Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

March 30, 2016

Home again

Filed under: family,fitter/happier,news of the day — lexifab @ 8:33 pm

We’re back home after four days’ break in the Hunter Valley. The highlights were probably spending an hour have a leisurely wine tasting while the kids played with Leo the resident winery dog at Pokolbin Estate and taking a camel ride across the dunes in Anna Bay on our way home this morning (was a bit out of our way, but worth the detour).

It was very pleasant to have a solid few days of real break time. We had next to no internet or mobile coverage (thanks Vodafone) so about the most wired thing I managed to do was play a few rounds of Words with Friends. Other than that, it was all about chilling with the kids playing tennis or splashing about in the pool, drinking wine and reading.

I did mean to write. Honestly I did. I took my notebook and everything. But in the end I decided I was better off just trying to get some distance from my creeping anxiety about procrastination and just relax. It seems to have worked (a few choice bottles of plonk may not have hurt either). I’m back in a much more positive frame of mind. There’s still an enormous amount of stuff to do, but it feels less unmanageable than it did last week.

Right. Things to do. Let’s get to it.

March 28, 2014

The joys of parenthood

Filed under: family,fitter/happier — Tags: , — lexifab @ 10:35 pm

My six year old boy’s sore front teeth turn out to be abscessed and in need of immediate extraction. He needs to go in for day surgery early next week. This will be the second time in six months that he’s been in hospital for surgery under general anaesthetic, so the memories of his last visit will still be fresh.

That’s unfortunate, because none of us have particularly fond memories of that visit. Little guy gets pretty panicky when it comes to needles and anaesthetic. Fair enough too. But it’s also fair to describe his response to situations where blood or injury (or treatment) are involved as ‘jaw-droppingly unhappy’. It’s a fairly stressful situation all round.

On top of that, provided everything goes as it should, he’ll be missing both of his front teeth for the better part of a year – it could be that long before his new ones grow through. I don’t expect it to be too traumatic for him – he’s in Year 1, where half the kids are missing a tooth or two, so it’s not as if he’ll be alone  – but it’s one more thing for him to potentially become anxious about.

His parents are already anxious, of course. We’re trying hard not to show it but I guarantee I won’t complain if this is the last time I have to pay an anaesthetist’s bill this year. Ouch.

November 16, 2013

TMoRP Day 19 – Grommets!

Filed under: family,fitter/happier,joey,the month of relentless positivity — Tags: , — lexifab @ 10:30 am

Number One Son, aka Internet-Pseudonym Joey, had day surgery a couple of weeks ago to implant grommets in his inner ear. A followup consultation this week confirmed that the operation was successful. So, that’s good.

His hearing’s always been a bit dodgy. Much of the time he has the usual childhood selective hearing, which is mysteriously deficient when it comes to being asked to pick up toys or stop setting fire to things, but often astonishingly acute whenever ice cream is mentioned. Sometimes though, he misses conversations even when he’s paying attention and/or not speaking at the same time as someone else (which admittedly is not very often. He is an unstoppable chatterbox).

We got worried enough about it to go through several rounds of audiometry testing, which showed that he has a slight hearing deficiency in certain registers. Nothing critical or with high potential to impact his learning capacity, but a little more serious than mere ongoing inconvenience.

His eustachian tubs, which should be dry and full of air to equalise pressure on the middle ear, are a bit on the soggy side. The grommets are basically just a tube to allow the passage of air to ventilate the middle ear, which should reduce fluid buildup and improve his hearing.

Presumably any hearing gains occur over some protracted period of time, because we certainly haven’t observed miraculous improvements in his attentiveness in the past couple of weeks. I theorise that he’s somewhat out of the habit of paying attention though, so patience and retraining are probably in order.

The annoying (i.e. non-positivity-related) element of all this is that for the year that the grommets will remain in place (they fall out of their own accord somewhere between nine and twelve months after emplacement), we need to be careful with swimming. He’s allowed to get water in his ears, so he can continue with his swimming lessons, but he’s not allowed to dive down to below one metre. The water pressure might affect the grommets.

In most kids learning to swim, this would be an intolerable restriction. Who doesn’t want to dive to the bottom and swim around underwater? But in this case it’s a problem for us, not him. He hates submerging his head, let alone duck-diving. If he’s told he has to dive to the bottom, he tends to panic.

So while we were making very slow progress towards getting him comfortable with swimming underwater, now we have to hold him back from that until as late as next summer. Not a big deal, but longer than I’d have hoped to delay his swimming progress. No doubt it’s very selfish of me, but I long for the day when I am able to get into a swimming pool with the kids and not have one or both of them hanging off my shoulders all the time.

