Be the first to know about new releases - and even read them early!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Snow, snow, glorious snow!



Christmas in Australia is hot. Santa doesn't wear the big suit, he and the elves wear this:



This year however, I am in England. In 2 days I'm heading to the Scottish Highlands for Christmas, and Christmas here is very very different to the really really hot Aussie one.

For instance, this is what is outside my window right now:

Okay so that was actually 2 days ago, there's a bit more now. But you get my point? Christmas is a very different experience here! I've never experienced the snow before so this is really really exciting. The world is so pretty when everything's white.

Though I have experienced a couple of downsides to this whole snow thing. Well, the one-two centimetres of snow that we've got going on here. For instance, it makes buses run late. Very late. And under the thin layer of snow? There's a layer of ICE. And under the ice? Still cement. So yeah, my knees met the ice-cement, they're on intimate terms considering they were making out yesterday.

But it's been interesting, seeing a half-frozen over fountain, stepping on frozen puddles and feeling them crack, seeing frozen tyre marks in mud, having little bits of cold white stuff settle on your shoulders and your hair, but it's not big enough to be caught in your hand. There's not enough snow here for angels or snow men but we'll see.

I'm looking forward to Scotland, maybe there won't be so much in Edinburgh, but in the Highlands over Christmas - my first white Christmas! - there's sure to be heaps and heaps of snow. Where the ice is way down underneath lots of fluffy snow that I'm not going to fall over on.

A cold Christmas is a really weird experience, I have to say. It's supposed to be hot. We're not supposed to be wearing thermals, jumpers, coats, scarves, gloves and hats. We're supposed to be wearing singlets and thongs. (To you Americans reading this let me clarify - singlets = tank tops, thongs = flip flops. I felt that needed clarifying. Especially the thongs part)

So yeah. SNOW!

Love,

Me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Beauty of an Agent and OMG how am I getting these books home?

Ha. It's been a bit longer since I last wrote than I realised. Sorry about that.
November was a pretty full on month!
Two hospital visits, 2 essays, a weekend in Wales and a friend from Australia visiting (Yay!) and another round of edits on my manuscript as well as starting edits on another and all of a sudden November was gone. Done and dusted.
And now it's December. And Christmas is most definitely here, in England. It is Christmas EVERYWHERE.

But that's not what I was wanting to discuss today.
I realised since my agent Jill Corcoran and I both (electronically) signed on the dotted line over 6 months ago, I haven't actually talked about how that's going. What it's like going from no representation, to representation.

Well let me tell ya, it's great. I most definitely recommend going the agent route, over submitting straight to a publisher.

Firstly, I love Jill because she's always on my side. She says I'm a talented writer and she love love love's my book which is OH so helpful in those moments that you doubt yourself. She's in the publishing industry. She is swamped with query letters and manuscripts and she reads a lot of childrens and YA books. She has middle grade age and teenage children. She knows the market, what's selling and what is popular with the kids. And she loves me as a writer.
That encouragement from someone other than your parents who love you anyway is worth every penny. Not that there are pennies involved as yet.

Secondly, she has a gazillion contacts! When trying to submit to publishers without an agent, so many doors are closed to you because they just don't accept unsolicited manuscripts. Well let me tell ya, those doors are WIDE open to me now.

Jill is an extremely hands on agent as well, and as much as editing and editing my book and editing it some more can make me want to tear my hair out - I know every suggestion she makes has been thought about, and I agree with the majority of them. Each round of edits we go through is making what I already thought was a good, solid book, into an even BETTER book.
She looks at the big things and the little things.

For instance, we were recently exchanging emails about boys and giggling.

JILL: "Boys don't giggle, they laugh. You should use the word laugh"
ME: "True, boys don't usually giggle. But these are 13 year old boys looking up porn on the computers at school. In this instance, they are probably giggling." (That's totally not a spoiler)
By doing all of this we are making sure editors are seeing the best possible book. Which they will have changes for, but still -we're making it the best WE think it can be. An editor will have more ideas on how to make it better AGAIN!

And something else I love about her is that she is super fast at replying to emails. Getting back to me about questions, regardless of how little and stupid they are. Though I try to limit myself on those ones.
So yeah, it's great having Jill on my team. I don't have to worry about submitting, perfecting my query letter any more. I just have to worry about the writing. And the rewriting. And the rewriting some more.

And reading!
I've been a crazy lady and bought lots of books while traveling. And now that the end is nigh (okay so it's still 2 months away, but I know it's going
to go fast) I am starting to worry about just how heavy paper in the form of books can be. Becaus
e I have some pretty stringent weight limits for my luggage.

Eep. But what have I been buying while away?


I love love love Paper Towns and Wimpy Kid. I haven't read 13 Reasons Why or the Graveyard Book as yet though. Why? Because I've been getting into some TV shows and the like that I totally wasn't aware of in Australia.
I mean, I knew about Degrassi: The Next Generation, but I wasn't into it. I am now. I'm kinda hooked. They really don't shy away from the tough subjects on that show. For instance, in the very first episode, a 12 year old character decides to meet a boy she met on the internet, and she meets him at a hotel, but it's not a boy, it's a 30-something pedophile. Tough subjects.

And onto something lighter, I'm a big Jane Austen fan. Well, I'm a big Jane Austen MOVIE fan. I tried to read Pride & Prejudice as part of my high school coursework and never actually finished it. And I haven't tried her other ones yet. But I love the movies they've been making of her books.
Lost in Austen is a GREAT take on the whole thing. Where a modern girl swaps places with Elizabeth Bennett in Pride & Prejudice (her family think Liz is staying at Amanda's house in Hammersmith, and Amanda is staying with the Bennetts) and just by her mere presence, everything "goes tits up". People marry the wrong people, run away with the wrong people, are better/worse than they seem in the book... I was giggling like a school girl watching this mini-series. So. Much. Fun.

But back to books: What did I buy today? Cos I was walking past Borders in Leeds and it was having a big CLOSING DOWN SALE. Argh! What am I supposed to do, NOT buy books in a closing down sale?

Today I bought:

Wow, blogger doesn't seem to want me to put up any more pictures.
I also bought Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Hooked by Les Edgerton and The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. The last two are writing craft books, and I have to say, I love reading these and have a bunch at home, but none with me whilst out in THE WORLD. I always take away at least ONE thing from reading a book on writing, and it helps me become a better writer. It's like homework. But homework I enjoy.
Speaking of which, I have 900 more words to write on my essay before I get to start the one about Harry Potter. Yay! 900 ESSAY words are so much harder than 900 fictitious words. Sigh.

Okay, I think that's a long enough post for now. What show/movie/book are you hooked on at the moment? Have you heard/read any writing advice that just stuck with you forever more? I wanna hear all about it!

Ciao for now,

Sairz

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Harry Potter and the ADHD girl

Ah, I finished an essay today. BOOM. Feels good. Yes! Just have to hand it in tomorrow. Before I finished that one, I had to start aNOTHER one for my Education class which I'm doing about ADHD/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I'm really quite interested in this topic, as I've seen some kids with it in its different forms while on placement in primary schools at home in Australia (alas, no placement involved while over here in England) and I gotta tell ya, I've been making some interesting observations the more I study ADHD.

My observation? I totally have it. There's 2 types of ADHD, there's the "OMG I'm sitting here but I want to be over there so I'm just going to go over there regardless that you told me to sit here and sit STILL here cos quite frankly, that's a bit of a joke, see my fingers tapping the table like that? I'm totally not doing that. My fingers are oh look at that, there's a bird out the window I'm going to climb out the window to look at the bird and okay ow that branch was actually really scratchy when I hit it and fell down and probably I shouldn't have done that and the teacher wants me back inside but I've done it now. Oops" type of ADHD, which is called Hyperactive-impulsive, where the person who has it, is quite hyperactive, and impulsive (among other things).
And then there's the 'inattentive' type of ADHD, which is basically where you have trouble with instructions and your mind wanders and your working memory is effected, so you can't remember what you did yesterday but boy it was SO funny that time 15 years ago when you were running down the hill to get a bucket of water and had so much momentum that you kept running straight into the lake and fell smack on your face in the water. (Actual story. This is who I am.)
I get in trouble with my family a lot for forgetting stuff, and my sister tells me I have made up half of my childhood memories because she doesn't remember them, even though half the time they are about her.
Also with ADHD, your grades are generally effected because of the whole having trouble paying attention thing, but I've mostly done okay in the grades area my whole life. I never failed a class (though there was this one maths test in high school which if I remember correctly I failed the first one and did a make up test and never found out the score so I will NEVER KNOW if I failed that test too...oooooh....) but I came close once last year. I thought I would try Sociology because I thought I would be interested in Sociology. Turns out I'm not. At least not the way THEY were teaching it.
Anyhoo, if I AM little miss ADHD girl, it explains a lot about me. Like why my mother was compelled to buy me a fridge magnet that said "Yes I'm in my own world, but it's okay, they like me there" because it made her think of me. Nice.

