Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Successful Failure

I was pretty optimistic as I headed off to the local market this morning. On my two previous trips I sold a few copies of my first two novels. This time, I had a third, and I raised the ante a little with the table set up and bonus offers.

It's the first day of December and Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye so I had a sign which promoted unique Christmas gifts including signed copies of my novels, original artworks by my daughter, and free gift wrapping.With each purchase of one or more of my books, I offered a choice of one other book for free: Jo Nesbo, Bill Bryson and Jayne Buxton to name but a few. On top of all that, I was there to greet people and chat about books, or anything at all.

This sunny day was matched by my disposition. An early sale of Ashmore Grief, buoyed my confidence further. I needed one more sale to cover my costs, and then it was full steam ahead to profit town.

Five hours later I was watching the clock, waiting to pack up and go
home, wondering why I had not sold anything else. Curious as to why I had less conversations and less interest than last time. Apart from the one wise lady who purchased Ashmore Grief, only one other person even picked up a display copy and read the blurbs of any of my books. You can see the multitudes streaming past my stall in the photo above, and the masses queueing to meet me and buy my books.

It was bad enough for me to pretty much decide never to return. The stall next to mine, was manned by a husband and wife, visiting this market for the first time to sell new books, and lots of them for only $5 each. Talk about competition. 

They were a lovely couple though. The guy is a web designer, the woman an editor and book reviewer for Reader's Digest. They both work from home. It was great to meet them. It was cool to meet the guy who designed a quit smoking program which he wants to publish, and another who apparently gained successive, multiple free entries into a certain Kings Cross establishment. The woman who is writing her own dictionary, and the guy who loves to read and would have bought a book if only it were written in his native Spanish.

I'm proud of my work. The lack of sales and recognition for my work is no reflection on its quality. Today's failure proves that I believe in what I do, and ultimately, by the grace of God and hopeful persistence, I will succeed.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Great Escape

The popularity of television, books and movies testifies to our desire to escape the humdrum of everyday life. Certainly, many books and television shows are watched for their educational value, but what we really want is entertainment. We want to be transported, if only in our imaginations, from where we are to some other fantastic place. From reality to fantasy. Along the way we happily gobble up debaucherous immorality: lies, sex and violence, and why not? We aren't doing it, and it isn't been done to us. Living vicariously through fictional characters is safe. It is also both amusing and instructive vis-a-vis human nature.

After many months of wondering what happened after the explosion in the final episode of season 14 of ER, and then subsequently forgetting about it when we couldn't watch it because it wasn't on TV and Leading Edge video store which supplied us with season 1 -14 didn't have season 15, we watched the final episode of the Australian police drama, Blue Heelers. Not being able to follow the trials and tribulations of the coppers at Mount Thomas was a blow, and by the time we neared the end of season 14 we were in despair. How could we go on without our much loved friends in the Victorian police department? And then, season 15 of ER appeared on the shelf at Leading Edge. Hooray!

Last night we found out what happened after the explosion at the end of season 14. *Spoiler alert. One of the main stars, a favourite character who had morphed from an annoying and narcissistic cowboy of a doctor, into the chief of the ER and everyone's best mate, appeared to have survived the explosion. He made it out of the ambulance and into hospital where it was eventually discovered that he was much more seriously injured than first presumed. Fatally injured in fact. First episode of a new season and they killed off one of the stars of the show. It was shocking, gripping, and emotionally draining, which is exactly what you want from television drama.

Dr.Greg Pratt died a horrible death. After the funeral his friends gathered at the local watering hole to eulogize him and eat deep fried mozarella sticks in honour of him. As we watched those deeply moving scenes, I felt a bit teary and I wanted to eat a deep fried mozarella stick. Then we watched another episode. Life carried on in the emergency room of County General, as it did in our home where after episode two, I brushed my teeth, went to bed and slept peacefully. Untouched. Unscathed. Safe, warm and well.

I cannot imagine a world without such entertainment. The escapism provided by the amusements of our culture is a reflection of who we are: empty, craven, and broken.The breadth of human experience, the highs and the lows, can be encapsulated in a forty minute episode, a two hour film, or a three hundred page novel. And it's all fake. Realistic? Sure, but completely counterfeit. All our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our grief, our suffering and our joy is there for us to enjoy, but how much or how little of this experience is our own?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cheer up Grumpy

I like my job. I don't love it, but I usually enjoy most aspects of it. As with all jobs there are some things about it, particular duties or particular people which diminish enjoyment: things which tarnish the shine. It's easy for me to find fault with my job because it isn't what I want to do long term. In fact, I would happily quit tomorrow to be a full time writer. I need a lot more people to buy my books before I can do that though.