Still, the grommets should help the hearing and reduce the risk of ear infections, so yay for modern surgical techniques, eh what?

February 7, 2013

Short stories made long, junkets and kindy life.

Filed under: family,joey,wordsmithery — Tags: , , , , , , — lexifab @ 4:25 pm

Crit group

I took my short story about British and Russian spies in the Great Game [1] to the CSFG critiquing group last night. Now this was a story that I thought was 90% of the way there, so I had been in two minds as to whether to wait for the monthly crits to resume after the summer break, or just start submitting it for publication.

I’m glad I waited. They were brutal.

In a good way, mind you – everything they said was spot-on (except where various people completely disagreed, but even that was illuminating). My protagonist doesn’t really do anything but shout. The stakes are undefined. Two of the three characters are more or less complete cyphers and their motivations are interesting but murky. Some of the most interesting stuff happens in the flashbacks.

That was the crux of it. Too much of the important stuff in the story happens in flashback or, worse, exposition. It’s a classic example of “show don’t tell”. I need to go back and play out some of those scenes. I need to establish who the characters are so that the story of their final confrontation makes sense.

Unfortunately that means I have to make it about four or five times as long as it currently is. Which on the one hand is great, because I’ve been wondering if I was even capable of writing a long (say 10,000+ words) short story and this is an opportunity to find out. On the other hand, it sucks, because I’ve been procrastinating on my novel throughout January and my enthusiasm for this project is NOT GOING TO HELP.

The solution – or at least the thing I am going to try to see if it will work – will be to write both at once. That is, write one for a while, then when I get bored or stuck switch out to the other.  They’re dissimilar in terms of tone, characters and voice, so it’s unlikely that one will bleed across to infect the other. And I think – though I might be drastically wrong on this – that I should be able to carry the energy and enthusiasm for each across to the other. If not, well maybe I’ll just get fed up and just pick one to finish. A win either way, I hope.


I might have mentioned that I’ll be attending Conflux 9 here in Canberra over the Anzac Day weekend. I’d better be, obviously, because I think they’ll want me to be at the book  launch and I’ve also just signed up to be on a couple of panels.

But looking beyond that to October, I’m also heading off to Brisbane for the 2nd annual GenreCon. It’s a meeting of the minds of writers, agents, publishers and fans from across the spectrum of literary ghettoes – romance, crime, thrillers, historicals and of course speculative. By all accounts last year’s event was a huge success [2].

This year, one of the guests of honour is Chuck Wendig. Yeah. I’ve kinda got a big writer-crush on Der Wendigo these days, as you know, so if they’ve convinced him to leave his compound in the backwoods of Pennsyltucky and get on a plane to Australia, the least I can do is take a leisurely flight north to listen to him talk and buy him a beer. Or worship at his feet, whatever he prefers.

Anybody else thinking about making the jaunt?

School age

Totally unrelated to anything writery, Number One Son (aka the Joey) started “big school” this week, which in the ACT means Kindy/Kinder. He looks pretty smart in his big sun hat and school uniform, lemme tell you.

It’s a bit of a relief too. He was beginning to become…let’s say “restless”…about having to serve time in childcare with babies and toddlers while he waited for the school year to start. Now he’s back together with pretty much all of his pre-school friends, in whose company he will probably spend most of the next seven years. I’m sort of excited to see how they all turn out.

It’s scary to be the parent of a school-ager. But it’s kind of great too.


[1] Yes, of course there’s a speculative element. Though one of the very valid criticisms was that it showed up so late in the story that it derailed the narrative.

[2] In no small part, I understand, because everyone went away with great ideas about community-building and networking after seeing how well-coordinated and supportive the Romance Writers of Australia are.

October 10, 2012

MRP Day 10 – Robot!

Filed under: family,news of the day,the month of relentless positivity — lexifab @ 9:01 pm

Just a quick one tonight because I want to do some fiction writing. I submitted a short story (at literally the last minute) to the Conflux 8 short story competition back at the end of June. Now that the convention is done and dusted – and my little story was overlooked for several much funnier and cleverer works – I am free to have another bash at it. That’s a relief really, because I knew even at the time that it was half-baked at best, even though at the time I couldn’t figure out anything that I could do to make it better. Over the weekend it suddenly occurred to me what the actual story was that went with my characters and setting, so it’s time for another draft.

But that anecdote, like the story itself, has absolutely nothing to do with the today’s Month of Relentless Positivity subject – robots! I know, I know, yesterday’s entry was also about a robot, but the crucial difference is that this is about a non-fictional one.

As I type this, a brand-spanking-new LG Roboking automatic bagless “aspirator robot” [1] is trundling around near my feet sucking up vast quantities of dirt and grime from the dining room floor.

