments over the past two years is that my readers largely read young adult books.

However… I didn’t know this when I started uploading chapters to Wattpad. The series is not YA, although clearly young adults enjoy it. Older women across all age groups are also enjoying it, and that’s the audience I aim to reach when I relaunch the books – even though the series isn’t typical women’s fic either.

Let’s look at what young adult literature is, and why Wynter Wild doesn’t qualify.

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My Spreadsheets

Ah, my spreadsheets…

I have a lot of them, and I’m very attached to them.

Once I realized my little contemporary drama was going to be not-so-little, I started a spreadsheet to track a few things, and in retrospect I’m so glad I did. It’s far easier to work on timelines and lists as you go than piecing things together later or trawling through previous books to find out when something happened.

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Writing American Characters as a British Aussie

My American husband has been here in Australia for ten years now. He’s pretty much acclimatized to the lingo, the weather, and the food, and the culture shock when he arrived was sufficient that he’s clear on what is American (chili) and what is not (panel beaters).

In Australia, this vehicle goes to the panel beaters, not the body shop.

I grew up in the UK, moved to Australia, spent 5 years in Arizona, and I’m currently writing mostly American characters living in America. Here’s the thing: I get confused! I think I have the spelling differences down, and I’ve sorted out which US punctuation quirks I will and will not accept. Where I run into trouble is with the language and cultural references.

My Aussie friends have a childhood frame of reference that’s unknown to me, other than the blond hunks of Chopper Squad (Baywatch in the bush with a higher male-to-female ratio and less flesh) – that show plus kangaroos and koalas were the sum total of my knowledge about Australia before we moved here. I returned to the UK for a couple of years in the 90s, only to discover I was out of step again because I’d missed the British 80s (when the term “pear-shaped” apparently evolved).

Five years in the States further muddled my distinctions between what is British, what’s Aussie, and what language, food, and pop culture references Americans do and don’t “get”. I’m writing American characters and I need to purge non-Americanisms… but I don’t always remember exactly where my own language patterns come from. Google and my husband are good sources, but if I don’t know what I’m saying is uniquely British, I don’t know when to ask what an American would say instead!

Without delving into the “cookie/biscuit” debate, here are a few words and phrases I’ve had to catch myself on because my natural British and Aussie inclinations aren’t suitable for American English:

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Caleb’s House Rules

I blogged a preliminary version of Caleb’s infamous house rules a long time ago. The list has grown!

There are lots of missing rules because I’m not sure even Caleb can come up with 213+ of these things. And while the numbers are allegedly arbitrary within the household, I kept track because – as you can imagine – Wynter kept track.

So, here they are – all the rules mentioned in the books with numbers if they have them, or I assigned numbers if they weren’t specified.

Rule number zero – the one rule to rule them all – is:

House rules are immutable

That’s not to say nobody has never broken them, of course…

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The Shed

Probably the most bizarre little art project I’ve ever done… It’s the shed!

You know, the shed.

It’s mentioned in every book of the Wynter Wild series, and The Beat Goes On (book 10) there are several flashbacks to the ashram and to this sanctuary where Wynter, Xay and Roman used to meet at night, to escape their lives at the ashram.

It’s your basic metal gardening shed – in very poor condition – like this (shown in situ):

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Self-Worth and Validation (for my characters)

A recent reader comment got me thinking about how my characters get the validation that we all need, as humans, and how this affects their self-worth.

I’m imposing the analysis after-the-fact, since I didn’t start out by psychoanalyzing Wynter, Xay, and the Fairn boys. They developed on the page over the course of several years.

Standing back now I can see a few interesting patterns when it comes to how they view themselves – which affects what motivates them and what supports or messes with their mental health.

The differences between them comes from not only their personalities (I’ve written previously about their personality types) but their experiences and even their birth order. I imagine Caleb wouldn’t be quite the same today if he’d been the youngest of the three boys “raised” by Harry. And what if Jesse was the one who’d been separated from his twin Joy? What if Indio had been the eldest – would that have been enough reason for him to take more responsibility?

(Links throughout go to the Wynter Wild Wiki, which give bios for the characters and contain spoilers.)

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