Okay, and now onto Harry Potter! I have just finished my essay on demons and the Devil in Medieval literature for my English Literature class: Narratives of Witchcraft and Magic (can I hear a WOOT!), and have found out the essay topics for the second essay, which I will start about a week after I finish the one about ADHD (I'm a little burnt out, essay wise right now.)

One of the topic questions? Way cool.
"Compare and contrast J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series with at least one other 20th- or 21st-century fictional treatment of witchcraft and magic."

So I'm thinking my ACADEMIC ESSAY is going to be about Harry Potter and oh, Willow from Buffy, she's pretty different to Harry Potter. Or Charmed. Or Bewitched. This is going to be way more fun than my usual essays. Mind you, it's still an ESSAY.
I'm not sure about book type witches. Any other suggestions that I should be going 'oh, DUH' about?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Twice in a week? Really?

Well this year's Nanowrimo could be going better for me.
I am at 7500 words. Whilst, erm, other people are at around the 20k mark.
But I have my reasons! And fairly good ones, I swear!

Firstly I sent my computer away to have the dust and gunk cleaned out, which would take a half hour, and 5 days later after they locked in the shop over the weekend and then LOST IT on Monday, I got the computer back. And it wasn't fixed.

So yeah, I lost 5 days.

Also, I've been to the emergency room twice in the past week. If I was at home in Australia, the first time would have been to a doctor's office, but considering that costs me money here (I think) I went to the emergency room when I thought I maybe might just have deep vein thrombosis by the week long muscle cramps and turning-to-rockness of my left leg.

And then at 3am 2 nights ago I was taken by ambulance to the A&E because I had been vomiting for SEVEN HOURS for no reason. To me, nausea is the worst kind of sickness. I absolutely hate hate hate it. Turns out I have gastro, a fever and a touch of dehydration and every muscle in my body has been sore so needless to say I've been sleeping a lot and ignoring the world and oh yeah, forgot to eat for 2 days until I realised that might just be aNOTHER cause of nausea should I let it go on too long.

So yeah. NaNo's not going so well this year, there have been a few more trials than last year. It doesn't mean the book won't EVER be finished. It just probably might not be finished by the end of November.

Stopping vomiting (check) remembering to eat and finishing essays with, you know, actual immediate deadlines is of more imminent importance to me right now. Or is that weird?

Sairz

Saturday, October 31, 2009

HalloWriMo

The time is nigh.

Today marks the beginning of two big things.

1) It's Halloween. In Australia we don't really do Halloween. And I'm not a huge fan of wearing costumes so that suits me just fine. But here in England. Oh, they do Halloween. And COSTUMES? You can't even go on a pub crawl without dressing like a super hero - or a man-baby as I've mentioned once before.

So tonight is Halloween with all the clubs having big parties, kids will be out trick or treating, and I wanna join in. I wanna do SOMETHING. So I am. I'm joining in with LSTV and hitting one of the club parties and filming it for the Halloween show. But we need COSTUMES.

Also I have this SHORT short film idea for the Halloween episode, but I need 2 kid trick or treaters and 2 adults. And access to a house. Being a foreigner, I know none of the above around here, I just know Uni students. So maybe I'll find some willing actors out tonight.

ALSO, I've never used fireworks before! I think they're illegal in Australia, I don't know for sure but I THINK they are. Yet you can buy some doozies of fireworks here in THE SUPERMARKET. So I figure that'd be fun. To you know, be an inexperienced fireworker and light one up and set fire to the entire neighbourhood. I could totally do that. Yay!

So I'm costume hunting today. Oh the joys.

AFTER costume hunting and BEFORE Halloween festivities kick in, I have another engagement.

The Leeds National Novel Writers Month kick off party! It will be great to meet other writers in the area embarking on this mental challenge. I can't believe it starts TOMORROW. At present I'm really not in the right frame of mind to be writing 1667 words a day. I'm freaking out. I have 3 assignments due this month. Plus I'm going away to Wales for a weekend. And if I film stuff I have to EDIT stuff and boy does that take time.

So I'm thinking I probably won't reach 50,000 words in the month. But whatever word count I DO reach, will be great cos it's a start!

Speaking of editing stuff (which I was just a second ago) something ELSE I'm filming, which will ALSO be perfect for the Halloween episode (I know, it's gonna be all Sarah Sarah Sarah this week, right?) is Manchester's ZOMBIE-AID!

Zombie Aid is a Zombie march that will look like this:


I know. How awesome. So I'm going to that with some friends and will see if we can pull something together to air on Wednesday. Eeep!

That's all from me for now. Okay, step 1 - COSTUME HUNT!

Sairz

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gay Paree

Bonjour dear friends!

It is I, I have just returned from a whirlwind weekend (minus actual whirlwinds) in the fair city of Paris, France, Europe, THE WORLD.

It was fast, and I honestly didn't think we'd see and do as much as we saw and did. But we did see and do a LOT.

Firstly I had to travel 5 hours down to London on Thursday to be picked up at 5:45am (ee gads!) Friday morning. I stayed in a hostel and let me tell ya, their charms have not been lost on me this trip. I was in an 8 person room on the top floor with no elevator (puff, pant, wheeze) with the door being opened and slammed, phone and in person conversations being held until after 3am. Tres fun. But you get what you pay for. I had a discount card for last night's hostel stay, and that involved trekking up to the top floor again with my backpack (puff pant wheeze) PLUS a girl in one of the other beds throwing up into the rubbish bin several times during the night.

Anyhoo, we took a coach to the ferry at Dover and then back onto the coach and arrived in Paris at 4pm. Being a trip with an odd number of people, I somehow was given a private hotel room when I didn't pay for the upgrade. SCORE! Half an hour after check in, we were back on the bus for a quick tour around in which we saw the Arc de Triomphe, Opera (where the Phantom was known to hang out) and, gosh, a whole lot of other places until we stopped outside the Eiffel Tower. That's when you know you're really in Paris. We took a one hour boat cruise down the Seine, taking photos of pretty buildings - including the Louvre which looks like it stretches down for a couple of blocks, and arrived back at the Eiffel Tower to do as we wished for the rest of the evening. Well. I was going UP the tower, wasn't I? I had previously decided I wasn't going to bother, but since I was there, hell, you only live once, right? So a group of us hung around taking photos and ooh-ing and aah-ing as it got dark and the tower was lit up with sparkly lights. And we were harrassed by Gypsies. You'd say "No I don't want any keyrings thank you" to one and then be joined by another, asking you the same question. At one point, we were standing in a group, waiting for people to order their crepes before going up, and we were literally surrounded on all sides by 5 gypsies trying to sell us crap.
Some people bought said crap.

The queue to get UP to the tower surprisingly, wasn't that long. To get from floor to floor was a bit harder, but getting back DOWN is what took forever. It's funny, the staff there, I reckon their friends would be like "oh that's so cool! You work in the Eiffel Tower!" but some of them have the most boring job ever. Opening the elevator. Letting tourists in. Pressing a button and riding to the observation deck. Letting tourists out. Let tourists in going down the tower, let them out at the bottom and repeat. For eight hours. Yeah. Working in the Eiffel Tower. "Good times". :)

Next time I travel I'm totally investing in a good solid, dependable camera. My camera was $75 and it's a little shy in the night time. It doesn't do its best work, so my photos aren't exactly awe inspiring, which is what happened when I went up the Empire State Building as well. Anyhoo. Live and learn.