After our floor was replaced a couple of years ago by insurance-company-approved cheapest-common-denominator floating floorboards, our dining room and kitchen floors have looked pretty crap. Pretty much every speck of dirt is far more visible than it was with the original flooring (which was destroyed by seepage from a leaking pipe). Being houseproud types [2] Fiona and I have spent a lot more time on remedial vacuuming since then just to keep the place from looking like a bomb site. Having two kids has not exactly lessened the load.

So following a recommendation from a friend who uses a similar device and her usual metric truckload of research (which included the obligatory review of Youtube videos of cats riding around on vacuum robots), Fiona selected the Roboking and ordered it online.

Two word review: IT ROCKS! Slightly longer review: Aside from the novelty of it bustling about whirring happily to itself as it thumps into chairs, walls and feet, it does seem to be doing a good job of cleaning the place up. So far it has fallen slightly afoul of the tassled ends of scarves hanging from the coat rack, and it unsurprisingly fails at climbing over the top of power cords, shoes and plush toys – but hey! Vacuum robot! VACUUM ROBOT!

Now I’m going to have heaps more time on the weekend to get the washing and mowing done!

[1] Ours was considerably cheaper than the one advertised on that linked page, by the way. Shop around – that’s what the internet’s for, right?

[2] More accurately, one of us is houseproud, and the other is married to her.

October 6, 2012

MRP Day 5 – Anniversary

Filed under: family,news of the day,the month of relentless positivity — lexifab @ 8:23 am

Well, I only made it four days before missing a deadline, which is probably a record for me. Yay, records! [1]

I didn’t manage to get this Day 5 entry up on the fifth for a very good reason – I was having a good day. Yesterday, the 5th of October 2012, was our tenth wedding anniversary. Ten years ago, Fiona and I got dressed up in shiny frocks and natty suits and threw the best party we’ve ever had. There was cake and dancing and everything!

Since then it’s been quite a bit less glam but no less wonderful. Together we’ve bought houses, demolished and rebuilt all manner of things, eaten great food and cultivated a taste for good wine, travelled the world (well, some very pretty bits of it, anyway) and been fortunate enough to have two smiling, healthy children. Both are, of course, incorrigible ratbags at the moment, but we optimistically expect them to grow out of this phase in two to three decades.

I love being married. I love waking up every day next to the woman I adore. I love wearing my wedding ring on my finger (even though the blue platinum band on it faded about six years ago and probably can’t be restored). I love having someone to make plans with, especially since Fiona happens to be someone who is actually good at planning. I love having someone to talk problems through with [2]. I love having someone whose needs inexplicably include whatever it is I have to offer.

I love you, Fiona [4].


[1] Just so you know, sometimes the positivity is going to seem a little superficial. This is intentional.

[2] Apparently I also love torturing grammar. I think it’s important that I embrace my flaws. [3]

[3] Coveniently this is a lot easier than rewriting.

[4] I also love that you won’t read this for between three and six weeks, when you do your periodic reading catchup on whatever drivel I’ve been spouting at Lexifabricographer.

November 29, 2011

The blood of the Clan is strong

Filed under: family — lexifab @ 1:29 pm

I’m just dropping a quick note to congratulate my big little brother Gazza and his beaming better half Sonia on the arrival at 11:22 pm last night of their third wee bairn (and first little girl). Little X, who is so fresh and new that I haven’t even thought of a good blogname for her, weighed over 4 kilos and measures 53 cm. All are happy and well!

We’re very pleased that they managed a girl this time, so that our baby Wombat will have a girl cousin growing up. What few nephews and nieces that Fi has are all much older than our kids, or will never exist due to various circumstances of biology and temperament, so in terms of boisterous in-family companions for Joey and Wombat, this was pretty much the last chance for another girl. Chances are that that is it for this generation of Versaces, so the headcount now stands at three boys and two girls. A good haul!

October 22, 2011

Got done doing nothing

Filed under: family,fitter/happier,joey,wombat,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 12:27 pm

A day spent in the company of two small children left me too tired and emotional to write anything last night. I stared at a blank page for the better part of an hour before conceding that I was just not going to do a thing. I say ‘stared’ – but what I mean is: got up and checked out the action in a rugby match in which I had zero investment; checked Twitter obsessively; researched play advice for a game I own but haven’t started yet (Just Cause 2); and, drank a couple of beers.

Note to self: any alcohol whatsoever is not conducive to writing. Stick to tea, dumbarse.

