There And Back Again – Finding Direction In 2015

Sydney Harbour Bridge, midnight 31/12/14

Sydney Harbour Bridge, midnight 31/12/14

Happy new year! Here we are in 2015 and I hope it’s a wonderful one for you all! The festive road trip has finished and I’m back in Adelaide with much more movement to look forward to. And who knows where I’ll end up? I certainly don’t.

But that’s not a bad thing. A steady state has its comforts and attractions, but life has been a wonderful whirlwind since I left London three and half years ago, and the volatile roller coaster doesn’t seem about to stop. Coming to the beginning of a new year and looking back as well as forward – life has more highs than lows. Sometimes you just have to seek them out. Sometimes you need to take a shovel.

All I know is that it was a brilliant idea to end up in Sydney to see out the old year and in with the new – with the biggest of bangs. I adore fireworks and want to live my life like one – going off in all directions, popping, fizzing, delighting, colourful, crazy and illuminating. It doesn’t matter which way you’re going as long as you’re causing a ruckus on the way, filling as many lives as possible with light, laughter and love.

Many people will have so much they want to achieve this year, having achieved so much already – best of luck with it. Just don’t forget to stop, look around you, smell the roses, watch the sunsets, notice others, and leave the people you pass the happier for having known you. Strive as much as you like, but enrich those around you as well as yourself. Sing and dance, but invite others to add their voices and join the foxtrot. Put being plentiful in the soul before the pocket, and share.

Technically, ’tis the eleventh day of Christmas (who knew the twelve days start rather than end on Christmas day?!). So here’s a parting gift from my lovely friend and wonderful illustrator’s collection. As the familiar festive sights and scents fade away for another year, remember to keep the spirit of Christmas around and enjoy the whole twelve months ahead giving, loving and hoping. Everyone will have a better time for it.

What do you hope for this year? I hope it finds you.

Eleven Pipes Piping

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Looking for something new to read this year? Enter the world of The Night Butterflies and join the search for hope amidst horror…

The Night Butterflies

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Survival Of The Christmas

Giant Lobster, Kingston SA

Giant Lobster, Kingston

I’m on another festive road-trip, this year OZ rather than NZ. Christmas is such a great time to take a holiday – and while I’d love to be tucked at home with family and friends in the UK, amidst cosy jumpers and twinkling trees, I also love the utter freedom of constant movement and the excitement of seeing brand new things every day. Especially the sunshine. And my year wouldn’t have been complete without Sunday’s giant lobster on the roadside.

Christmas, nestled as it is before the end of one year and the start of another, often seems a time to compare. Compare life now to this time last year; compare location, occupation, partners, possessions; compare life’s pros and cons, what’s been gained and what’s been lost.

Our first night camping, what was lost was mainly sleep. Having been sweltering over in South Australia, we took a selection of sheets but decided sleeping bags would be surplus. Wrong. The tent, positioned as it was in the centre of a vortex, winds tearing around out of nowhere, was freezing. And I hadn’t even brought layers of clothing that could ease the situation.

Last night, we recovered in a motel. Whenever I stay in a motel I feel like I’m in an episode of the X-files. But there are no aliens here. Maybe just ghosts. I’m followed around by the ghost of last year’s Christmas road-trip, which I was lucky enough to enjoy with ex-partner-in-crime. I miss him like crazy. And last week, I went to see my friend Kade’s family on the Gold Coast. Not so much earlier than this time last year, partner-in-crime and I were over there for his funeral, and I’d not been back since.

Bad stuff has happened this year – stuff I’d rather hadn’t. But it’s not ever, nowhere near, the same as really losing someone. When someone dies, it doesn’t end. It’s never over. They’re gone forever. And every Christmas, every birthday, every holiday – they bring a peak in the ever-present pain for those who were closest. Seeing everyone left behind there, wishing my friend was still around, wishing it was possible to save each person from their grief… Those are Christmas wishes that could never be granted.

But such things are utterly out of our control. They can only be suffered and survived. And where there is unending grief, friends can only be supportive. Be present. Be there.

Not so with everything. Yesterday we acquired sleeping bags so we wouldn’t have another disastrous night of cold cramps. There are certainly things in our lives that go wrong that we can learn from and correct. Some things lost can be found again. I can think of several situations a tad more dire than lack of camping equipment that, with a little motivation, I can sort out next year.

Have a ridiculous holiday. Frolic until you’re famished and feast until you’re full. But spare a thought for those without. Those without the ones who would have made their Christmas complete. My heart goes out to you if you’re one of them. And if there’s anything distressing in your life that you know is fixable, that would make life merrier in 2015 if fixed, then make the resolution to address it. We owe it to ourselves – we who are lucky enough to have a full and fantastic life to live.

