C-word… and the month that was October

A short monthly wrap-up with a message of positivity.

I was all fired up at the beginning of October, I have been fighting with fatigue and general ickiness and was determined to shake it off and get down to business. Then the dreaded C-word happened. Not Covid-19, but cancer. I have fallen out of remission again and started chemo. I have been struggling on whether to announce it or not. Saying something makes me feel like a failure of some kind. Which is ridiculous. My prognosis is very good and we’re hoping to finish treatment and get clear test results by Christmas. That’s my personal goal too. So my productivity for October has been wobbly. Getting through this mental hurdle, while not as difficult as my last two times, still threw me off-kilter. Now it’s just managing feeling like crap most of the time, trying to maintain concentration to get my days’ work done. I’m not announcing my diagnosis for sympathy or well wishes; just a statement to explain a lull in my activities… and probably from now until the new year. Though this blog has become a point of contention for me -> if I can keep it going as usual, then I’m not letting the c-word completely rule my life.

The funny thing is, the Covid-19 restrictions actually help me – it’s how I have to behave now I’m immunocompromised anyway.

This month I only managed 3 novels (all with cool toned covers, hey I created a theme unintentionally) – I find I get tired, or my concentration wanes quickly at the moment. Which means I’ve only whittled the TBR shelf down to 450. Better than nothing I suppose. So too has my writing suffered. I have managed a couple of chapters, but that’s it. Now I’ve adjusted my work ethic and adapted my routine to chemo and treatment I might be able to get more written in November. I really wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo, but I feel it’s unrealistic in my current condition.

I’ve taken everything off my roster. I don’t need stress or negativity around me at the moment. Just focusing on little wins that bring me joy. Watching tv shows and movies that make me laugh, music that makes me want to dance. And lots of puppy cuddles!! Focusing on the positive: I’m actually going to lose that weight I’ve been struggling with. No more trying to come up with meals – it’s all pre-packaged and balanced for my convenience. I get to spend more time snuggling on the bed with my dogs… and read! If I’m not sleeping.

Most of us are having a crappy 2020, but what are some of the positives that this year has brought you? I’d love to hear some positivity that others have found amongst all this chaos.

Is anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know what you’re working on in the comments…

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Juxtaposition July – some extremes in reading… a wrap-up

Juxtaposition July 01 by Casey Carlisle

Can the world just back to normal please…

I was determined to get back on track with that goal-getting after an abysmal second quarter due to the virus-that-will-not-be-named and lockdowns. Starting the month of July with all the best intentions was soon waylaid with an unseasonal change in the weather that brought out a lot of Australian natives to flower in the bushland surrounding where I live. Bring on thumping headaches, scratchy voice, watery eyes, and a heavy dose of feeling sorry for myself. Given that I wasn’t feeling too flash, I thought I’d get a lot of reading done because that is my comfort space – curled up on the couch with a warm cuppa and a good book.

What eventuated was my best writing month so far for 2020, and my worst for reading…

I grappled with the headaches and blurry vision, along with two of the novels being more intense, or difficult to read, contributing to the low reading count. (Not to mention constantly falling asleep from antihistamines making me drowsy.) But I’m not mad at it. You need to roll with the punches and adapt. My writing was coming to a stall in May and June. Even though I was getting a word count in, when reviewing my drafts, it was missing the tone from the first five chapters. So rather than flog a dead horse, I made the decision to put it aside for a moment and work on something else – nothing worse than letting frustration colour your mood in a creative endeavor. My strategy worked. Even though I lost a week of work with family visiting (yay, I love catching up with the fam,) and a little more than another week with hay fever symptoms (at-choo, sniffle, sniffle,) in the remaining week and a bit I managed to pen out three chapters on a novel in development.

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That’s really all that I’ve been able to accomplish this month. Though we are not on tight lockdowns, the state is still closed to half of the continent. I have friends in Victoria restricted to their homes. We’ve seen a few cases of Covid-19 pop up locally. People getting arrested and jailed/fined for shirking border crossing restrictions. Teens throwing parties with more than 10 people have seen attendee fined up to $26,000 each. And nightclubs are being closed because no-one is obeying the 1.5 metre social distancing rule. It’s disappointing really, a few people I know have passed away from complications after contracting the virus. It just takes a little common sense and precaution to help us get past this and let things get back to normal. My flat-mate has only just been able to get back to work after 6 months where he was unable to earn an income. We are lucky, but there are so many of my friends who are still trying to secure full time employment and are in fear of losing their houses from defaulting on homeloans. But despite all of the pressure, most everyone remains optimistic. We are all here to help each other get through this.