The kids trashed me. The Joey is the elder, nearly four. He was disobedient and rebellious all day. It was only *after* hours of him being sent to his room every five minutes that it occurred to me that the problem might not be that he was ignoring everything I said but that he couldn’t hear me. Sure enough, his ears were completely blocked. (Side note: Cerumol, the ear wax solvent gunk, is probably the foulest smelling substance in human medicine). Hopefully to day will be a little less dramatic.

The younger, aka the Wombat, has a touch of cold. She’s grumpy and clingy. She would literally scream at the top of her lungs if I moved more that two metres away from her. I actually measured that, by the way. One step this way, no noise. Two steps the other way, timpanic rupture time. It was like playing a live-action theremin. She seems much improved and not coincidentally about one million times more delightful today.

So after much shouting – and a picnic at the park to try to run down their batteries a bit – I hit the wall at the end of the day something fierce. I should have figured out a lot earlier that doing a couple of hours of the novel was never going to happen. If I had, I could have devoted that time to reading, watching one of those movies I’ve rented or doing some exercise. Unproductive as doing nothing was, I will make a guarded mark in the ‘pro’ column that I was determined to write rather than do something more fun, even if I didn’t quite manage it. There is, of course, another step to take in that progression towards the required discipline levels.

Tonight won’t help. I’ll be at a Mouse Guard game tonight, playing my dangerously-inquisitive scientist mouse on an treacherous expedition into weasel territory. Stirring stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m so far behind my planned word count that I’ll get home at about 11 and try to write. Hopefully the game will inspire some creativity.

I *am* gonna make this end of year deadline. I just don’t quite know how yet.

October 6, 2011

Back to Back to the Island

Filed under: family,joey,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 11:38 pm

Take this week’s neglect of blog updates as a good sign. The novel is proceeding, even if still not quite at the breakneck pace I’m hoping I will achieve eventually. I’ve given myself a motivational deadline of Xmas to get the first draft done. At this rate I won’t get there, but I suspect that if I continue to plug away at it my current rate of 500 words a day will start to improve. I just need to carve some mental grooves out first.

So in order to sabotage that aspiration before I have a chance to lock it in place, I’m also resuming the Lost reviews. I’ve watched the first three episodes of Season Two, which reminded me that there’s a lot to like in it, so since I’m doing that I have convinced myself that I should do the reviews while I’m at it. As I mentioned earlier I plan to use a different format for the reviews of this series, including making them much shorter. I hope to maintain the high standards of snark that you will have come to expect with regards to Jack’s ego, Shannon’s uselessness and Sawyer’s shirts. I’ll post the review of the first episode shortly.

Oh, Fi and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary yesterday. We had a rare evening out and enjoyed delicious food, excellent wine (well, not the riesling, but what can you expect?) and each other’s amiably sleepy company. We only had to take time out once to make a phone call to an anxious child. The Joey was still waiting for his goodnight kiss from a neglectful father, who was both suitably ashamed and overcome with the cute of it.

Simon’s birthday tomorrow. He’ll be 42, which as we all know is the greatest of all possible ages.

May 17, 2011

Back to the Island 1.20 – Deus Ex Machina

Filed under: back to the island,family,Uncategorized,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 12:19 am

I’m on a break.

Well, sort of. My dad is visiting for the next week or so, so I won’t be spending quite as great a percentage as usual of my evenings holed up with the laptop in an antisocial writer-bubble. Not quite. I am doing that right now, I admit, but in my defense he’s getting ready for bed and won’t miss me while he’s brushing his teeth.

Anyway, while he is here I will drop back a gear on my Lost schedule. I have a couple more reviews prepared, but I will hold off on posting them until after the end of next week. In that time I may or may not get a bit of space to finish writing the Season 1 reviews, but I am not going to hold myself to my schedule. I will probably still write here, but I’ll leave the reviews on hold for a short time. There are one or two story ideas rattling around in my head. If I do get any time, I will probably work on those instead of reviewing. (No, that was not a clever euphemism for “play Portal 2 until I beat it”. Though of course I don’t deny the overwhelming likelihood that I will just goof off and do that instead).

In case anyone else is casting about for inspiration, writer Chuck Wendig [1] issues a weekly writing challenge, giving a set of random and often mildly ridiculous parameters for a short-short story. His readers link their efforts in the comments column, many of which are quite cool. This week’s challenge is – hrm, hard to describe, actually, so here’s the link instead. I have an ‘M’ picked out, but whatever the story there is, it hasn’t quite gelled for me yet.

Apropos of nothing much, here’s a lovely little piece of writing by Michael Chabon about superhero costumes. Beautiful meditation contrasting inspiration, hope and awe with the bleeding obvious (and making it work, which is no small achievement).

[1] Of whom I feel I ought to say more, and will one of these days when I get around to assembling a blog entry on writers who are inspiring me at the moment.


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