In the crowd up on the tower - there must come a point
when they stop letting people up until some come down, right? - the group got separated and after letting someone know, I headed back to the hotel on the Metro on my lonesome.

One reason I've never really traveled before is because a big fear of mine is being lost in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. I can't communicate with anyone.
Luckily, most French people I came across knew at least some English, and my wildly waving hand gestures made up for the English they didn't understand.

The next day we went to Notre Damm, alas, I didn't spot any hunchbacks in the tower. We went to Sacre Coure - another church - and were warned about the gypsies there who would put a piece of coloured string around your wrist and then charge
you 10 euros for it. And they'd hold you up so you lost your group as well. WELL. On the way up the steps (huff, puff, wheeze) I saw others in my group getting around them, they weren't being bothered. And then one Gypsy stepped right in my path, and as I tried to step around him he kept stepping in my path, trying to take my wrist, saying he had a present for me.
At the time, I was wearing my extremely comfy University of Leeds jumper (on the Eiffel Tower I'd learnt just how cold it can get during the evening in Paris, - BELIEVE me) and quite clearly, I was screaming "I'm a tourist, I'm a tourist! Me me me
!!" What an easy mark. But nooooo. I wasn't having a bar of that blue string on my wrist thank you very much. I wanted to KEEP my ten euros.

Sacre Coure was very pretty, the views of Paris wonderful and ther
e was a little shopping area and lots of people drawing portraits. It was very Parisienne. I am a big fan of art deco artwork, and snapped up some prints of old French advertisements. I was being good and only got a couple but regret it now, cos really - I can't exactly get them anywhere else! That I know of...and certainly not at THAT price! We went for a bit more of a walking tour which included the cafe that Amelie worked in, in Amelie and the Moulin Rouge which is in what is essentially the red light district of Paris. Actually, I take it back. It IS the red light district. Next to the classy burlesque of Moulin Rouge was a strip club advertising lap and table top dances. The rest of the street was like that. And I was planning on coming back here at night??

My plan for the afternoon was to go to the Catacombs


Creepy, right? But apparently in September they were vandalised and have been closed for the forseeable future. I. Could. Not. Believe. It. This was one of THE things I wanted to do in Paris. That's okay. The other one was go to a show of the Moulin Rouge.

Instead of the catacombs, I went on the optional trip to Chateau de Versaille.


Erm. Chateau my arse. It's a seriously impressive palace, let me tell ya. There's Gold everywhere, the wallpaper is made of felt, the ceilings are painted like the sistene chapel, the gardens are GORGEOUS... wow. And the town of Versailles is really pretty too! Not a wasted afternoon.
When we got back to Paris I caught the metro (had to change twice) back to the Moulin Rouge and made it EXACTLY on time. To find out it was booked out. Both shows. Come back tomorrow. I COULDN'T come back tomorrow. We were going HOME tomorrow. It was kind of tragic. The two things I wanted to do in Paris fell through. But it just means I'll have to go back some day, doesn't it. And everything else was amazing.

The following morning, yesterday, we went to the Louvre as our last stop of the trip before heading back to the ferry at Calais, and back to England.

The Louvre was really amazing. I'm not all that into art, usually, but I must be becoming cultured. :) Because I have more of an appreciation for art than I used to. How much work goes into it. Those marble statues! Oh my god! The delicate folds of lace that they have created out of MARBLE. I mean HowTF. I get quite gobsmacked at that.

I saw the Mona Lisa too! You just had to follow the people. It was pretty funny actually, that everyone came to take photos of, and with this fairly small portrait of a woman, and then you turn around and no one is paying any attention (slight exaggeration alert) to the MASSIVE painting that takes up the ENTIRE wall opposite. How is it that this one small painting has captivated the world as it has?

Anyway, that was Paris. I made some great friends on the trip as well. Two from Prince Edward Island in Canada (where Anne of Green Gables lived!) who I will totally be visiting because they say it's beautiful and I believe them because I have proof. Anne of Green Gables. And also another from upstate New York. Who woulda thunk that New York has like, FARM LAND and countryside, you know? I'll be seeing you there also! And my new Texas buds, expect to be seeing me sometime in the future! And I hope to see you all in Australia one day as well. But you know, probably not until I get back. To Australia.

Jeez Louise, yet another epic blog. Sorry 'bout that. You still reading this?

Sairz

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Studying


That is all I have to say.

Love

Sairz

Monday, October 19, 2009

Revision happy dances and Vikings

I fiiiiiinished, I fiiiiinished, tra la la la la!

Yes, it feels GOOD to finish revisions. I actually finished it 2 weeks ago but I'd been going over and over the book and was so close to it that I couldn't differentiate between one draft and another, and should this be in the new version or is it better without it? Am I making the book worse or better? I'm making the book worse...I hate this book!
That my wonderful agent suggested I put it aside for 2 weeks. Stop looking at the ruddy thing and think about something else.

So I did, and it turns out that I wasn't making it worse. I was making it pretty darn good, actually. I'm happy. So I pressed send and now it is in my agent's hands, awaiting her seal of approval. Or she'll suggest I do some more revisions. :) I'm not ACTUALLY smiling at that idea, but I'm sure it'll happen. Hopefully only some tweaks.
But anyhoo. I feel good right now!

Yesterday I met some other past and present students from my exchange University here in England who are doing National Novel Writers Month as well. Which starts November 1st. Eep! The count down is on!

I have my plot. I think it's a pretty good plot. And I know what happens for about the first 3rd of the novel. And I know what happens at the end. But about a week and a half in to NaNoWriMo I'm going to hit a snag. In that I don't actually know what comes next. Hopefully by then I'll have an inkling.

Just over a week in to NaNo I'm going on a weekend trip to Wales which is exciting. (and in 4 days I'm off to Paris! But that's beside the point) And 2 and a bit weeks in, I have an(other) assignment due. So I'm not SURE how I'm gonna go keeping on track but we'll find out. Last year I discovered I was pretty good at waking up, turning on the computer and cranking out at least a thousand words before I'd even gotten out of bed. I was in the zone! So hopefully I can do that again.

So anyway, I'm tra la la la la'ing at the moment cos I'm between manuscripts.

If only I can stop procrastinating on my Vikings essay.
I don't understand this frame of mind. All students have it, I KNOW I'm not alone. I think the Vikings are interesting. That's why I chose THAT essay topic. But there's something about the word ESSAY that makes it much less appealing. I'm lacking the will to read about a topic I find interesting. Because the writing side of it is going to be BO-RING. So if I don't read about it, the less I know about it so I can't possibly start writing.

I'll start freaking out soon as the deadline looms and I WILL get it done. This is how I roll. But as well as tra la la la'ing I'm also plugging my ears with my fingers, squinching my eyes closed and nyah nyah nyah I can't hear you, you don't exist nyah nyah'ing at the word Vikings.
Let's see how well that works out for me. :)

Tra la nyah nyah!

Sairz

Friday, October 16, 2009

National Novel Writers Month

NaNoWriMo is upon us!

I'm looking forward to it, kicking me back into writing mode. I say this alot, unfortunately. But sometimes I find it hard to do myself. A couple of posts ago, when I was going to do the 500 word a day challenge? Too soon. It was totally too soon. I had been travelling for awhile and hadn't had the opportunity to write and I was just itching to write SOMETHING. ANYTHING. But declaring you are going to write a novel, when you haven't actually thought much about said novel, well, there's a recipe for disaster.
I have an idea which I got in N'Orleans while in the swamps there actually, about a boy who lives in a shack on the edge of a swamp and though he's very quiet and a sweet boy really, he and his rather large family are considered freaks and outsiders. And he practices voodoo. We all know I've had a bit of experience with voodoo. But I did some reading up on it - granted, not a whole lot as yet - and there are animal sacrifices and orgies etc and I just couldn't see this boy getting into all that. It wouldn't make him a very sympathetic character if he was to slit a goat's throat, for instance.
So yeah, if that idea is going to go anywhere, it needs a bit more time.