The highlight of July has to be getting to play Canasta with my family… I know that sounds lame, but it’s an activity we enjoy because we get to sit around the dining room table on the balcony, take in the view of the coast, the ocean, soft breezes with a glass of bubbly, and cackle as we catch up on life. It’s about connecting with each other, spending time together rather than the card game. We used to do it over the Christmas holidays when I was a kid, so it invokes those memories as well. Feeling free and visiting new and exciting places as we caravanned around Australia.

Back to my reading: I really enjoyed ‘The Princess and the Fangirl,’ and ‘Wayward Son,’ though ‘Too Late’ was hard to digest. It dealt with themes of abuse, rape, drug dealing, and explicit sex scenes… a bit confronting and not the usual fare form Colleen Hoover. Plus I started reading Magda Szubanski’s memoir ‘Reckoning’ which deals with her family immigrating from Poland (via England) after surviving the war… the writing is beautiful, but it also deals with heavy topics that I need to let sit before I can read on. It’s not a book you can plough through. But I love the historical elements. I’m currently half way through and hope to complete in in August. So, those last two novels really slowed down my reading productivity. (Reviews for all the books I’ve read to come in the next month or so.)

I’m crossing my fingers that the hay fever won’t persist as bad as it was, because there is a pile of really exciting novels waiting on my coffee table, and the progress I’ve made with me writing has me amped up the keep on firing. So that slight change in direction has got me motivated and celebrating a great witting month. I hope to improve on the numbers in August! Bring it On!

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Oh, and I had to share this puppy dog cuteness – because abovementioned flat-mate has returned to work after so long, my furbabies waited patiently at the door during that first day, snuggled like bunnies, because they missed him. And they are adorable. I needed to distract them with lots of hugs and playing chasey around the house. I wonder how crazy the neighbours think I am, because all they would see through the windows in me running back and forth, waving my arms in the air, screaming and laughing all by myself.

 

How are you handling the impact of Covid-19? What roadblocks have you overcome recently to better your reading or writing goals?

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Keeping track of my yearly goals – Mid-year freak out – June reading wrap-up

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With the world in a weird place right now – politics kinda scaring me, cancel culture burning through the internet, pandemics, weather catastrophes, huge social issues around discrimination and questioning a person’s right to live… and many of us are out of work, stuck at home wondering about our future, the security of our homes and families. My little list of goals for 2020 feel so trivial and somewhat irrelevant. This list was made in a time when I wasn’t fearing if I could put food on the table, have access to medical care, or being able to keep my house. But I know the planet will get through this. There will be a time of getting a back to normal – even if it is a new normal. So I will keep this list and track it for now. But depending on the direction of our communities and climates I may have to change and revisit my priorities towards the latter end of the year. So, for now, here’s an update on where I’m at on all things related to my reading and writing goals…

Book worm:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleI’ve managed to get my TBR down from 453 to 417 so far with no new book purchases. With reading as widely in genre as I possibly can and the COVID-19 shutdown, I’ve managed to get a lot more reading accomplished, finishing off neglected series, discovering some more enjoyable reads, and it’s re-ignited my love for reading again. Though, admittedly, I haven’t made any inroads into my promise to include text books and reference material: mainly for professional development and feeding a curious mind. But I will get there.

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Books I’ve managed to complete for June 2020

Scribe and scribble:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 03 by Casey CarlisleI have been determined to get my word count up and finish some projects this year – with three novels waiting final edits and 2 novels both at the halfway point… I have been writing, but in comparison to the previous three years I’m not getting as much work done. I know I took April off writing when sick, but I’m going to have to seriously pick up my game if I want to reach my goals. And this is the most important goal for me! I have to take a conservative look at my habits, stop making excuses, and put my head down and work!

Levelling Up:

PrintThe online certification in marketing that I wanted to finish in March is still waiting to get completed… it’s starting to feel boring and repetitive, but I just have to suck it up and get it done. With all this isolation, it was a prime time to knock off this achievement and I have dropped the ball. On a different note, I’ve been doing a lot of research and networking with other authors and the publishing industry, so it has not been a complete waste. Knowledge is knowledge.

