And So It Begins

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The remnants of my final dream drift away.

A quick check of the clock says it’s time to get up.

I weave my way to where hot water soothes my crusty eyes.

More weaving — toilet, then kitchen.

Bleary eyes won’t slow me down — I could find the coffee machine with my eyes closed.

I choose a favourite cup from among my favourite cups, all lined up on top of the machine.

Plenty of water in the tank (I fill it religiously – coffee is a religion of sorts).

The pods nestle in a ceramic bowl I bought at our local market, years ago. The glaze soothes my soul.

I choose a pod (nothing magical or spiritual about the choice, just the top one), drop it into the machine, close the lever and pray that the precious liquid ends up in the mug and not oozing out the side of the device. The life span of these machines is about six months, then the paper towels come out to sop up the leakage. The makers give them away once a year to lure new customers from a crowded market. It works on me, but then, I’m not very bright.

Within seconds, the liquid starts to flow, and as long as I don’t hear a spluttering noise (like I make when I’m drowning), I know my coffee is not far away.

A spoon of honey, stir well, hold the cup in both hands and inhale the same way you do with a sixteen-year-old Lagavulin. 

Take the cup and stand by the window, wait for the parrots to have a bath in the creek.

The sun has been up for quite a while, but the tall eucalypts make me wait for direct rays.

After bathing and squabbling over the best bathing location, the parrots will fly to a low branch and preen in the sunlight.

The voices in my head haven’t woken yet, so I’m free for the moment and the day is full of possibility.

My dog wants me to go outside, but he knows to wait until that first coffee is consumed, then it is time to play.

From there I wait to see what the day has in store for me. It may be a day just like yours. It may be a day best forgotten, but whatever it will be, it is another day and another chance for redemption.

Blast From The Past

I wrote this essay on one of my other blog sites (not in use now) in 2013. As it happens, it’s Melbourne Cup Day today as well. I’ve posted the text as it was and I’ve added notations, so you know how things have changed over those six years.

The first thing to note is that the dog in the foreground, Honey, died earlier this year and she is sorely missed.

MELBOURNE CUP: A Day Off.

It’s a public holiday here today, which tells you a lot about the city I live in.

As far as I know, this is the only place in the world that has a holiday for a horse race [it’s Melbourne Cup Tuesday here].

This also tells you a lot about my city of Melbourne, and it’s love affair [obsession] with sport.

It’s a beautiful day, which is not a given for this time of the year and we are taking it quietly in our house. My wife just ventured out into the garden for only the second time this year! (Not this year. We went to an excellent birthday party last night, and she is sitting up in bed ‘recovering’.) Weeds are now in bags, and a very nice cup of coffee was consumed on our recently rebuilt back deck. (The deck is now six years old and in need of another coat of oil — it’s on the list, but not at the top. I sit on this deck every morning drinking juice and listening to the birds. It’s an awesome way to greet the day.)

My lawnmower died a few weeks ago (I got it fixed, and recently it threw a blade but did not hit me — some days you are just plain lucky!) and it is difficult to get such things fixed at this time of the year, so the lawns are getting a bit jungle-like. It has been raining quite a bit (It has this year as well) but now it is warm, and the grass is rapidly getting to be taller than the dogs. The lawn looks great when it’s long, but it is impractical when you have small dogs. (Only one small dog in our house now — we have up to four at one stage — and he is feeling sorry for himself because he hurt his hind leg chasing a cockatoo)

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Speaking of small dogs, Zed is having ‘one of those days’. His tummy hurts. He eats possum poo, and his tummy gets very sore. This usually manifests itself in the middle of the night, and no one gets any sleep, but today it surfaced at breakfast time, and he is working through it as I type. Nothing we can do for him until he feels like eating [just got told that he is in the kitchen eating his breakfast….. 6 hours later]. Hopefully, he will be feeling well enough to go for a walk on this beautiful day. (No walk for Zed today. He needs to rest his sore leg. Since I wrote this, we have changed the dog’s diet to raw food, and it has made a world of difference to Zed and his tummy. His bum does not hurt as often either.)

Work has well and truly begun on the McDonalds store up on the highway and as one of the security guards loves one of my dogs, he gives us the inside tips on how it is going. January is the expected finish date. With all the silliness that has been going on around this project, it will be good to see it finished. It will be the Maccas with the best view in Australia. (It did open but not until March, and it has been going strong ever since. I have partly written many of my books while drinking coffee. The young people who work there have become friends. One of the original protestors still chalks signs on the pavement outside the shop every Friday morning!)