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Review of The Night Butterflies by Sara Litchfield

On top of the world because of this delicious review! I would so love if word like this could spread 😀

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Once in a great while, a book comes along that impacts your life, and you know that you will forever cherish it.

In a world saturated by Hunger Games clones, The Night Butterflies is a refreshing, intelligent, well written alternative to the pseudo-dystopian novels that currently fill the shelves. This is no teenage angsty love triangle story. The characters in this novel aren’t complaining that their freedom or rights have been taken from them — they are, instead, stripped of their very humanity. In a post-war world where the very air is poison, Men and Women are separated, as a mysterious Leader and his circle of Men seek to develop medicine to keep everyone alive, but also, that thing that is crucial for a species to continue — healthy procreation.
This is where they have gone wrong — as wrong as possible — and the Mothers live in fear…

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In A Parallel World…

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Doctor Who, Season 2, Episode 13. I woke up this morning, put on the TV while I pottered around the flat tidying up, and that’s what came on.

For non-hardcore fans, or people who aren’t fans at all (baffled face), this is the episode where Dr Who (David Tennant) is separated from his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). They are torn apart into parallel worlds through a series of events where – look, just watch the episode. But first watch all the preceding episodes so the pain of this parting isn’t lost on you.

Why has this sparked a post? Well, along with making me cry, seeing this episode again made me think.

There’s a theory that for every decision every person makes, the universe is splintered into an infinite number of parallel worlds living the realities where a different decision was made and/or a different outcome experienced.

It can be as small as thinking that, in a parallel world, this particular episode wasn’t on when I turned on the TV, which probably meant I didn’t write this particular post. It can be as large as thinking, in a parallel world, the Nazis won the war. For an infinite number of moments, an infinite number of possibilities.

In a parallel world, the alien horde didn’t pass us by last week and instead decided we were worth invading. You get the idea.

I might easily not have turned the TV on at all this morning. I don’t normally. I haven’t lived somewhere with a TV since I left London (when, funnily enough, David Tennant was still the Doctor). I wouldn’t be here in Adelaide if I hadn’t been broken up with in Queenstown. What if that hadn’t happened? I spend a lot of time wanting to go back to how it was or how it might have been, wanting it to be different. But it’s not – not in this particular world.

But, overall, I like this particular world. I’ve had the chance to travel all over it; I make a living doing a job I enjoy; I have wonderful friends; I can go wherever I want. I’m free. If I hadn’t quit my job working as an accounting professional for Ernst & Young three and a half years ago, where would I be now? Who would I be? I might never have met previous partner-in-crime at all, and we had three amazing years together with a forever of friendship to come. I might never have started my business, Right Ink On The Wall, which I love and which grows as I grow. I might never have published my book, The Night Butterflies, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

So, instead of mourning what could have been and decisions that might have been different, I’m going to focus on what could happen now, what could happen next, now this new world of infinite possibilities has opened up in this of all possible worlds. Who knows what could happen tomorrow? Or the next day? It could be beyond amazing. Given the choice in five or ten years’ time, I might decide I would never have wanted to miss it. So it’s a good job I’m here.

What parallel life could you be living?  Would you go back and change something big, if you could?

On a completely related note, I adore David Tennant. If I could have changed anything about the moment I met him, when he was filming for Einstein & Eddington at my college in Cambridge, it would be not turning into the epic failure of a fan girl who couldn’t utter an intelligent word in his presence (can you tell from my smile?!). Oh, and I would have done my hair that day.

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30 Observations On Turning 30

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Last week, it was my birthday. And I wasn’t where I’d planned to be, because I was no longer with whom I’d planned to be with (hence hopping over the water for a while). But the best of it was made for me, with a handmade surprise mad hatter’s birthday breakfast tea party (just amazing – pics below!) and then a trip to a beautiful winery for a delicious, long lunch with much wine. My friend here has taken cheering me to heart and single-handedly saved what otherwise could have been a day of sorrowing. I also received several touching presents and cards that lifted my heart.

I’ve never been down around my birthday. I love to celebrate, and a number’s just a number after all! When I think of some of the things that have happened by the time I’ve turned this one: releasing myself from an occupation of reluctant accounting, starting my own business, travelling the world, publishing my own book, meeting the people I’ve met and seeing the sights that I’ve seen – I can say I’m happy with how I’ve got here.

So, to celebrate having turned thirty, here’s a list of thirty observations I’ve had upon doing so, in the order that they came to me.