 

Social Butterfly:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 05 by Casey CarlisleThe shutdown has meant no social interaction in person – which was the whole point of me including this in my goals list. Being a writer is pretty isolating and I was missing catching up with friends and being a social butterfly. Having some fun. Attending some writing conventions or workshops. Welp, nothing has happened here. Doh! Damn virus! Though I managed to catch up with nearly all my friends and family online as they suddenly had time to chat, skype, and email. So at least everyone knows I’m not dead.

 

Get creative:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 06 by Casey CarlisleAll of the creative projects that I have earmarked have also screeched to a halt. Mainly because of the money I would need to spend (and shops I’d have to visit) to complete them. And with all my household out of work and social isolation still in place, getting my creative on has proven difficult. Though I have started making a list of new projects that I can complete without spending money or leaving the house… though it just feels like I’m adding to the list rather than completing the ones that I’m halfway through. For now, I’m concentrating on writing and raising our household’s income. The fun stuff is going to have to wait.

 

 Cash grab:

Fist Full of Money

Everyone started having online garage sales with the self-isolation to help many losing their source of income. So it felt like the market was saturated and I was hesitant to join the fray. Plus I’m having to pick up the slack with the rest of the household unemployed. I can still earn and operate my business online, so I’ve been bidding for more writing gigs and leaving this clearing out of clutter and selling online business until I have the time and people are feeling confident with spending again.

 

Work that body:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 08 by Casey CarlisleI was actually starting to make progress with managing my health and fitness until the COVID-19 shutdown. My gym only opened last week. Though I was taking daily walks in the bushland behind my house, using the elliptical, and following some fitness workouts on YouTube, I’ve actually gained weight and lost mobility with the frequent flare-ups of my back injury and no access to specialised gym equipment and my chiropractor. I’m actually a little miserable at this back-slide.

 

So professional:

Quarterly Goals 2020 Pic 09 by Casey CarlisleMy goal to start expanding my digital platform has made a little progress. More development in specifics of the ideas and their execution, but I still need a bit more knowledge to pull it off – unless I pay someone for it, and right now we’re watching our pennies. Plus I’d rather have the knowledge and control over my own business and intellectual property as much as I can. I’d hoped to have achieved more in this area by now, but I’m giving myself a break because of needing to concentrate on boosting my income and a few health issues taking up my time.

 

Overall, progress towards my goals for 2020 has been damned poor! But you know the world is a much different place now than what it was in January. Some of these goals may have to change to fit the climate… it’s just a bit of wait and see at the moment. Mainly everything is being swayed with members of this household trying to return to work, shops and businesses being closed or restricted in how they operate, public places still closed or restricting numbers… there are a lot of roadblocks but I’m trying to stay positive and control what I can so that I am moving forward and taking steps to realise my dreams.

 

How has the current world climate affected you reaching your goals – are you putting them on hold too? What unexpected roadblocks do you now have to overcome?

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

March through April self-isolation = staycation and inspiration

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A sort-of monthly and quarterly wrap-up… let’s just call it an update with this crazy moment of viral outbreak.

My quarterly goals were mostly thrown out the window for the start of 2020 as we all know the world has been in a tailspin over the treat of a nasty virus – and much of my list involved being more physically present in social gatherings and professional appointments. *shrug*

There are many points in my writing career that I feel isolated and like a caged animal. Usually the remedy would be a short break away, a holiday, an outing, some form of social interaction or inspiration. But after nearly a month of being ill followed by social isolation from Covid-19 outbreak, those activities weren’t really feasible. So I decided to mix it up. Stop everything. Put a nix on all my daily tasks for the month of April and do other things I love.

That mostly translated to reading. Which is fantastic for my TBR. I had this great idea to start listing the number of books on my TBR shelf. (*cough* bookcase and storage boxes *cough*) I was astounded when I finally calculated all of the fiction novels waiting to be read… it was 453! Totally embarrassing… it’s going to take me years to catch up and not have an overwhelming number of titles waiting for attention. I put it down to moving – having volumes hidden away in boxes for over 3 years. Even though I have a self-imposed book buying ban, I didn’t feel like I was making that much of a dent in the number of tomes waiting for me to read. I didn’t realise how much underlying frustration I had over this. Add to that my housemate dropping comments about how many books I own, and I started to question the collection myself. But March/April has made me feel much better. I’ve accomplished a 23 book dent in the TBR. (April being my best reading month to date – I broke my record for most novel read in a calendar month. It felt great to achieve something even though I was on a staycation 😉 )

Books read in Mar Apr 2020 by Casey Carlisle

Books read in Mar Apr 2020

During this break I also got to restore/renovate some old bookshelves giving me that giddy feeling of being able to put my lovely hard and paperbacks on display.

