Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Cult of the Zombies

The super talented and hilarious Amanda Ashby is having a monster blog bash to celebrate the release of her second book, THE ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH.

She very kindly invited me to guest-blog over at her place this week. You can catch me there on Friday if you're in the Northern Hemisphere or Saturday for those Down Under. (I think that's right. The whole time diff thing is so confusing!) Please come along, comment and win stuff! Actually, you should visit Amanda's blog every day for the next week and catch up with some amazing YA authors.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Feet?

I have never had a professional pedicure. I'm not ashamed. My toes aren't hairy or scary, I promise. And after watching this pedicure procedure, it's unlikely I'll ever go to a salon where the employees are fish.

This kind of reminds me of Flintstones technology (you know, dinosaurs that double as vacuum cleaners and bulldozers) but a million times creepier. If you live in Florida, relax, 'cause the state's Board of Cosmetology has just banned so-called Dr Fish from practising.

I love how the woman in the video says it's like getting a massage. Hmm, I've never been nibbled on at a salon, but I guess I've led a sheltered life. Do you have a spa war story to share?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fire and Water

Koala facts:

* There are normally approximately 80,000 koalas in the Australian wild. About 15,000 live in the southern states, which have been devastated by fires.

* Koalas normally have a slow metabolic rate and sleep up to 16 hours a day.

* These marsupial mammals are normally most active just after sunset.

* They normally eat up to 500 grams (over one pound) of eucalyptus leaves each day. The high water content in these leaves means koalas rarely drink.

But this koala's normal life, like so many others, has just been turned upside down:

The firefighter in the pic, David Tree, said Sam the koala chugged three bottles of water. "I could see she had sore feet and was in trouble, so I pulled over the fire truck. She just plonked herself down, as if to say 'I'm beat'," Mr Tree said. "The most amazing part was when she grabbed my hand. I will never forget that."

The Herald Sun newspaper is selling this photo for $20. All proceeds go to the Country Fire Authority. Click here for details.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Victorian firestorm

Many of us here in Australia are reeling over the devastation caused by a huge firestorm sweeping through rural areas in the state of Victoria. It's estimated the human death toll will reach 200--it currently stands at 131. Countless livestock and wildlife have also been killed or injured. Adding to the grief is the suspicion that some fires were deliberately lit.

The government has pledged immediate financial help to victims of the fires, but you can also assist by donating.

Click here to donate to Wildlife Victoria.

According to Yahoo7, Bendigo Bank and the Red Cross are accepting donations. Or you can make a pledge at any Bunnings hardware store or at National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank or ANZ bank branches.

Photo: Mick Tsikas/Reuters as seen in the New York Times.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fur Cryin' Out Loud

It's summertime here and my cats are shedding like crazy. I've vacuumed up at least a kilo of fur this week alone. Shame on me for throwing it all away - I could've made a handbag or a sweater out of the stuff, just like this enterprising pet owner:

Sunday, February 1, 2009

My Word!

It's been a month since I last blogged. Time flies when you're having fun writing a book!

Well, to be honest, the last hundred pages of the book was quite a struggle. The 40C/104F temperatures didn't help. I finished it at 3am last Tuesday morning and now I actually miss hanging out with the characters. Not to worry--I'll be revising it soon.

Until recently, I never thought about using a word processor other than Microsoft Word. Apart from a few confounding niggles, Word is easy to use. But what I found when writing the last book is that I had a pile of separate research documents and I wrote many scenes out of order every time I got stuck. I also had alternative versions of chapters, a number of synopses, inspirational pictures, character sketches, "what if?" scenarios, etc, etc. After a while, my system became chaotic. What I really wanted was to have all the files related to the ms in one document, with easy access. I didn't want to have a million windows open at once.

[Here's where I go into infomercial mode. Sorry.]

So, after a bit of searching, I found a brilliant piece of writing software for Macs called Scrivener. You create one file for a project and stick every bit of information related to it in subfolders within that project. Then you can get on with writing the book. Once you've done that, export the book to Word where it is magically formatted to industry standards. Almost. I found I can't get the mandated 25 lines per page after exporting, so there's a bit of finessing to do in that department.

You can read all about it here, and if you like what you see, download a 30-day trial version for FREE. The full version is US$39.95. If you don't have a Mac, you can check out a program for PCs called Page 4.