I operate under the burden of an onerous reporting and regulatory system. This is necessitated by the fact that we have a government contract for the provision of language and literacy training, and governments love paperwork. The trouble with paperwork is that...well, actually there is a plethora of problems with paperwork. One of the difficulties is that it is notoriously prescriptive and inflexible. In other words, it does not always account for the blurred lines of reality. A quick example: We have a form called an IPA on which we must indicate that a client has improved in one skill indicator over the course of 100 hours of training. (Of course we have to provide physical evidence of this improvement)What happens if the client has not achieved a demonstrable increase?  They have to. But what if they haven't improved? What if they can't? What if they are 60 years old and suffering from a myriad of health problems,and they had never been inside a classroom until they arrived in Australia two months ago? What then? I already told you, they have to show demonstrable improvement. 

Leaving aside the indelectable and infuriating issues associated with paperwork, I wish to speak of another aspect of my job which sometimes makes me grumpy. Last Thursday, I had an attack of the crankies and it was caused by an impromptu after class meeting in my room. I'm a specialist English language teacher. I have post graduate qualifications and eight years experience but I am now being asked to think about supplying suggestions for the diversification and individualisation of content delivery. I know, right? I thought I was employed to teach English to adult migrants and refugees. Now, I am to think about computer courses, learn to drive courses and horticulture courses so that the individual needs of my clients can be met? It's yet another perfect example of the unnecessary complicating of life. It's like a disease, a plague. Let's make everything more complicated and difficult.

So, last Thursday I hurriedly tried to complete my paperwork, which I should have been doing instead of sulkily attending the above mentioned meeting, before closing time, because as I said I like my job but not enough to do unpaid overtime. I wasn't a happy camper when I arrived home. 

Grizzly as I was, I did not welcome the invitation to go shopping for a pair of shoes for my daughter, especially as it was not an invitation. To cut a long story short, the time spent out with my wife and daughter resulted in an unexpected recovery of good cheer, and subject matter for a blog post.

What makes you grumpy? When have you been unexpectedly rescued from grumpiness?

Photo sources:!/

Saturday, November 9, 2013

True to his word

The Tony Abbott led coalition has been in government for nearly two months now. It has been a period of bad news for many people as the new government has quickly set about doing what it said it would do: saving money by cutting spending. Jobs, benefits and bonuses...slashed.

There is a certain amount of hysteria coming from opponents of the government. I am one of those opponents but I am not surprised, and therefore not emotionally disturbed. Coalition governments don't spend, Labour governments do. We alternate between the two, with each usually lasting two to three terms, and this guarantees balance.

It's early days yet, too soon to declare disaster, but those whose jobs will be lost in the public service, including nearly a quarter of the workforce at Australia's premier scientific research organisation, will be less sanguine. Likewise, welfare recipients who will be soon forced to spend around 70% of their benefits on essentials. Proposed pay rises for very poorly paid aged care workers have been scrapped, more privatisation is planned, as are further attacks on employment conditions, and I could go on and on and on.

As I said, it's too early to see the full impact of the government's austerity program, but one thing is for sure: people will be hurt financially because in my view, Coalition governments care much more about the budget bottom line than they do about people.

Further reading:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Don Quixote

To mark the momentous occasion of me completing what is reputed to be one of the greatest works of literary fiction of all time, I thought I would share a collection of quotes from the pen of Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra, the author of Don Quixote. Some wise, insightful and sometimes amusing words to consider. 
You can read my review on Goodreads

Selected quotes from Don Quixote:

"So long as they are books of honest entertainment that charm by their style and attract and interest by the invention they display..."

"What a set of absurdities thou art stringing together."

" the wicked are always ungrateful, and necessity leads to evil,  and immediate advantage overcomes all considerations of future."

"Fiction is all the better, the more it looks like truth."

"There is no happiness on earth to compare with recovering lost liberty."

"Better a blush on the cheek than a sore in the heart."

"Disordered attire is a sign of an unstable mind, unless the slovenliness and slackness is set down to craft."

"Why would you have us read that absurd stuff when it is impossible for anyone who has read the first part of the history of Don Quixote of La Mancha to take any pleasure in reading the second part?"

"For the most part, those who receive are the inferiors of those who give. Thus, God is superior to all because he is the supreme giver and the offerings of man fall short by an infinite distance."

"Thou art a blockhead!"

Which one do you like best?