I'm reading (sounds just like yesterday's post) a book about marriage by an artist, named Thomas Kinkade, who uses numerous painting analogies to describe what he and his co author wife call the many loves of marriage. In the book, Kinkade speaks about inspiration and how as a family man, he cannot afford to just sit around and wait for it. He goes to work at 9am everyday and paints, whether he feels like it or not. He disciplines himself and maintains a routine to put himself in a position where inspiration may strike. He says it does.
As a fellow creative person, a writer, I have not had the same experience as Kinkade. I cannot discipline myself to write. I don't have time. I have a job and other commitments. I don't earn a living from writing.
How about you? Where do you stand in the inspiration versus discipline debate? Thomas Edison reportedly said that genius was only one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration. What's your view?
I'm currently reading Debris by Jo Anderton and I am loving it. I don't know whether it is set in the future or on some other world. I presume future but it doesn't matter. Some science fiction fantasy stories are literally and metaphorically off the planet, while others manage to maintain strong links with what is relateable. You'll have to wait for my review, which will be glowing, but one clever thing I noticed Anderton had done in Debris was to change the name for a few everyday things like money and days and weeks. Money, for example, is referred to to as 'kopacks'. This subtle change, I came to realize, had the effect of making the setting for the novel both strange and familiar at the same time. I think that's very clever. Debris by Jo Anderton
In life, the hardest fight we will ever have is with our own feelings. Star Trek: The Next Generation is my favourite science fiction series, and Data (played by Brent Spiner) is my favourite character. Data is an android and consequently has no feelings, until his 'brother', Lore gives him an emotion chip. Switching on the chip is initially more than Data can handle due to the intensity of the emotions. His pleasure at being disgusted by a new drink he tries is humourous, but the paralysing terror he feels in a dangerous situation jeopardises his own safety and that of his Enterprise crew mates. He cannot control his feelings so he decides to deactivate the chip. How good would it be to have an emotion chip which you could simply switch off? How many times have you been told to get over something, and been angered by the suggestion because it belittled your feelings, and because it made the erroneous assumption that you could merely flick a switch and the feelings would go away? If only it were that easy. Data eventually learned to control his feelings, but not, as the Vulcans do, by suppressing them, and not by ignoring them, nor by deactivating his emotion chip whenever things became to much for him. Data mastered his feelings, both the pleasurable and the painful, and allowed them to enrich his life. As excruciating as they sometimes are, would you really want to be without your feelings? Would you really prefer to be heartless? Think of what you would miss out on...ecstasy, intimacy, warmth, love and joy. A battle rages between our hearts and minds, between what we think and how we feel. This is the human experience.We must endure suffering to enjoy pleasure. We must spend some time in the dark to appreciate the light. We must know brokenness before embracing healing. I would love to be able to flick a switch and shut down my feelings sometimes, but I can't. And so I fight on in the space between what is and what I want to be, between the way things are and they way they should be. Much of what happens to us is beyond our control, as are our feelings about what happens to us. We are not androids or Vulcans. We are fragile humans created in the image of a God who understands exactly what it means to truly suffer. read more about Data Top Ten Data episodes
I finished the penultimate assignment of my Masters degree yesterday. Surprisingly, I powered through it despite a few false starts, and the previously mentioned army of distractions arrayed against me. The last one will be more difficult, but I have eight days to do it and I am already thinking beyond it to the joy of completion. How will I celebrate? Oh, I have a few ideas. (Smiley face)
I received an invitation to a literary awards ceremony. I have a short story under consideration for the award, and although I know all the entrants will have been invited, I couldn't help thrilling, yes thrilling in my heart when I received the invitation. I've won! I said to myself, I've won! Money and prestige. Now I am somebody. Now people will look for my books, and buy them, and read them and love them. I'm such a hopeless romantic. The ceremony is a month away. You will forget all about it, but I won't. I just can't help hoping...how about you. Are a dreamer?
