Of Fire and Food

Contemplate
I’ve had quite a fun week this last week. I got to rewrite some earlier draft material, rediscovering the flow that I had been missing, better aligning it to the flow of text and images I can hear and see in my mind. I also set the seed for some later writing work. So, in terms of writing, I actually achieved something.

I’ve had even more fun running around delivering printed and bound books in the second half of the week. The major project that had been taking up so much of my time and effort was finally completed. Originally, I had thought that I was going to have to spend a fair amount of time trying to get the books distributed and, while I did take a fair amount of time to unpack and repack them ready for distribution, more than 90% disappeared within four hours. I knew that some people were interested in getting their hands on the book, but not that interested. The last 10% are waiting for personal assistants, satellite offices, and other intermediaries to work out what’s going on, but I reckon they’ll all be gone by the end of next week.

Someone who had been working on a nearby project joked that I could now update my C.V. to state that I was now a published author.

Yeah.....I’m a published author “now”....

I don’t think they understood where I was coming from, and that’s fine -- I’ve made sure there’s no linkage between the task and what I do for my regular readers.

While I’ve been happy to see how stunned and amazed people have been at the books, and how readable they’ve found them, I think I take more pride from the suggestion that it might be going to a second imprint -- less than a week after we received the first...

For a book that initially wasn’t meant to exist and, when it went through its initial iterations, wasn’t supposed to reach beyond the local workplace, it’s been an unqualified success. I don’t think I’ll get to know exactly how much of a success for a couple of weeks, but it’s been really nice from an author’s point of view to see the sort of joy and wonder that a book I’ve written can bring others. It’s harder to do that with my Erotica, so it’s nice to get the chance to closely observe some of my readers’ reactions and how absorbed they get with one of my books.

That’s been the good writing side of things for the last several days, and it’s been a real shot in the arm for the confidence to carry on and continue writing.

That all has nothing to do with fire and food, though.

With the warmer (and drier) weather that we’ve been having lately, one of our family members had been bugging me to cook a barbecue. After stoically holding out for several weeks, I finally relented. Thus, on a warm Saturday in late November, I found myself conducting the ritual spider scaring dance, trying to work out where the spiders were hiding on and under the barbecue cover, and what sort they were. I knew there were going to be a handful of redbacks, but I only could find one. It was a big one, to make up for the lack of its friends, and it ended up taking several hits of the outdoor spider spray before it finally stopped moving.

I was tempted to just turn the pressure washer on the barbecue to blast away the spiders, but anyone who has come up close and personal with Australian spiders would know that doing so would only irritate them. The last thing I wanted to do was fight off some angry but very clean spiders with a set of barbecue tongs (I’m holding the tongs, not the spiders).

So, as a result, I was attacking the bigger spiders I could see with the spray and sat back, waiting for them to drop of the barbecue and let me get on with using copious amounts of fire and heat to turn a farmyard of animals into a delicious feast.

In true Aussie backyard style, I was standing there with no footwear on and no PPE other than shorts and a T-shirt when the spiders started dropping off the barbecue. I was starting to doubt the wisdom of standing there in bare feet while angry and dying venomous arachnids skittered across the ground. I was also preoccupied with what was happening with the redback (and it was a beautiful large example of one), so didn’t immediately process what the other spiders were that were hitting the pebblecrete.

One spider down -- Oh, look, it’s a little one. It’s not a redback, or a funnelweb, or one of those big scary harmless ones.

Two spiders down -- Oh, look, more little ones -- Four spiders down -- What the?

Six spiders down, and a couple of quite active runners -- Hey, wait a minute, they’ve all got that same white-tipped tail....

At that point, my brain gave up and gave me a round of applause for my remarkable Australian stupidity. In my effort to clean the barbecue and kill a sole redback, I’d annoyed a nest / family of white-tails. That were quickly doing a remarkable camouflage trick against the pebblecrete.

I wasn’t going to admit complete defeat, though. Before going and finding suitable protective footwear (thongs -- I am Australian, after all), I knew I had a clear route to the gas bottle. I cracked it, and lit the burners. Well, only the first two lit. I had to use a lighter to manually light the last two (perhaps they were clogged with spiders...), using it in a mini-flamethrower mode to scare the spiders back while I lit the gas jets.

I left the barbecue on full blast while I looked for my thongs, claiming it was heating the hotplate and volcanic stones, while in reality I was using it to incinerate the little bastards that had scurried deeper into the barbecue, away from the spray (I wasn’t about to spray the parts that came into contact with the delicious food). After a suitable period of arachnid cremation, I was able to start cooking the lamb chops, pork chops, chicken fillets, sausages, steak, onion, eggplant, zucchini, potato, sweet potato, egg, mushroom, and whole Rainbow Trout that had been seasoned, stuffed, then cooked in foil.