But this OTHER idea. Yep. This one's a go. I've been plotting it and a bit of mind mapping and I think it'll work. I just need a couple of names. The main character's current name has to go, and her best friend is currently referred to as bf. Which is NOT her name. :) The problem with traveling is I don't have all of my writerly books around me. Like my baby name books and surname book.
I've never seen another surname book. My mother gave it to me, she'd had it for 20 years, it's like the Penguin Book of Surnames or something like that. It's great, works just like a baby name book, with the meaning of each surname. Unfortunately they're very english surnames. So if I want anyone who is NOT anglo-saxon in ethnicity, then I think I'll be having a browse through the phone book.
How do you find good surnames for your characters? Do you have any tips, or is the phone book a good idea?

Sairz

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New York and some more recent stuff


WELL.

I am way behind in telling you all about my trip, aren't I? If you follow me on twitter, however http://twitter.com/SairzBillington
or are my bud on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SarahBillington
then you have probably been inundated with the randomness of goings on in my neck of the woods of late.

Like walking past a guy wearing a tee shirt, sneakers, and a BABY'S NAPPY. And then when I crossed the road I discovered I was walking behind a dude wearing a grown-up sized baby's one piece. With the poo flap and everything. It was baby blue. The whole one piece I mean. Not just the poo flap.

And the other day, just sitting outside the student union at my university here in Leeds who walked past? Just a bunch of about 15 young men wearing nun's habits. And some of them were wearing the ones from costume shops, you know, the SEXY nun type. I'm talking about really short skirts.
It really is quite random here. But awfully entertaining.

Ooh! And my History tutor/professor (I think he's also a DOCTOR) is the exact stereotype of a History Professor. The older gentleman with white hair, tweed suits (I think he might be missing the patches on the elbows though) and a briefcase. And of course a posh british accent, but considering I'm in Britain that shouldn't be THAT surprising.

But back to New York!

Okay, so Boston had been a total bust and I was still wearing the cursed voodoo bracelet and my flight was delayed, and then I had to wait an hour and a half for the shuttle bus to FINALLY arrive at JFK to take me to the hostel. I got to the hostel at 11:30pm and they were changing shifts and I had to sit and wait for half an hour while the chick counted her till and left, and the guy taking over (who I didn't realise was the guy taking over when he was just hanging out talking to people) finally finished his can of coke and came over to count HIS till and check me in. They were not helpful people at this hostel. I was bloody exhausted and emotional cos all of my communication devices had been possessed by the devil whilst in America, and were not allowing me to call anyone nor text them. I couldn't call Eleanor and tell her I was going to be late. I couldn't call the hostel to find out where exactly they were (Eleanor had those details) and I couldn't even call home to my family to just vent about what a sucky time I was having.

So I got into the room which was maybe 2 metres wide with 2 bunk beds in it, and 3 sleeping people. With nowhere to put my luggage and nowhere to put my feet that wasn't extremely painful to get up to the top bunk, I was clearly not in love with this hostel. And apparently, we were in the wrong room (hadn't heard THAT one before) and would have to check out the next morning and be put into the correct room we had booked. Which was one of us in a mixed dorm and the other of us in a female dorm. Why, WHY would we have split ourselves up?

After taking our luggage down to the storage room (cos we were "Checking out") The next morning Eleanor went for a walk in Central Park bright and early, we both HAD to get out of there, and I scoured the internet for some other accomodation. I found a Boutique B&B on 22nd Street that had a room. It was going to be more expensive but I did. not. care.

I went out too - with no way of contacting Eleanor - and discovered just how awesome the NYC subway is.

In general, New York City is as you expect:


(Yes I took that photo) and even though it's a city and a pretty intense one at that, and I've become a bit of a country loving girl - I really liked NYC!

I went on an NBC Studios tour (Cos I knew Eleanor wouldn't be interested in that) and saw Rockefella Centre. NBC was interesting. Jimmy Fallon's studio is really small. Bummer he was one 2 week hiatus. And Saturday Night Live - there are SO many lights hanging from the ceiling. And audience sizes for these shows are itty bitty. Really cool to be there though. And in the news room, they don't have air conditioning but refrigerated a
ir because air conditioning is moist and that would damage the wicked expensive camera equipment. Interesting stuff, huh? Anyway, I got back in the afternoon, to pick up my luggage. Eleanor had already checked back in. But I was not going to. So that is when we went our separate ways, the end of our journey together which came a couple of days earlier than anticipated, but we were both happy enough with the situation. It took another half an hour and about 5 times of asking to have the luggage store unlocked so I could get my stuff, but FINALLY I was OUT of there and headed down to 22nd.
It was really cute, I think you call them Brownstones?


And the staff were really friendly and helpful unlike SOME I had come across. I had a room with a double bed, a fridge and a sink all to myself (mind you there was about 30cm between the bed and the wall on both sides, but since it was just me it was fine) and I had AIR CONDITIONING as well. A bathroom right outside which was shared but I never saw anyone else on the same floor so essentially it was miney mine mine.

That night is when I took off the voodoo bracelet.

And BECAUSE of taking off the bracelet, New York was great. I did the whole sight seeing thing solo, but I was happy enough to do that. I went on a ferry out to the Statue of Liberty, went up the Empire State Building at night time, I did a bus tour around the island and out to Brooklyn, went to the Natural History Museum, Times Square and Broadway. It was a toss up between Billy Elliot and In the Heights, but I saw In the Heights, which is SUCH an awesome show. And I love HalfTix or whatever they call it, which get you great tickets but way cheaper than if you bought them at the box office.

I bought the soundtrack to the show of In The Heights because that is how awesome it was.

I became a seasoned pro at using the subway, and even took it, my massive suitcase (which I picked up at the greyhound station, where it had been waiting for me for 3 weeks after I sent it on its way from San Francisco) and bulging backpack back to JFK, heading to London via Zurich. Oh - and the people in New York are really nice, too! When getting my suitcase from the Greyhound to the B&B, and when getting EVERYTHING to the airport to the subway which meant up and down flights of stairs, EACH TIME I had a lovely gentleman help me. I didn't have to heave and haul my suitcase. I was offered assistance, thanked them profusely and they went on their way, having done their good dead, and wanting nothing in return for it. I heart New Yorkers. They are amazingly wondersome people.

So yes. The moral of the story is unless you want to live in a world of SUCK do not buy a good luck bracelet from an honest to God voodoo shop in New Orleans unless you are in fact voodoo.
I still have the voodoo bracelet and am actually looking to make an enemy so that I can give them a gift - "wow, pretty bracelet!" and test out the theory. Do YOU hate anyone you'd like me to give the bracelet to?

The end.
For now. Next comes Bath, Reading and London, UK! And after that is Various places in Italy, then Leeds, Scarborough and York, UK and what has not yet happened but is definitely on the cards includes Paris, The Lake District, Wales and Edinburgh!

And I totally think I'm attending Zombie-Aid in Manchester. I would LOVE to watch 1000 zombies go on a zombie walk. Sweet. I really wanted to go to The Battle of Hastings in Hastings this weekend (which clashes with the Lake District Trip, and is also a 7 hour trip each way which made me think twice). Don't know what the Battle of Hastings is? Just a couple of hundred men and women in medieval attire reenact the battle of hastings. Bring on sword fights and armour!
Alas.

Love,

Me

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Boston - the disaster visit

Okay so we didn't actually get to see any of Boston.

We booked our accommodation for Boston while we were in Miami. We were in need of a short bout of respite from horrible hostels for a bit, so wanted a cheap motel/hotel and found one in Burlington.
Burlington was 20 miles out of Boston, but that was fine, we'd totally be able to get public transport in.
We did however, forget it was a Sunday.
No airport shuttles went to Burlington, we discovered when we arrived at Boston airport. Because it's not a touristy place. Okay...

It cost $80 for our taxi out there, which thank GOD we could split between us.
When we arrived, we were VERY happy with the hotel, it had 2 bedrooms, TV in each room, a kitchenette and all sorts of stuff and my internet WORKED there. Hallelujah!
HOWEVER.
There WAS VERY limited public transport to Boston, to do any sight seeing. And it would cost over $100 to get there (one way) by taxi. Okay. Cool. How about Salem. That's somewhere else I'd want to go. No public transport to Salem, and that's about $110 each way by taxi too. Oh crap.
Anything to do in Burlington? Any nice walks? The answer from the guy on the desk was, with a laugh: "Nah, I mean it's BURLINGTON." There was however, a mall down the cliff (yes our hotel was on the edge of this weird cliff) so we went there and wandered around, and had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which was nice.