On the same day that I finished my friend adding campaign on Goodreads -the one in which I added all the people who had marked Ashmore Grief 'to read' and offered them a free copy in exchange for a review-the admin team at Goodreads sent me an email telling me that I was guilty of spamming and could I please refrain. That means that some of the people to whom I sent a harmless little request based on the fact that they had indicated they were interested in reading Ashmore Grief, reported me. They dobbed me in. Complained about me. No free copies for them then! To date a dozen people have accepted a free copy of Ashmore Grief, and I have received one 4 star review already. Was it worth being called a naughty boy? Yes. Thumbs up to those who accepted. Two thumbs down to those who complained. When have you gotten into a trouble for something which you thought was unjustified?
The discussion about electronic books versus paper will go on, and on but the e-book is here to stay and many people now exclusively read digital versions. I read both, but last night I was reminded of one clear advantage that a paper book has over an e-book. Comfortable in bed, I reached for my Kobo to continue reading the engaging, Debris by Jo Anderton. Opening the cover with keen anticipation, looking forward to finding out how Tanyana adjusts to the new life forced upon her, and how well she is received, or not, into her group of debris collectors - please recharge your reader - boooooo! I couldn't be bothered getting up and finding the cable and plugging it in, so I read something else. That is no reflection at all on Debris which is good book. Have you ever lost power at a critical time? (Take the question any way you like.)
Must have been the sun, or perhaps the emotional intensity of the occasion. Or it could have been the large striker who elbowed me in the chest and left me wondering whether I had suffered my third occurrence of rib breakage. More than likely it was a combination of all three that left me feeling very washed out. Considering the lack of sleep I subsequently got on Saturday following an early morning return from the footy, it was unsurprising that I needed a 'chill out and do nothing' Sunday afternoon. Clearly my self discipline is failing - in a number of areas - but I could not deny myself an afternoon on the couch watching Star Trek, and later listening to heavy metal band, The Ghost Inside. I did nothing but rest. Good on me.
Does it matter where or how people get their thrills? Are some thrills more acceptable than others? Are thrills even important? Is it okay to live for the buzz, to chase the thrills? Or is it better to just enjoy them when they come along? Are thrills the reason for our existence, or do they just exist for a reason? Am I going to stop asking questions and provide some answers? Which is more important: questions or answers? Last night, I travelled into the Big Smoke, with some family members, to attend a rugby league match. Played at Allianz Stadium which is probably the best rugby league stadium in New South Wales, the game was a sudden death semi final featuring my team, the Canterbury Bulldogs. I'm pretty passionate about the Bulldogs. I've been seriously following them for about 36 years. My dad is a bulldogs fan, and so is my son, and my daughter, though she's not quite a 'mental' as us boys. Whether it is on TV or live at the ground, I yell and talk a lot when I watch the Bulldogs play. I can become pretty emotionally disturbed. In close, tense games, my mouth goes dry and I have heart palpitations. I become totally lost in the contest as though my life depended on the result of the game. A loss can flatten me, a win can make me float for days. This is one of my great thrills: watching my team play and cheering for them. I love it. The result of the sudden death semi final was decided in extra time when the scores were locked 17-17 at full time. I felt that the second half totally belonged to the opposition and as they came back from a 0-16 deficit, I believed they would run over us and win the game. The crowd of nearly 30 000 was going insane, the noise in the stadium was deafening, as both teams ripped into each other in the desperate battle to win the game, and the right to progress through to the next game. It was so enthralling, I'm sure I must have stopped breathing on several occasions. When full time sounded and the teams took a quick on field drinks break before commencing sudden death extra time-what we call Golden Point- I sat there beaming. I realized that even if the Bulldogs lost, I would still always treasure that night. The thrill of the contest. The heart stopping excitement. The nail biting tension. It was so much fun. I'm so glad I was there. I'm smiling now as I think of it. Oh, you may be wondering about the result. Four minutes into the first period of extra time, Bulldogs half back, Trent Hodkinson, kicked the winning field goal. Final score? Bulldogs 18, Eagles 17.
As for the philosophy of thrills...who cares? I'm just glad we won and I had a great night. Go the Bulldogs!! How do you get your thrills?