The barbecue gods must have been smiling, as nothing came off the plate or the grill that wasn’t cooked to absolute perfection. No burnt bits on anything, and nothing undercooked. All the meat was soft, juicy, and tasty, so much so that no one reached for the sauce. I did, but that’s because you have to drown everything in sauce at a barbecue (including the garden salad). I wasn’t sure whether to feel shame that no one was following proper barbecue etiquette, which included the ritual building of a chop, onions, salad, sauce and cheese roll that was so overloaded it fell apart after two mouthfuls and dribbled down your arms, or to feel pride that I had tamed the flames well enough that the cooked meat didn’t need the sauce.

About the only drawback was that the steaks (Porterhouse) had ticked slightly past medium rare into medium territory, but I’m still in the process of converting the steak eaters of the household away from well-done burnt offerings. Even the sandalwood sticks were doing their job and keeping the mozzies away (but not the flies...).

Why the level of detail in a routine Australian Saturday?

One of the drafts I have ticking over has food as one of its central themes, and it’s always nice to be able to reach into personal experiences and first-hand knowledge to drive the senses through the written word. Whether it is a character that we despise, who uses a barbecue to cook expensive cuts of meat, only to throw them to the dogs; or someone we relate to, who struggles to afford their normal food budget, but works miracles with what little they have.

That, and it’s a fun story from direct personal experience.

Some Decent Writing

Decent
I was pleasantly surprised that I actually had the time to get some writing done last week. It was mainly rewriting of existing drafts, but it was comforting to be productive at the keyboard again. I had the opportunity in the last couple of weeks to talk to a few people one-on-one about what might be causing the lack of productivity in writing that has been in place for the last few weeks and months, and I suspect that things will be improving in the future.

I wanted to avoid going back to some of my more recent drafts, as I feared what sort of writing they would contain. Although any writing is good writing, I was harbouring a deep-seated fear that it was going to be very substandard and poorly constructed -- not the sort of material I needed to be reviewing and working on to bring my confidence back up.

Fortunately, as I worked my way through the drafts, it was not anywhere near as bad as I had been worried about. There were a couple of my normal writing elements that were missing, but that’s easy enough to miss when you don’t get much written for a long period of time.

I don’t know how much time I’ll have this coming week, but I will do whatever I can to make sure I at least get the opportunity to sit down and try to write.

Going Back to Old Work

Drafty
After an increasingly hot series of days this last week, we finally had a break in the weather, and have enjoyed a day and a half of decent rain. It might not have amounted to anything more than an inch in total, but it was something that had been sorely missed. I had not been expecting to have to water the lawn to keep it alive this early in the season, but at least the rain should give it a week or two without needing more assistance.

The last week hasn’t only been about keeping anachronisms alive in an environment which seems hostile to it at every turn. I’ve actually had a little bit of time to contemplate my writing. Rather than generate a lot of text this week, I’ve been thinking about the source material for some of my drafts -- at least those which have something other than my fertile mind as a source. Perhaps it’s time to revisit some of the concepts and ideas that I originally had, and give them the time and space they need to become fully fledged stories (even if it’s likely that they will be short...).

I’ll have to see what the week ahead has got for me, but it looks like I’ll have the chance to get something done.

A Pleasant Surprise

Pleasant
I had what could only be described as a pleasant surprise this week. I was madly running around solving crises and generally finding myself further and further from being able to get some writing done when the stars aligned and the tasks all came to an acceptable close. This left me with some unexpected free time, and I’ve got to admit that I just sat there and enjoyed my sudden good fortune for a moment or two.

I sat there wondering what the disapproving tapping sound I could hear was. It was my muse, giving me a disappointed look, implying that I could actually make use of the time to get something written down. So, I brought up one of the couple of drafts that I have with me most places I go, and got some good writing done. No pressure. No deadlines. No worries about other tasks (they were all done!). Just the opportunity to write.

It felt good. Although it’s been a bit of a while between writing sessions like that, it’s always good to get back to basics like that.

Shifting Seasons

Seasons
It’s shaping up to be quite a warm Spring, with a nice hot Summer on the horizon. It’s not to say we don’t get the occasional cold night and cool day, but all the signs are there for a hot few months coming up. It’s also the sign that the end of the year (another one!) is almost here. That has come as a bit of a surprise. It felt like just the other day that it was the start of Winter, and not much further than that that it was the middle of Summer.

I look at what’s taken place over the last week, and I can’t believe that the time has gone by so quickly. Of course it has, and it’s only going to be getting faster through to the end of the year. There’s always a mad rush into the end of the year, and this year it feels no different, I can only hope that I get the time to write over coming days and weeks.