Eleanor who had NOT booked her transport out of Boston, to New York as yet booked a bus for the next morning, since we couldn't really do anything, why waste the day? Whilst I had booked my flight for the evening, so I was stuck there.
But it was okay, I got to enjoy having a private bathroom, and hello privacy! Something I had most definitely missed when living in hostels. I had to check out at 12pm, so had a good six hours to kill. So I was nearly killed when I went to the mall again and the movies.

Something Burlington is in dire lack of, is footpaths/sidewalks. It seems people don't walk in Burlington, they drive. Therefor they have nowhere for their pedestrians to go, aside from on the road in front of the traffic. It was an...erm...experience.

So I cringed in the taxi to the airport but sucked it up and paid my $80 fare, and went to check in at the self serve check in thingy. Except there was something wrong. They were being terribly helpful at Jet Blue and ushered me over to a guy to help and it turned out...my flight was yesterday. I'd booked the wrong flight. I booked it in Miami, not 24 hours after buying the dreaded voodoo bracelet.

So I had to buy ANOTHER $120 ticket. And the flight was delayed.

As much as I had been looking forward to seeing Boston - and believe me, I had been and still AM, on THIS trip? Boston was the biggest waste of money I've ever experienced. Sigh.

I arrived in New York by midnight.

The beginning of what I mean when I say everything turned to crap

Okay,

So I put the voodoo bracelet from the voodoo shop in New Orleans on, and not ten minutes later, after walking very carefully on the wet footpath/sidewalk/whatever you want to call it, I slipped on some marble and landed on my knee. Hard. It hurt like crazy, let me tell ya. Everything was slippery because it had been raining, and it was drizzly, and I had what felt like (it may not have been) a 2 mile walk back to the hostel.
By the time we got back to the hostel, (I'd taken off my shoes so that I could have some grip so Eleanor - though very patient, and she didn't say anything - was probably getting really annoyed at my constant "Ow, oh, shit, ow's" that I was coming out with as I hobbled along behind her) it was time for us to set off again, to go on our walking tour. No prizes for guessing that we didn't end up going. That one's too easy.

The next morning we said goodbye to New Orleans and headed to the airport. We did our self-serve check in thingy and discovered our tickets said 5:55pm, not 11am, like they were supposed to. Hang on a minute...
Turns out the flight had been cancelled and we didn't know. So we sat at the airport for seven hours waiting to get to Miami, essentially losing a day in Miami.

After the seven hour wait in New Orleans for our new flight, we lost a whole day in Miami. And when we arrived at the hostel in Miami Beach, we were a little astounded as it looked nothing like the ad. And when they said boutique, clearly they meant really really small. With some lovely aussie room mates but rude German ones who would bring a gaggle of girls into the room to get ready for a night out, talking, laughing, drinking, using hair dryers etc whilst there were four people in the room trying to sleep. Every night. I guess this is what hostelling is about. I had the worst sleep EVER while staying there.

We quickly discovered that English is the second language in Miami, as most residents and shop keepers we came across spoke Spanish with a little bit of English. And through people watching, we also discovered that Miami is the home of the really really brown white person. I'd never seen caucasians with SUCH brown skin before. I don't know how they do it. Clearly not the way I do it, because when I went to the beach on our first full day in Miami, I got horrifically, painfully sunburnt. It was overcast and there was a cool breeze so I didn't even notice it happening. I was still wearing the voodoo bracelet.
We ran into one of our Italian friends on the beach - he walked straight past Eleanor on the beach while I was in the water (which is so much warmer than Inverloch, you can just walk straight in without the "ooh! ooh! It's frickin' cold!" thing going on that I am really good at)

Opposite the white (coarser, more shelly than at home) sandy beaches is a strip of hostels, restaurants and bars who are all vying for your custom, and this is really the main drag of Miami Beach. Waiters and waitresses hand you flyers and show you the menu without being prompted, so much so that we resorted to walking on the beach side of the street so that we wouldn't be accosted by someone at every single restaurant. Each restaurant also had already made examples of the menu on platters outside so that you could see what the meal would turn out like. They also had monster sized cocktails, with 2 for the price of 1 deals. However, it was 2 FOR 1 PERSON. We had very strict instructions that we could not share cocktails, I was not ALLOWED to even have a sip of Eleanor's if I wanted to. I've never come across that before, that you get told HOW to enjoy your meal.

Anyway, because of my sunburn, a bottle of aloe vera after sun gel and I became joint at the hip and I found it extremely difficult to move around much. But I persevered.
The next morning I went on a wind boat...air boat...? A boat tour of the Everglades which is a HUGE national park area that is pretty much covered in water. Decades ago, developers were trying to drain the everglades which was covered in 6 inches of water. But by digging, they struck the water table (I think I have my facts straight) and flooded the whole area. It is now covered in 6 FEET of water.
The sun was burning me through my clothes, just by standing somewhere there wasn't any shade. I was a bit scared of a 40 minute boat tour with no top. Eep. But it was okay. The wind took the sting out.

I didn't realise it was another popular destination for alligators, but we came across several of them, including an itty bitty baby one hiding amongst the lily pads. It was smart to do this, as our guide told us that 1 in 5 baby alligators is eaten by other alligators. These ones weren't such fans of marshmallows, like the New Orleans gators were.
After the boat tour there was a wildlife demonstration, in which one of the rangers demonstrated that alligators can't see in front of them, by putting his hand in the alligators mouth. Though he had to be extremely careful, as if he touched the alligator's face in any way, accidently grazed its tooth with his finger, then the jaw clamped shut in a millisecond. We had the opportunity to have our photo taken holding an alligator (for a fee), but I declined and for that the ranger slapped me in the face with the alligator's tail. :)

For the rest of the afternoon I took it easy in the hostel to stay out of the stinging sunshine and, you know, not move, and Eleanor went shopping and take photos of the art deco district and Little Cuba. Apparently, Miami Beach gets the thumbs up as a shopping destination.

That night after dinner, we went back to the beach in the darkness, listening to music from the clubs on the main street and watching lightning flashes over the city. It was a really nice end to Miami, and my sunburn was slowly becoming less painful. We both nearly fell asleep lying in the warm sand.

Next stop, was ONE DAY in Boston. We were starting to doubt that one day would really be enough to see everything.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 500w a day challenge!


I'm doing it. No need to wait until NaNoWriMo in November, as @Inkyelbows has issued a challenge! Well not a personal challenge to ME type challenge but a challenge all the same.

I am in edit mode of my YA-soon-to-be-MG book, however throughout my travels I have had an abundance of new ideas and am itching to write something brand spanking new.

So why not 500w of newness a day? Totally do-able. And I can still edit my other book at the same time. I did a first pass edit of chapter one in 2 days. This is do-able, right? RIGHT?

I guess we'll find out.

Anyhoo, this is me starting.


And I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, and more adventures of Sarah in THE WORLD to come. This is just a sidenote.

Sairz

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Long time no post! The WORLD and stuff


Hello interwebz!
Long time no see! Erm. Sorry about that.

I have finally stopped. Stopped being in a different city, state or country every 3 days. And I like it. :) And the internet works here! Half the places I've be
en my wireless has been in snooty mood so I would yell at it and it would yell back at me and then it would turn around with its arms crossed, muttering under its breath that I was the one
being unreasonable when it was the wireless that wasn't doing it's job and, you know. Working.

But we're back on speaking terms now, clearly it was having a bit of a tanty because we'd been moving around so much, but cos we're all settled down in Leeds it's a much happier computer.
So there ya go.

What was my last post? I'd just arrived at the conference eh? That was one awesome couple of days, let me tell ya. So inspiring, all those writers, editors and agents have so much to share. Many of us had complete fan moments and couldn't make
ourselves go and talk to some of the other attendess. For instance, FINALLY, after seeing her around a lot, I went over and talked to Holly Black.

And you wanna know what? She was just as lovely as I though
t she'd be. But it's funny, since her books are set in New York I just assumed she was from New York. But she's not. I hadn't been to New York (at the t
ime) so clearly she writes convincingly for me. Which means I can write about characters anywhere in the world too!