The big question today is will I write anything, other than this, and emails, today? Will my WIP be advanced?. A vast army of distractions has assembled at the border of my concentration. If I pray Elisha's prayer I may yet prevail. (2 Kings 6:16-17)
When Ashmore Grief was released, my publisher organised a giveaway on Goodreads. Three copies were given to randomly selected people who marked it 'to read'. Just over 300 people entered the giveaway. Fast forward one year and only four of those people have actually read it, and only two have reviewed it. So, inspired by an interview I read with Lee Childs, I decided to reach out to these people and try to encourage them to read Ashmore Grief. My method is to send a friend request with an offer of a free digital copy in exchange for a review. (If you haven't read it, I now make the same offer to you. If you have, could could please write a short review.) Thus far, and it takes time because Goodreads limits the number of friend requests you can send in a day, I have sent 200 requests. I started about six weeks ago. I have received 7 acceptances, and one lady has already posted her review Ashmore Grief reader reviews
This experiment clearly demonstrates once again the need for greater exposure. Less than 5% of the people to whom I offered a free copy have accepted. 5% of 2000 is a lot more people than 5% of 200, and 5% of 20000 is many more again. You see my point. I'm still trying to break through and reach significantly greater numbers of people. I am under exposed. Writers...has any method proved particularly successful for you?
It troubles me that I have not had a novel released this year, and will not. A Muddy Red River will be released next year, and my previous two novels were released in 2013, in January and September respectively. When I go full time I won't let that happen again. In fact I would like to release two books each year: one novel and one work of non fiction. I've only had 8 short stories published this year so far, which although better than the 6 which were published in 2013, is still less than the glorious 18 in 2012. Mind you, I have not written a new short story since the as yet unpublished Dry Reach in December 2012. Maybe I should. 2014 has been a relatively quiet year for me as a writer so far, although personally it has been anything but quiet. Turbulent and intense. Maybe next year the tables will turn. Maybe they'll turn next month. Perhaps even today. Let's see.
I've been reading Churchill: The Power of Words which is full of wonderful and profound insights into human nature. This morning I quote from the book. Here, in a speech in March 1949 he reflects on the changes he had seen in his lifetime. 'Science bestowed immense new powers on man, and at the same time, created conditions which were largely beyond his comprehension and still more beyond his control. While he nursed the illusion of growing mastery and exulted in his new trappings, he became the sport and presently the victim of tides, currents, of whirlpools and tornadoes amid which he was far more helpless than he had been for a long time. ...this vast expansion was unhappily not accompanied by any noticeable advance in the stature of man, either in his mental faculties, or his moral character.'
It's Monday morning and after a victorious weekend, I am feeling good and ready for action. My soccer team won our semi final on Saturday. The Bulldogs won their elimination final yesterday, and I finished two more assignments and submitted them just under three hours before the deadline. I take a lot of satisfaction from these inspirational victories, (not that I had anything to do with the Bulldogs win besides yelling at the television as I watched them), and I feel positive. Hmmm...I wonder how much my positive thinking influenced these outcomes? Hopefully, I can advance my WIP this week. That's the plan.
I want to preface my remarks by saying that I have read Creating Miracles, and am now reading The Power of Now, so I have an open mind. I'm a curious person who is particularly fascinated by popular culture and its obsession with the cheap and easy fix. It is a sign of immaturity to ascribe miraculous healing powers to Band-aids. Children do that. Children ask for a Band-aid when they hurt themselves even if their skin has not been broken, and when said medical treatment is given, they feel better. However, band-aids don't take away pain and they don't heal cuts. They prevent infection and repress blood flow. That's all. Society believes in Band-aid solutions for its serious moral problems. We make laws to punish wrongdoing, and when they don't succeed as deterrents we make the penalties harsher while ignoring the causes. Society does the best it can: flawed systems operated by flawed humans. Individuals also like Band-aids. Alcohol, drugs, work, sport and sex are all used to treat the symptoms of unhappiness, loneliness and discontent. What is the cause of these symptoms? What is the disease? Perhaps I'll answer that question some other time. I'm sure you have your own views, but I wanted to talk about New Age religion and the alleged power of the human mind to change reality.