Not feeling all that well today, but my spirits are high after a week where I got a lot of positive feedback on stories I have written. One story obviously struck a chord with a lady who had recently lost her father. This is a story that I’m very proud of, and it has gotten a lot of attention. (It is still one of my favourite stories.)

I also received some positive feedback from writers I follow, on a recent story. My ego needs constant feeding, and it got a lot this week. (My ego still needs continuous feedback. Since I wrote this, I have written a lot of stories and published more than a dozen books. I have taught myself how to make audiobooks and have published most of my back catalogue in this form. Audiobooks take a long time to produce, and I’m very proud of this achievement. My audiobooks have sold reasonably well, but my ebooks have not done so well — no, I don’t understand that either.)

If you are in Melbourne, I hope you enjoy your day off, and if you are anywhere else in the world, I hope your day is a good day.

Terry

Winter

 

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I’m starting to get a bit sick of people complaining about winter.

One of the delights of living in this part of the world is the fact that we have four distinct seasons.

I can be a tad cynical at times, but that cynicism is generally directed at the activities and dishonesty of my fellow humans, but I tend to leave Nature alone.

I am genuinely surprised and delighted as each new season unfolds.

Winter has a unique appeal.

To start with, it is usually too cold and wet to work in the garden. Which is an absolute bonus as far as I’m concerned. My mum was an avid gardener, and as much as I tried, I could not catch that particular bug. I like looking at gardens, and I enjoy sitting and walking in them, I just don’t enjoy working in them, and these days my ancient body really lets me know it when I venture out with good intentions to make the garden look presentable. I do have to mow the lawns occasionally as the dogs are tiny and they tend to disappear into the long grass. They think it’s great fun, but the Vet bills tend to push me out there to keep the grass and weeds down so that they don’t irritate their delicate skin.

Apart from not having to do anything in the garden, there is the absolute delight of sitting in front of the open fire, sometimes writing, sometimes with a glass of whisky or decent red, and sometimes just meditating. You can feel your stress and worries disappearing up the chimney; it’s brilliant.

If you have dogs in your life you will know that they love to cuddle up and in summer that can be a bit of a problem, but in winter they are very welcome, and as dogs operate at a full degree higher than humans, they are like little hot water bottles. Ours like to sit on feet, and this is very comforting in the cold weather.

Sitting in a cafe at any time of the year is OK by me, but it is unique in the winter as you can sit there in the warmth and look out at the atmospheric weather. Because we have dogs, we often relax outside, and during the summer it can be challenging to find a seat, but in winter we can have our pick, and we get many compliments on our courage, although they might think that we are a bit crazy.

I get a lot more work done in the winter.

Like many writers, I can invent a thousand distractions so that I don’t have to face that blank page. The warmer weather is full of beautiful distractions, but winter helps me stay put, concentrate, and get on with it.

I guess it’s a bit like eating your favourite food every day, the initial joy wears off, and it becomes commonplace. That’s how it is for me with seasons. I love winter, but by the time we get to the end of it I’m ready for something new and along comes spring, and so it goes. Sometimes I think that the Universe designed it that way just so that I would not get bored. After all, the Universe does revolve around me.

Thank you, Universe.

Why I Won’t Be Entering The Ned Kelly Awards This Year

I’m currently a member of the Australian Crime Writer’s Association and as expected, I received notification that entries are open for the Ned Kelly Awards. This is the top award for Crime and Spy novels in Australia. This is one of the genres that I write in so I enter most years. The idea was to get shortlisted (winning was a long shot as some awesomely talented writers have won this award and I’m not quite in that category just yet). Being shortlisted would give me a bit of exposure and hopefully lead to a few sales.

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The Genre I write in — crime.

I began to feel like I was wasting my time when I entered my most recent novel (at that time) and didn’t get a sniff. Naturally, I was disappointed (the book is very good). I did a bit of research and read all of the shortlisted books and found (naturally I’m a bit biased) that none of them was any better than my book — a bit strange I thought. I was expecting writing that blew my work away — not so.

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The shortlisted books didn’t blow me away — none were better than mine.

Then this article came out and I did a bit more research and discovered that publishers don’t see any boost in sales when a book wins an award (the Miles Franklin and the Stella are exceptions). So why was I knocking myself out?