Anyhoo, I also met Jay Asher,

in a quite bizarre way - I had my fan girl moment while he was in line to have his fan boy moment with Holly Black. Pretty funny.

There was so much talent all over that conference. So many writers who are as yet unpublished, but have books that sound like awesome reads. They just haven't found the right home yet. But I know they will.
The Childrens Writing world is such a friendly sphere. I c
an't wait to go back to the conference next year. You know, if I c
an afford it. What with planes, and hotel rooms, and conferences fees. It's totally worth it though.

Let's see, after LA was Vegas. And I have to say, Eleanor and I were a bit stupid. What were we thinking going to the desert in the middle of Summer? But the good thing about this desert is that you barely need to leave your hotel. Cos it kind of has everything. Including air conditioning. Oh yeah, you heard me. AIR CONDITIONING. :)

And of course the casino, which spills into the bar which has pokies machines set into the table top. That's kind of mental. But anyhoo. We had juggling bar tenders,


and a live show outside our hotel window with sirens singing, pirates drowning and cannons blasting four times a night, there was room service, and Cirque Du Soleil IN THE HOTEL. We didn't even have to leave the building and brave the desert heat to go to a show. For HALF PRICE. In the FRONT ROW. Right on the side next to wh
ere they run up and down stairs and stuff. Sometimes the eye contact with the cast got a bit awkward.

We did however leave the hotel on occasion.
Caesar's Palace's mall, The Forum is insane, with marble statues, and fountains and spiral staircases and paintings on the ceilings. And walking around the Venetian with it's cloud covered ceiling and canals filled with gondalas... And seeing the Eiffel Tower on one side of the road, with the Empire State Building on the other was a bit surreal.

Oh, hello. There's a naked man in a window opposite mine. Anyway, where was I.

All up and down the strip, you'd have men and women handing out cards, mostly they didn't try and give them to me but the odd person did and I discovered they were for prostitutes. These cards were littered all over the footpath, too. Can you imagine growing up in Vegas? Like, being a kid in Vegas? I have a feeling you'd grow up fast.

Whilst Eleanor went on a helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon (I went there 8 years ago, and declared it to be "just a big hole") I went to the Blue Man Group! I had no idea what to expect, and was a bit surprised at my 3rd row seat being classified as "the wet zone" and I had to wear a poncho. Woah. I didn't get wet though. Which I'm glad abou
t, cos those who did get wet, it was in a kind of gross way.
Great show though. How DO you describe the Blue Man Group?

Well this is pretty much what they do. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lDBL8nBRwVA&feature=related but they're funny too. You know. Without talking. And they're Blue.

After Vegas was New Orleans. And I thought Vegas was hot. Actually, no, New Orleans wasn't hotTER than Vegas. It was just wetter. With 99% humidity I just about
died. Felt like I was sweating ALL the time. Had a shower one afternoon and my hair just wouldn't dry.
Made friends with some lovely Italian boys and an American chick who we hung out with a lot. We all went Swing Dancing, and into the French Quarter and Bourbon Street on a Saturday night - absolutely mental, let me tell ya. Eleanor and I also went on a swamp tour - a lot prettier than they lead you to believe

- and to a Plantation House which was also purty.

Then I put on a bracelet I bought in a voodoo shop and everything went to crap.

Tell ya about that and the rest later. :)

Sairz

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Week One USA & SCBWI Nationals 2009!

Must be quick.

Must go to bed. Long day. Actually, long dayS. But it's okay. I can deal. I'm in a fancy schmancy hotel right near Beverly Hills right now. Hostels are a lot harder to live in than anticipated.

Feel dirty all the time, one bathroom between 8 people. Nowhere to put your stuff other than in piles beside your bed. No air conditioning in SUMMER in California.
But none of that applies now. Cos we're in LUXURY.

Didn't have to worry about the heat in San Francisco cos it was about the same temperature as the Melbourne winter we had just left.

Eleanor, my travel buddy was somehow upgraded to premium economy for the flight (old business class seats) so after a bit of umming and aahing, she buggered off to enjoy the luxury. 14 hours in Economy isn't the easiest thing in the world, but that was to be expected.
San Fran - we explored and saw Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, Chinatown, Little Italy, Union Square (became very familiar with Union Square) Haight-Ashbury - COOLEST vintage shop ever there - the Painted Ladies, and we did a historic architecture walking tour...AROUND the hills. It was really fascinating, actually.
There were lots of homeless people begging which was sad, and there were lots of teeny tiny dogs being carried around which was...weird.
We walked across the bridge, and went to a local bar one night. Had some lovely Dutch room mates one night and German ones for a couple of others.

Flew to LA - the security was insane, had to take off your shoes, belt, empty all pockets and go through a machine with your hands above your head and most people were frisked as well. A bit scary, and that was just to get from one part of the state to another!

We were staying between Hollywood and Sunset and let me tell ya, if ever you've wondered where prostitutes and exotic dancers get their clothes? It's Hollywood Blvd. Even the mannequins had big...er...assets, to cater for the...well endowed.




Caught the Red Line train to Universal Studios which I loved as I dream that maybe ONE day I'll have a movie or TV show filmed there. Such a shame that their city sets - like New York, and the clock tower from Back to the Future were destroyed in the fires last year or the year before. But they're being rebuilt. The War of the Worlds plane crash set was pretty amazing though. Of course, as soon as we started the tour my camera died, so...

We were at the front of the queue in The Mummy ride when it broke down, so there was an EXTRA long wait. At least we weren't the ones stuck INSIDE the ride when it did. Favourite ride was the Jurassic Park one. It was very wet. And the day was hot. It was the second ride we did, I think. The Simpsons simulated motion ride was good, but a REALLY long wait in line. At least the line moved quickly. The Shred 4D was pretty cool, too. Not often you're sitting watching a movie and a character sneezes and you get wet.


Really enjoyed wandering around Century Walk, a radio station was broadcasting and each Wed for a couple of weeks had an unsigned band play and the hip hop band we saw were AWESOME. Audio something. They were so good live, really polished. I hope the CD sounds just as good. They're launching a CD at the Viper Room soon. Check it out if you're around. Not that you can really tell who I'm talking about with the lack of details I've given you.

As we were leaving there were people taking photos of a set of female blond twins with really shiny hair. Apparently they're in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Should have gotten a photo with them but I didn't actually know who they were.

Did 2 bus tours (one was free - YES!) up into the Hollywood Hills and beautiful homes of the rich and famous, saw the Hollywood sign from the closest point you can actually get to it. Did you know that it was actually a real estate sign, back in the day? Yeah. Advertising Hollywoodland real estate. But they kept it. How weird, huh? But awesome.

Then we did another tour which took us through Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, the Sunset Strip, past Paramount Studios and all the offices of producers and screenwriters...sigh...one day...

A couple of blocks from where we were staying on Hollywood Boulevard a new movie called Valentine's Day was being shot, which has Jamie Foxx, Ashton Kutcher and Julia Roberts in it. Didn't see any of them, but still pretty cool. There were a couple of films being shot, actually.

While out on our bus tour there were police helicopters flying around, and when we moved to the Hyatt, we saw on the news that 3 homeless people had been stabbed, right around where we had been staying. Two of them have died, too which is sad. But they got the guy, which is something. And we're not there anymore.

I was down in the lobby of the Hyatt - SO nice to be in a real hotel!!! Trying to use the internet (neither my phone nor the internet have been working at all here) and was asked by a group of SCBWI peeps if I wanted to join them (hello ladies!) and among the group was my agent, Jill Corcoran! I met Jill and it's been great getting to know her and hanging with her and other writerly world people.
In Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian)'s keynote speech today, he mentioned that the kids book world is a lot more friendly than the adult book world. And I thoroughly agree. Though he had a different reason for thinking so, part of it I think is cos you're among other people who GET it. They get YOU, they get your CRAFT. At least that's part of it for me. I'm just so excited to be around other people who understand.

Wow, this was supposed to be short.

Been a great day though. Went to Jordan Brown, editor at HarperCollins's session about openings to your books and it was really interesting and he was a great speaker too. Sherman Alexie's keynote was amazing as well. Funny and touching and...the man knows how to hold a crowd.
Whilst I was enjoying all of this, Eleanor went shopping on Rodeo Drive, and lounged by the pool. And she got sunburnt. HAHAHA!! I'm a good friend.