In a nutshell, the various power of positive thought philosophies say that if you are unhappy, lonely or discontented, it's your fault because your thinking is wrong. If your circumstances suck then you can change them with your mind. You can heal yourself, fix all your problems and find peace simply by wanting it and by utilising the power of your mind. You are the key to your salvation. If you don't know how to do it, then learn because your ignorance is costing you your happiness. Don't get me wrong. I believe positivity has power, and I accept that to some extent we can either ease or exacerbate our emotional suffering depending on our attitude but... What do you think? What is the disease? What is the cure? Can people save themselves or do we need help? Photo sources:
I have nothing to say today but I just thought I would check in. I have assignments due in 65 and a half hours from now, and I probably should devote my effort to those babies rather than my WIP. It's also the first week of the play-offs in the National Rugby League so I'll need to watch four games of footy. I have a few other very important things to do as well like watch the final episodes of Star Trek Enterprise, and then figure out which series I am going to watch next. Challenging times lay ahead of me my friends. Please pray for me.
I am currently nearing the ends of two books, Sanctus by Simon Toyne, and The Power of Words which is the life of Winston Churchill as told by his public speeches. Although they are both good books and worth reading, I am not going to make any other comments on the books themselves. I'm more interested in what happens 'towards the end of a book.' Hands up if you rush through the end of a book. Does anyone else do that? Whereas through the majority of Sanctus, for example, I was reading it how you are supposed to read a book - savouring the words, allowing them to permeate the mind and create images and arouse feelings - I now find myself skimming a little in a pointless race to the end where the only prize is the opportunity to commence a new book. (That's good but you know what I mean.) I have to force myself to slow down. Not to be in such a hurry. The end deserves just as much respectful and interested attention as the beginning and the middle. I've realized that I write my novels in the same fashion. I've occasionally been criticised for finishing my stories too quickly. I am now also aware, courtesy of this blog post, that I live my life in exactly the same way I read books. Hmmmm...Can anybody else relate the way they read to the way they live?
Big Brother Australia 2014 has started, and I'm a fan. I know reality TV is frowned on and looked down upon, as are those who watch it but I can't see the point of such condescension and snobbery. It reminds me of the kind of ignorance typified by one woman who said that she liked all kinds of music: as long as it had a beat and a melody, but not heavy metal. (There's actually two ways to take that statement - make of it what you will.) This year on Big Brother the contestants are playing as pairs. They have to make joint decisions. If one of them breaks a rule, they both get punished. They nominate together, and can be nominated and evicted together. Two of the ladies were offered $10 000 each. The condition was that if they accepted the money, there would no food in the house for anyone, for one week, except for meal replacement shakes. They also had to inform their house mates about what they had done. Now I reckon most viewers were hoping they took they cash, but not because we admire selfishness. Part of us might have hoped they would do the 'right thing', but the other part of us hoped they wouldn't because if they took the money, it would make things much more interesting in the house. This speaks volumes about human nature, and is the reason why I like Big Brother, (reality TV show style, not George Orwell style) Big Brother messes with the house mates heads for our entertainment, and I am not ashamed to admit that I like it. Does anyone else like Big Brother? Any haters out there? Any comments? I welcome you all.
"A little light in a lot of darkness goes a long way." - POD 'Roots in Stereo' "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - John 1:5 "Thank you for your entry David. Note if you would like any of your novels advertised in the anthology we hold no charge you need only send pics of the books." - Kelly Pickering, The Lady in the Loft "I hope that is not true. I want you to have a good life." - anonymous friend
I managed to complete another chapter of my WIP over the weekend. A remarkable effort in the circumstances and I am satisfied. I am also satisfied that eventually I will get back on track and be able to write more consistently. This morning I have continued messaging Goodreads friends, offering them a free digital copy of either Loathe Your Neighbor or Ashmore Grief in exchange for a review. I've received five yes messages to date. I'm also spending more time commenting on discussions on Goodreads as well. This idea came from Lee Childs who was apparently very active on Goodreads early in his career. He said it was helpful. Writers, what have you found to be helpful in terms of increasing your exposure?
This is a repost folks, so I'm sorry if you have already read it. However, it is Father's Day so it seemed appropriate. Here's a bonus song to ease your disappointment.