April also saw me being able to shower my furbabies with even more love, learning more pet grooming skills (thanks Youtube!) and buying a few key pieces of professional grooming accouterments.

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Other creative endeavors like cooking, gardening, and sewing – and planning out ideas for future fabric related projects filled my head. I always need some sort of artistic outlet, and usually that is my writing, but it was nice to take a month off and see it explode in different mediums. So while I was in social isolation, I was still able to recharge the batteries and get me back on track to becoming more productive and passionate.

Heck, I even managed to squeeze in finishing off an online marketing course.

With many forced to stay home during this period, I actually got to catch up a lot more with my friends than in many, many years.

So this scary thing, threatening to make us sick, steal our loved ones, and possibly cripple businesses and take away peoples livelihoods has made me look at the upside and make my own opportunity to reconnect, revive, and rest.

Here’s hoping you can get some positiveness out of this epidemic too.

It’s going to be back to normal for May and I’m looking forward to getting some vigorous writing done.

 

How has this lockdown affected you? Did you take advantage to get some writing or reading done?

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© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Film vs Novel – Everything Everything

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I did purchase the novel when it was first released, but ended putting it to the side due to all the hype – I like to go into a read with a clear head so I can form my own opinions without any influence. The movie marketing began just as I was looking at starting the book (again), and so, back to the shelf to wait, until now, comfortably ready to read and compare the book to film with a clear conscience.

The film was cute. However it felt like the soul of the story had been edited out in comparison to the book. All those little symbolic references from the text, diminished or omitted completely in the movie adaptation. It left the characters feeling a little two dimensional and bland. However the cinematography was beautiful, but I wondered if it couldn’t feel ‘bigger’ – the daydream scenes were merged with text conversations and lost the reason of why they were there in the first place. It was a funny concept to marry meaning and the text message dialogue from the novel. I understand that Maddy tends to live in her imagination because it’s the only way she can explore the outdoors from inside her hermitically sealed home, but the tone wasn’t obvious enough and left the film feeling soft and ethereal, not grounded in reality. This, combined with the watering-down of more controversial elements of the narrative, like abuse, left me with some unease about the film.

The big screen version gave a beautiful nod to the novel with illustrations from the pages included at the end credits, however it only proved just how much they left out – how much of Maddy’s inner consternation was omitted. Even when watching the movie, I felt like all Maddy and Olly did was way too much staring…. there was so much silence. And while the actors (Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson) did a stellar performance with their subtext, it did not drive the story forward.

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I love Nick Robinson as an actor, but on screen he looked older, tired, and the elements of the book – like the parkour were ignored, when Maddy commented in the film ‘You’re standing so still’ it had no context and felt superfluous. The severity of Olly’s relationship with his Father is alluded to, but lacked the prominence as it did in the novel. You really get a feel for what Olly is suffering through, and Maddy’s desperation to help him in the novel. It is raw, visceral and dangerous. The film simply shows a bit of shoving… I mean, it felt like such a weak trigger to propel Maddy into risking her life.

Olly’s sister plays a different role in the novel to the film, and because of the sanitised, laconic version of ‘Everything, Everything’ on the big screen, she was such a different creature in tone.

A scene not in the book – the visual delight the oceans of the world and Olly’s note was probably the best, and certainly the most memorable. If only that type of interpretation had been maintained throughout and the pacing kept up, I would have had a completely different opinion of the film. To prove a point, the first kiss – on the 4th of July was a big letdown in the film; the lighting effects came across as obviously fake and detracted from the mood of the scene.

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Aspects like this ‘scene treatment,’ lack of a characters narrative to set up the relationships and actions, and pacing overall turned the film into a disappointment for me. Though it was cute. Cute for a 12 year old, and too fluffed up for its intended YA demographic. And those who loved the book may feel that much of the better parts of the novel had been cut.

Where the film felt slow, empty, and left me with a sense of unanswered questions. The book, even though containing many inaccuracies, at least had more of a dynamic and plenty of character motivation and interest.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Restricted to bed – doctors orders.

Reading, writing and blogging slumps means no fun for this girl. I hate getting sick.