Must go to bed and prepare for day TWO! And the Blue Moon Ball tomorrow night. I wonder who will dress as a Moon?
Will blog again when I can!
Sairz

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The day before the day before the adventure begins!

Okay. Can tidy the room now. With clothes, paper and stationary spread all over the entire study which I have been using as a bed room for the past 5 weeks (Bed room. Really it was a couch room. I been sleeping on the couch) I can now tidy it all away, stuff it into drawers and cupboards. Why you ask? Why all of a sudden NOW can I tidy this room? Because I'm all packed and good to go!
Woo!

The time is nigh. The adventure is soonish.

First stop is San Francisco. I hear it's 15 degrees there. In Summer. Which is what it was today in my part of Australia. In winter. Thinking I may be needing some thicker coats than anticipated. I'm really looking forward to San Fran for a more mundane reason than all the amazing stuff we're going to do there. I'm looking forward to sleeping in a real bed again. Ah.

Then comes LA with the home of Mickey Mouse and the Hollywood sign poster at Universal Studios, celebrity sightings and gang wars. And the SCBWI conference!

Then off to Vegas, not so much to gamble but very much to visit Elvis in his wedding chapel. I'm not getting married. But I am going to snigger and giggle behind my hands as someone else gets married. By Elvis. In his Chapel. Awesome.

Then to Naw'lens (New Orleans) for some jazz, swamps, crocodiles with a touch of voodoo on the side before hopping a plane to Miami. With or without Key West. That remains undecided, considering it's the rainy season and the weather just might make the ridiculously long and expensive bus ride not quite worth it.

Then after all THAT comes Noo Yawk (New York) with that big green lady and that super tall building, a big park and Tyra! Or Jimmy Fallon. But I think it's Tyra! Though I'd prefer Jimmy Fallon. We'll wear our business casual and sit in the audience, if we get our tickets.

And that's when I say goodbye to Eleanor and venture off ON MY OWN...

Off to London. To collapse in a heap for a couple of days and recover from America. Where I will NOT have been shot (looking at YOU, Dean). Then to do touristy Londony things from my base at a backpackers somewhere in the city. Somewhere. Probably will NOT be going to Sheffield Bush...I don't think I got that right...the aussie section is what I'm talking about. Cos why be in Britain and hang out with a bunch of bogans? :) I coulda done that at home.

Anyhoo then off to ITALY for my 3 day tour, plus I'll do a day or so in Rome and I really wanna head over to Venice as well. I hear lots of people speak English in Italy. Which I hope is not a lie. Cos if it is a lie, then I am how you say...oh. Right. SCREWED.

Then back to England and probably about time to head to Leeds and my new home for the next 5 months. Let the learning begin!

I think/hope I have the money to go on a tour in Egypt at the end of my trip. And I have 2 nights in Hong Kong planned. And I'm pretty positive I'm doing a 3 day trip around Paris.

I mean there are heaps and heaps of other places I want to go, but I'll see how the funds treat me.

I will be sitting on my bum cheeks for a good 14-16 hours straight, including the Melbourne to Sydney flight. Aw man, that's NOT including the 2 hour trip from home to the airport. Considering I squirm at the uncomfortableness of the cinema seats in Morwell and can't even handle a 2 hour movie in them I might be in a bit of trouble with this one. But we'll see.

So excitement. No. Really. SO excitement.

Later!

Well. Later from SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD!


Sairz

Monday, July 20, 2009

A new addition to the family

On Saturday we were blessed with a new Billington. His name is Henry and he's adorable. He's a PUPPY! By Puppy I mean small dog of 2 years old. He's not a PUPPY puppy.
We've had a pretty tragic year this year, with my parent's 2 dogs both passing away within the last couple of months. My dog Tessa lives with them now, and she was getting very quiet and sad and not playing anymore. We gave her time to grieve, but for such a boisterous dog, she was slowing down and not herself.

So she has a new friend now.
We took her with us when we went to The Save A Dog Scheme in Tooronga, which is an animal shelter where they foster out animals to people's homes, so that the animals don't have to spend forever in a cage at the pound. That's how I got Tess, actually. I was going to be her foster mum but then I fell in love and adopted her. Save A Dog Scheme don't give dogs expiration dates, either. They don't put animals down after a month just because their time is up. They do some fantastic work.
Anyway, we took Tess with us so that she could meet any prospective new family member first and give us the seal of approval or say "No WAY is THAT coming into my home". It was so great to see her playing and they got along from the get go. We tested what he was like with cats and he's more afraid of them than aggressive but mostly ignored them completely. So he passed! And that's how Henry joined our family.
And Tess and Henry play ALL the time, so much so that my parents bed is an out of bounds area for Henry, because Tessa needs to get away from him SOMEHOW. So she jumps up there, panting, rests and then dives down into the fray again.
It's funny. She's a blue heeler, and he's a corgi (we think jack russel) x heeler, so he has her face but itty bitty legs so he runs underneath her tummy. She's body slammed him a couple of times in their games.
Not much is known about Henry. He was a stray so we don't know where he's been or what he's been doing for the past 2 years of his life. He's toilet trained though, and he's a smart cookie, he knew his name and was coming when called within a couple of hours of having him. So yeah, WELCOME HENRY!

I was told today that for someone leaving the country in eleven days, for six WHOLE months, I'm really not acting stressed out enough.
I have lots to do but I'm cool as a cucumber. The days have been going by so fast on me that I actually hadn't realised it was coming up so soon. But now that I realise I think I'm reaching appropriate stress levels.

Must make a To Do Before Leave list.
And must do a practice pack of my suitcase. Well, my sister's baby pink well worn suitcase that I'll be taking with me. I'm starting to think there really isn't enough room for all the stuff I want to take with me. But we'll see.
I have to say, the thing I'm MOST psyched about is the SCBWI conference in LA. I. Can. Not. Wait. It's going to be amazeful and spectaperb. Being around so many other writers, agents and editors and people who just...get it. You know? They get it!
Yay yay yay!

I'm in edit mode for TWO books now. I have my wonderful agent's notes and am doing lots of pondering and thunking for a couple of new scenes, but mostly it's a case of Americanising some of my language.
Like my students are not in year eleven. They're juniors. And HELLO - you don't walk on foot paths over there, it's a sidewalk. I better not have any singlets visable either cos Tank tops are WAY cooler.
I feel a bit sad about getting rid of the word "mate" though. Mate sort of, it has a different meaning than the word friend. Friend is blah. Mate is more...friendly. To me, anyway.

Doesn't matter, fingers crossed and touching the nearest wood, I'll be getting published in Australia too so can keep my aussie language for the aussie edition!

That's all for now.

Enjoy the beauty of today! It's pretty out, doesn' t even feel like winter, but I feel I might just get blown over if I went outside at all. Eep.


SAirz

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What I'm reading and doing

Taking the blissful moment of internet usage on MY amazingly awesome (in comparison to family's shockingly awful) computer, whilst at a friend's place with wireless internet, to do another blog entry.Wow. That was one of the most roundabout sentences ever, huh? If you kept up, good work! Cos I'm sure it took some squinty eyed head scratching and rereading.

Yes. Carrying on.

As I've been in a slight holiday mode I've been reading
up a storm. Well okay so I've read 2 books from cover to cover but have been scrounging books and getting excited at the PROSPECT of reading several others.

I read:

Which is a great great book. It sorta makes you a bit worried cos really, it's a book for teenagers about a futuristic world in which every district
(essentially states...sort of) has to choose a boy and a girl out of a lottery, to play in the biggest reality show of all time - a battle to death until there's on
ly one teen left standing.
I would have thought the censors would have had a field day with this one, but to my knowledge they haven't. Let's face it, it happens on the big screen, why not in fiction? I guess fiction, since you're reading it in your head, and it's a solitary pursuit, it
's more personal, you know? Plus the whole first person narrative thing definitely makes it more personal.
But it's a great book. Looking forward to the sequel in September, and I've heard some buzz that there's going to be a movie coming too!