1. Who doesn’t love a list?

2. Don’t heed the snake within (& that’s a sneak peek quote from my current NaNoWriMowork in progress, fantasy novel Luminosa).

3. If it is at all possible, find something in any given situation to laugh at.

4. It’s always tea time.

5. ‘Tis better to catch on late than never.

6. Smile at everyone and see what happens.

7. Patience is a virtue, but the really, really hard-to-find kind.

8. No matter how low you feel, someone’s suffering more in Game of Thrones.

9. Persevere.

10. See beauty everywhere you look.

11. I love books. But I can appreciate the Kindle.

12. Friends are treasures; guard them.

13. If something’s not okay, try and try and try to make it better.

14. It is better to love.

15. Never take a good shower for granted.

16. Be bold.

17. You can move all over the place, but it’s where you’re at inside that matters.

18. Say what you think; sometimes you’ll be surprised at the support from unexpected corners.

19. If you can’t help but lose something, remember it fondly.

20. People are kind.

21. Sending & receiving postal love changes the value of a stamp into something priceless.

22. Thirty years is a long time (I never said they’d all be meaningful).

23. Keep having adventures.

24. You can’t control what you can’t control. But you can control your occupation, your location and your outlook on life.

25. Regret as little as possible.

26. If something ain’t sitting right, alter it.

27. It’s possible to write 50,000 words in 30 days, whatever else is going on.

28. You might not know what’s next, but there’s probably something good involved.

29. Anything is possible.

30. Be you.

How do you feel about birthdays? Raise a glass with me and be merry, if you haven’t already. There’s nothing wrong with getting older and wiser. 

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Interview with Sara Litchfield, Author of “The Night Butterflies”

Lots of bookiness & backflips here this week to celebrate the release of The Night Butterflies! I had an author interview with the lovely Sara Letourneau over at her brilliant blog, where she brews a passion for writing with fantasy, tea, music, and reading 🙂 do pay her a visit!

Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

Sara Litchfield photo

It’s not every day that you meet someone who shares your first name and last initial. It’s even more rare to meet someone with those commonalities and with uncannily similar writing passions and aspirations. I met British-born writer Sara Litchfield (who now lives in New Zealand) during WANACon this past February, and right after having joined Twitter. Since then, she’s buckled down on revisions and edits for her debut novel The Night Butterflies – all while working as an accountant and maintaining her own editing business. (And drinking lots of tea to help!) I was privileged to beta-read The Night Butterflies during that time. Told from the perspectives of two children and three adults in the aftermath of a nuclear apocalypse, the story chilled me with its harrowing plot and inspired me with its message of hope, friendship, and humanity.

Now that The Night Butterflies is out (YAY!), I’d like…

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The Greatest Gift

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‘Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness’ – Richard Bach

The last Best Present Ever that I received is Enid (my bike). Yesterday, the above arrived in a package from England. A leather-encased professional writer’s journal, branded with my logo and containing a beautiful, hand-drawn sketch of The Royal Courts of Justice in London and an elegantly crafted card full of warm and wonderful words. Where do I even start?

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Some of you may recognise the masterly hand of my illustrator, Nicki Whetstone. I read a blog post by Kelly Roberts recently that really gave me pause – its message was about appreciation. As I wrote in a comment to the post, ‘I should definitely be taking a moment – lots of moments – to appreciate the people who support me and are there for me and actually Do give back. Every day. Like the partner who has to listen to me moan about everyone else. And who takes the brunt of it when other people put me in a stressy, frustrated place. To one of my best friends back home, who fits in illustrating for me alongside the ridiculous hours she works and gets me excited about our projects. To the dozen beta readers who are reading my novel and providing me feedback, just to help me make a better book.’ That evening I read my partner-in-crime a list of things I love about him. And I planned a postcard to my illustrator friend. I received my present before even having a change to write, never mind send it. So on top of doing everything that makes her one of my topmost appreciated persons, she then goes over and above in showing her appreciation for me – I’m just humbled.

I’m lucky to own more than one gift that has blown me away. They’ve done so not just because of what they are but because of what they mean. The thought and execution that have gone into them mean that I matter to someone. That I am valued. I only hope that my own gifts and words and actions make my friends feel the way I’m so often made to feel.

The greatest gift is friendship. And I strive to be worthy of the friendships I am blessed with. It’s friendship and love that make my life one of happiness and fulfilment. And I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for that.

What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever gotten? The greatest you’ve ever given? Take a moment today and tell someone how much you appreciate them – that can be a gift in itself. 

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