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I’m not beating myself up in taking an occasional break to routine. Recharge my batteries. Having a mini adventure.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. Indulging in a family visit and having marathon Canasta games over a glass of champagne. Exploring local markets and shopping up a storm. Late night chats over a hot cuppa. It may sound a little boring and simple, but living on top of a mountain in isolation writing means human contact of any kind is like a packed underground dance party. It really does leave you happily satiated and ready to hit the keyboard again.

Except immediately after I got food poisoning, and then fell ill with the flu that has been sweeping across the Sunshine Coast. So what was meant to me a 5-day reprieve, turned into just over a month, most of it spent moaning and wondering ‘why me?’ I agonised for three days hugging porcelain, praying for my stomach to stop spasming. My little puppy was quite alarmed at my retching noises, and my constant nursemaid.

I have to admit, I have not gotten ill in quite a long time. Not since I have gotten over the aftermath of cancer and acclimating to fulltime work and the stresses it took out on a recovering body. In the last four years I may of had one day here or there feeling poorly, maybe with a headache or hayfever. Nothing a day of rest or a Panadol didn’t fix. But a bout of food poisoning and the flu brought back all the worst sense-memories of cancer treatment.

Mainly the nausea and unending praying while in embrace of the toilet bowl. Feeling weak and shaky, overtaken in a hot and cold sweats. Not the funniest way to spend three days… I couldn’t even indulge in reading quietly in bed. Light sensitivity had the lamps off and blinds down. I would’ve love to watch a movie, read a blog or even catch up on my email… but no, I lay there wafting in and out of sleep waiting for the rolling of my stomach to cease. Hoping I hadn’t stripped away all the lining from my throat. The flu continued most of these symptoms along with dizziness and a wheezy cough. Many, many slime filled tissues later… It feels glorious to finally be coming out the other end of this seasonal illness.

I embodied all those caricature sickies on television – hair like a birds nest built in a drug haze, baggy sweats, and a blotchy face from tissue abrasions. If anyone can stick around after seeing me like this – they’re a keeper!

About once or twice a year I find myself in a period where life happens with such intensity that I have no time left for writing, reading, or blogging. And this is coming from someone who religiously makes time for her craft every day. When I was finally able to sit down, clear headed and write, I was simply too exhausted. Even when I started to read, I’d manage maybe a page or two before nodding off.

In hindsight, I always boggle at the amount of work I could’ve completed in that time frame. I very much live to write… but it’s important to live to share, love, and experience too. There’s a balance in there somewhere, and I falter from one extreme to the other in hopes of living a full, happy life. Following passion and sharing happiness.

Does anyone else suffer from writers or readers guilt? Tell me I’m not alone.

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The month of May be like…

A week of feeling under the weather but trying my best to soldier on. But did not get any writing done.

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Dealing with connectivity issues, call centres. Seriously had to take a break and zen myself out many times. It gets so frustrating when technology won’t cooperate. Zero internet for ten days.

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But it did give me some time to kick up my heels and indulge in some reading – so the world isn’t so bleak.

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Bites, Blogging and Barfing

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I’ve had yet another brief hiatus from blogging – mainly due to another bout of food poisoning (seriously what is going on with restaurants around here?) I feel like I’ve really lucked out in my gastronomic explorations with 3 cases in the past 6 weeks. I’m a little gun-shy about checking out dining establishments now…

I also did some major gardening and landscaping. Feeling very proud of myself since I’m no green thumb, but it is satisfying to walk through the yard amongst brightly coloured flowers and solar lighting. It’s completely metamorphosed the place. It’s magical at night time. If it weren’t for the kamikaze mosquitos I may sit outside to do a little writing (oh well). I did sustain a gardening injury – and not from my usual incoordination – my guess is mites in the soil. I was bitten all up my arms, along the waist band of my pants and around the neckline of my shirt. There is also a few itchy spots on my face making me feel like a teenager with spots again. Normally it wouldn’t bother me, but they are unrelenting, making me want to scratch constantly. So for the past five days I’ve been bathing in Calamine Lotion.

In amongst my digging, planting and technicoloured yawning, I managed to read another six novels and get some writing done on the sequel to Smoulder (Embers). So, I’ve been productive even though nothing has appeared on the blog for over a week. The Book Reviews will be coming hard and fast so I can catch up (watch this space), and looking forward to settling back into a routine with the warmer weather starting to ease in.

Bringing you some new material soon… in the meantime, happy writing!

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© Casey Carlisle 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.