The most important job which any man or woman will ever hold is that of parent. Being a mother or father is an incredibly difficult and demanding job. Although the duties undergo significant changes along the way, parenting is a life long career. Once you have a child, you are committed until you die, or until they die. You will more than likely receive no financial reward, and at different stages perhaps not even much praise for your work. Your heart will be broken multiple times, you will suffer anguish and anxiety, you can expect sleepless nights, an overwhelming workload and a paucity of gratitude.
You will bear most of the heavy, heavy load of responsibility for the upbringing of a good person and a citizen. You will carry the weight of occasionally naive and unrealistic expectation. Your stomach will be twisted into knots which threaten to cripple you as you make decisions for another person.
I love being a dad. I have two children, teenagers now, and they are beautiful people who care about other people. They demonstrably love me and my wife, and each other. They live purposeful, busy lives, working, studying, playing and socializing, and they don't get into trouble. They don't get into trouble because they don't look for it. They are sensible and sensitive, and they make good decisions. They are forgiving and brave.
Are these awesome children my handiwork? Are they my legacy? Am I defined by what I have done for them, and to them, and who I am to them? Can I take full responsibility for the people they have become? Of course not, but as a father, a parent, I have played the role God assigned to me, and I have done my best to raise my children to love God and to love others.
The pain I have experienced for them, and at times because of them, is nothing at all compared to the joy they have given me. My life would be so shallow and meaningless without them. Through them, and through fathering them, I have learned so much about myself and the God who blessed me with them. To love is to suffer, but I suffer gladly because they are worth it: the happiness they bring, and the rich satisfaction I feel sharing their lives, the pleasure and fulfilment that comes from being a dad is the single greatest thing in my life.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on being a parent, even if you are not one.
I've been looking a lot recently at writing competitions, Winning competitions is a good way to boost the ego, and increase exposure. Depending on the award, there is a certain cache which comes with being a prize winning writer, aside from the joy and satisfaction of having your work published. The problem with many of the competitions is that there is a fee to enter: ranging from around $5 to as much as $100. I just don't have the budget to keep on paying for my work to be read and perhaps be short listed, or even awarded a prize. I don't know how 'prestigious' these various awards really are. I don't know what impact being a winner or a place getter would have on my profile. Even for regular submissions of my short stories, I baulk at paying reading fees for the same reason as I have avoided subsidy/joint venture publishing of my novels. Despite their promises of massive exposure, they cannot guarantee sales so a choice to invest in a joint venture is risky. Even though I believe in the quality of my work, it is still a risk I am unprepared to take, because my novels don't sell. Hardly anyone knows about them. I have a dribble of visitors to this blog, and a dribble is insufficient to underpin a solid base of readers. Anyway, I digress. I just wanted to tell you that I entered the prologue of my WIP in a writing competition. It will be the first test of what I know will be my best novel yet. If I win, that would be great publicity for the novel, but I am also interested in the opinion of the editor/judge. Very interested. Stay tuned. A question for writers: what is your take on writing competitions? Do you enter them? Have you entered them? Have you had any success?
It's raining again today. Although I can't see the sun or feel its warmth, I know it's there: doing its job. There is light. It is not dark. It is day time. I am alive and today will be a good day. A productive day. I don't need to see to believe. Jesus said those who believed without having seen, would be blessed. This is my hope. The sun just broke through the clouds and rain to justify my faith.
A conversation with a friend, a few well chosen words sent in an email, a happy song floating in my head, some encouraging words from caring others, and a couple of beers with my dad and my son at the local club last night. These little things cheered me up yesterday, and I feel better this morning. I might even do some writing this afternoon, after work.
I entered a flash fiction story in a competition recently. Yesterday I was informed that it had not been short listed which was fine. No different from the countless other rejections I have received over the years. However, they offered detailed feedback on the story, which was very good of them. There were a lot of positive comments, but because of my state of mind when I was reading the feedback, I zeroed in on the negatives and I felt quite cut by them. It actually made me feeling like giving up...just for a moment. Clearly, my irrational reaction, almost over reaction says a lot about where I am at these days. I want to return to those days, or some other day because these days suck.