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Why was I knocking myself out?

I did a bit more research and found that self-published works have NEVER been shortlisted. There is an obvious bias towards big publishers as you can see in this quote:

“Asked how the system could be improved, publishers suggested lowering the fees, or removing them for small presses; reducing the number of categories to focus attention and cut fees; accepting digital copies, possibly without the author’s or publisher’s name to reduce a perceived bias towards big publishers; announcing shortlists and winners earlier so books are still in shops, and promoting those lists better.”

Then there is the question of cost. I have to pay a fee each year to be a member of the ACWA so I can enter, and then there is an entry fee. Things have improved a bit because they accept electronic entries which cuts out the cost of postage and the cost of supplying paperbacks.

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Then there is the question of cost.

Let’s face it, I’m a very small fish in a huge pond. I’m doing all the things the hip little articles tell me about ‘promoting my work’ and ‘marketing my books’, but the reality is that I will probably have to live another hundred years before my books are seen by more than a few hardy fans (love you guys).

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A recent shot of all of my readers in one spot — love you guys.

So, for now, I’m not going to be lining any pockets associated with awards — it’s just not cost effective, especially as there is a sneaking suspicion that the major publishers are all that the judges look at.

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Let’s face it, I’m a very small fish in a huge pond.

Here are a few quotes from the article I mentioned, just in case you cannot be bothered reading the whole thing:

“The returns from our very substantial investment every year in shortlisted and winning entries and the minimal sales results from our winning entries tell us something about the way awards and prizes operate these days.”

Terri-ann White, the director of University of Western Australia Publishing.

“When Geoffrey Lehmann’s Poems 1957-2013won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for poetry in 2015, the author received a generous $80,000 but White says, “We saw no results whatsoever [in sales].”

“Publishers agree that in Australia only the Miles Franklin Literary Award for a novel ($60,000 prize money), the well-promoted four-year-old Stella Prize for women writers ($50,000), and the Children’s Book Council of Australia awards significantly affect sales. As well as an $80 entry fee ($60 for early-birds), the Stella asks publishers to pay $500 for each shortlisted title to support the marketing that increases sales.”

“Asked how the system could be improved, publishers suggested lowering the fees, or removing them for small presses; reducing the number of categories to focus attention and cut fees; accepting digital copies, possibly without the author’s or publisher’s name to reduce a perceived bias towards big publishers; announcing shortlists and winners earlier so books are still in shops, and promoting those lists better.”

“In short, you don’t do it for sales, you do it for your authors, and for the reputation of the publishing house. Since we do it for our authors, we can hardly ask them to pay for it – they are less likely to be able to afford the fees than we are, and statistically speaking, it is most likely to be a waste of money for them. So that is where I disagree with Terri-ann. The prize organisers and sponsors should allow free entry for small publishers.”

Ivor Indyk, publisher at Giramondo Publishing.

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I’m feeling a bit discouraged — I need a hug.

Some links worth following:

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-hidden-costs-that-threaten-australian-literary-awards-20161202-gt32wc.html

https://www.bookdesignmadesimple.com/book-award-contests-are-they-worthwhile/

http://publishing.artshub.com.au/news-article/news/writing-and-publishing/brooke-boland/small-publishers-get-a-prized-break-253084

8 O’clock in the morning.

Morning is DEFINITELY not my favourite part of the day. It’s gloomy and wet in my world this morning, but no matter how bad my morning may be it is not as bad as the morning that Mary Bailey is about to have. Scarlett’s friend is about to walk into a nightmare, and it will be up to Sam to extricate her from the dilemma; but for now, let us watch the story unfold………

The Long Weekendd

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Sam and Scarlett’s adventures did not end when you finished reading ‘THE LONG WEEKEND’. 

Scarlett grew up with Mary Bailey. Mary’s world is about to be turned upside down. Scarlett will turn to her man for help, and you know that Sam will do anything for Scarlett, but this case is going to test Sam’s skill and Scarlett’s courage, and it all began at 8 O’clock in the morning…………..

8 O’Clock in the morning.

At that hour of the morning the first cup of coffee is only just making inroads.

The Sergeant is droning on about last nights burglaries and punch ups and road accidents.

He’s very slowly getting around to telling us what our first assignments are for the day.

Crossing guard duty is top of the list of favourites.