Ooh, speaking of awesome books being turned into movies, my all time hero author John Marsden's Tomorrow When the War Began series is being turned into a movie! If I've I have this right, Tomorrow When the War Began will be a movie and
the rest of the books are being turned into a TV series whi
ch is uber exciting.
I always wanted to be the one to write that movie, or tv show, but never did. But I'm glad it's happening. REALLY looking forward to it.

Also looking forward to HBO's Band of Brothers - The Pacific, the original was so fantastic, this one should be as well.

Right, books I was reading. I also just finished:

Which I really enjoyed. I wasn't that into the last one, Plu
m Spooky and it made me sad cos I thought, I've been reading these books since 1998, I didn't enjoy it, does that mean...am I over it? Do I just not care anymore? But no. Not the case. It was good fun. Lula is a star. :)

I just bought today:

Which I'm looking forward to getting stuck into when I finish writing this blog tonight. Curling up in bed with a good book. Sigh. I love the Cabster and I really do aspire to have her career one day. Okay so not HER career cos I'm pretty sure she still wants it, but one of my own just like it. Ya dig?

When it comes to my own writing, I'm knee deep in note cards at the mo.

And what I mean by that is I am writing down every scene of MJs story, what is already in the book and what I reckon SHOULD be in the book, onto note cards. I'm getting a little carried away with the details on each card but that's a minor note. I've never tried this technique when it comes to editing before, and by jove I think I like it. (By jove? That's the saying, right? Or am I looking like a tool right now?)
Tomorrow when I get home I'm going to stick 'em all up on my wardrobe doors and scowl at them and move some around and scowl some more until the book looks right. Then I'll move words, delete words and add NEW words to the book in the computer. And hey presto! At least that's the theory.

I should soon be receiving edit notes from MY AGENT on my other book. As soon as I sign the contract. Which is going to be very soon.

I booked my trip to Italy yesterday. Squee!! And I'm pretty much decided on Scotland and Ireland. It's all big and exciting and real. I'm definitely going to need to work a bit while away though. Back to video shops it is for me!

In the morning I'm picking up our friends' doggie, Mahli (is that how you spell it?) because she's getting a bit lonely at her home with all the kids flown the coop and mum and dad at work all day, and my doggie Tessa is getting lonely for some doggie company since both CB AND Tinka died within the last couple of months, so we're going to dog sit for awhile. Yay!

That's all for now. Reading time! Sleeping time might actually merge into reading time...

Sarah

Monday, July 6, 2009

Ceeeeel-a-brate good times, COME ON!

Well I am back at my parentals house for the next 3 weeks, sleeping on the couch, surrounded by what looks to be a wardrobe explosion which in actual fact is the stuff accumulated of too many people living in too small a house.
But I'm dealing with that. And if you're a FaceBook bud of mine, or Twitter follower, you will probably have already seen me write that my computer isn't hooking up to the wireless here for some reason, and SOMEHOW my sister's computer got a virus and keeps opening up porn websites, so now I am using my parent's computer for all my internet needs. And it is the slowest of slow crap slow computers ever. So there's less Sarah Billington wafting through the intertubes of late. Though I AM trying.
Okay so looking at the above paragraph, you may very well be scratching your heads and pondering this blog post's title. It really hasn't been very celebration worthy.
But the next bit is. Wanna know what's going on? You do, don't you. Come on. You do. Just admit it.
WELL! What's going on is that I have an agent now! WOOOOOHOOOOO!
Two agents had my full, and though the other agent still hasn't gotten to finishing reading it, ONE Agent has, and she's awesome. Over the past couple of months, she's kept me posted, apologised that it's been taking awhile and we were discussing a couple of points, such as the beginning of the book seems more like a MG than a YA, and what were my thoughts on that?

Anyhoo, my fantabulous AGENT, Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency in Noo Yawk has been constantly positive about my work, and though it took her awhile to make a final decision - it was because she was busy with her ACTUAL clients work. Which if I was going to be her actual client, that's the kind of agent I'd want, you know? Putting me first? So now I AM an actual client of hers, and I'm very happy with the situation. :) And by becoming Jill's client, she's opened me up to a whole bunch of other writers! So now I can introduce myself and meet and hang with her other published writers. I'm in the world, now people. I got my ticket. Next step...signing that book deal!

Okay so the real next step is doing an edit for Jill, and THEN get that book deal. Okay so FIRST I have to OFFICIALLY sign the contract and then do the edits and THEN get the book deal! Okay so there's not actually a book deal on the cards right now, but I have faith that there will be.
And in the meantime I've bitten the bullet and am tackling It's MJs Blogiverse (and you just live in it!) editing wise, and it didn't hurt either! The bullet? Biting the bullet? It didn't hurt...do you get it? Never mind.

I've actually decided this is NOT the book of blog posts and chat room conversations that it was going to be, that's going to have to wait, therefor the title is history. I'm thinking it's new working title is "MJ and the boy-only disease of buttfacedom". But I don't know. It's quite long, huh? And MJ could be a guy's name so potential book picker-upperers might think it's about a boy with a disease. Yeah, I'm still working on it. Anyhoo, turns out there are lots of gems in the original book, but also lots of bits - like everything about the blog - that I need to hack away which makes me nearly cry. That's an exageration. But whole chapters are going and it just feels like lots of work. Which it will be. But it'll be fun work too cos I've been coming up with lots of brand spanking new ideas for it which should be funny and moving. We'll see, won't we?

Okay, that's it from me for now. I wanted to find a really cool graphic to put up here, as a WOOHOO, celebration! thing but I couldn't. So I leave you with this:


Buh bye for now!

Sairz

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's all Oooo-verrr. But the rest is just beginning!

Well my exams are done!
That's it. That's me finished at Monash. And frankly I'm really sad about it. This has been the best six months ever, great friends, the funniest of times and in a week I go home to my parents house to sleep on a couch for 5 whole weeks until I begin my jetsetting journey over into the big wide world.
I don't want to sleep on a couch. I don't want to go home. Actually, I'm probably going to be much more focused on writing there than I am here. At the moment, I'm making the most of my last week with my fantabulous mates, well, the ones who are HERE. You know who you are, missing people. Grr.
I'm still a...gasp....pedestrian until next week because the part they ordered for fixing my car was on back order. Then it arrived! But then they sent it back. They needed something for the left side of the car and were sent something for the right side of the car. I mean I'm not THAT fussy, but...

I am still an obsessive email checker at the moment as I have two literary agents - not one, but TWO - interested in my writing so we'll see how that pans out. Fingers crossed whilst in America I'll toddle in for a visit with "my agent" hehe. I feel very cool saying that. It's all just one step closer, ya know?

I don't really have much else to say at the moment.
Oh, my father who writes articles for the local paper has been having a tantrum of late, because I wrote an article for it recently and not only did it take up half a page with a whopping great photo (of drunken people but they don't look drunken) but a huge byline in about size 18 font. They totally like me better. :)

I had the interview I did with comedian Mark Watson published in Lots Wife as well, and I also had an article about the whole Monash Abroad (studying overseas) application process (and just how hard and time consuming it is) and that was published in the same edition. The only thing is that the theme for the edition? Sodomy. The picture on the contents page has a naked Barbie bent forward at the waist with Ken (also naked) standing behind her, arm up to slap her bottom. Aside from my two rather clean articles, that's about the cleanest thing in there. Yes people, I was published in a porn mag. I'm ever so proud.
My housemates were reading the articles "Anonymous sex stories" and their expressions became more and more horrified the further they read. I'm afraid to look.

Anyhoo, I'm clearly not pigeonholing myself to one writing nor one publication type, am I?

That's everything I got for the moment peoples.

Oh! My UK Visa has all been approved and is wonderful. Surprisingly, the pleading letter worked and they're letting me in before the normal student visa and letting me out after it. So yay! All is going according to plan. Now to book lots of fantabulous trips! Paris and Italy DEFINETLY. I really wanna see Pompeii. I'm hoping to do the Greek Islands and Egypt as well. After that it all depends, whether I can do Africa. On weekends I'm totally heading to Scotland, Wales, Ireland, I understand it's about 10 pounds to hop a plane to Amsterdam. Drool. The possibilities are endless.

Okay, NOW that's all.
I'll keep ya posted!

Sairz