Some old dear who usually does the job rings in sick and there are no easy replacements so we…

View original post 757 more words

100 Blue Flags.

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For a while I was submitting stories ‘right left and centre’, but recently I have been a bit more selective.

I tell you this because I know I would have hit the magic 100 mark a lot more quickly if I had kept up the submission pace. [It took 13 months to hit the 100 mark]

As luck would have it, my 100th rejection letter was an excellent email which contained some very positive comments and a few suggestions.

Near Miss

I got the feeling that the story did not miss selection by very much.

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Over the past few months, my focus has changed.

Instead of flogging a few stories to various Lit’ Mags across the world I have decided to concentrate on the ones that published my stories.

Amazingly, there are a few.

But the real focus is to select the best of my stories and self publish them.

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This is a slow and mildly expensive process but it offers the prospect of reaching a wider audience, and of ultimately making a profit [most Lit Mags don’t pay and the ones who do, don’t pay very much].

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I’ve been published enough times to know that every now and then I write a story that people will pay to read.

All I have to do is work out which stories work best and gather them together.

You folks help me a great deal in that regard.

Your reaction, likes, comments help me to sift the ‘also-rans’ from the better stories.

So, thank you for your help.

Hopefully you have some fun during this process as well.

So, here’s to number 100. Raise your glass and toast to her round number. [Actually, since I first drafted this post, the count has gone to 101].

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9 days to go in my crowd-funding adventure and what have I learned?

That’s a good question, and I’m glad you asked.

I was going to leave this post until the campaign had ended but seeing as I’m the boss around here I thought I would bring it forward.

THINGS I ALREADY KNEW BUT WAS REMINDED OF.

* It takes courage to be any kind of artist, and that applies to being a writer as well.

* It is a bit scary when you put yourself out there.

* At some level, everything is a numbers game.

STUFF I LEARNED SINCE I STARTED THE ‘Pubslush’ campaign.

* For some reason the people who have the least seem to be the first to offer their help [even when you tell them not to].

* A lot of people don’t like ‘signing up’ for stuff. [This one took me by surprise but I guess I can see where people are coming from].

*Offers of help can come from surprising quarters. [This was nice to find out]

* Swallowing your pride and asking for help is good for someone who lacks humility [that’s me I’m talking about]

* When people are used to ‘getting something for nothing’ they are reluctant to change the habit. [I get this. I’m a bit that way myself]

* Most of the people who like my stuff are just as broke as I am. [Not sure what this means but creative people are not usually at the top of the food chain, so I should not be surprised.]

* Short of a miracle [or a very rich supporter] my campaign is unlikely to reach its modest goal [it’s the smallest amount the site will allow] and that’s okay. I’ve learned a lot about myself and it has made me determined to keep on creating. It has even gotten me back into my latest ‘Sam and Scarlett’ novel, which had stalled. I now have my final act and it is head down and bum up until the first draft is finished.

* In the midst of all this I found out that a good friend had fallen ill and the thought was that he was not going to make it. It put this, and a lot of other stuff into perspective. It turns out that he is going to be okay and I have to say that his ‘recovery’ is kind of spooky……. in a good way. It’s a long story but suffice to say that he has made a ‘miraculous’  recovery [he has learned a thing or two over the past few weeks, as well!]

To the small number of people who have pledged funds so far I say a huge thank you. Thank you for showing faith in me and taking the time and the trouble to show it [this includes the good people who found my PayPal button and contributed that way]. I love all my readers but you guys will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you for being a part of my dream.

To those who were not able to contribute but took the time to offer words of support and advice I also say a huge thank you. I know your time is precious and I appreciate you spending some of it on me.

.

P.S. The collection of short stories ‘Passerby’ will be published. It’s just going to take a bit longer.

Socks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA lot of things have changed since I took this photo.

Some of those socks have gone missing.

The deck has been replaced.

The ancient ‘walk around phone’, that my son is using was eventually ‘put out to pasture’.

The possum that made the scratches on the wall above the washing machine has been evicted from our roof and now lives in a possum box on the side of the house.

The roof has been replaced as well, but it is just out of sight in this shot.

Two and half grandchildren have begun their existence.

All of our children have moved out of home, and a second dog moved in.

We lost a neighbour and are about to gain a new set.

A lot of things haven’t changed though. We still live here, in this amazing little tumbling down house and we are very happy…………… oh yes…….. and the ghost moved on………. he loved the house as much as we do, but he had to go.

Everyone Wants.

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Everyone wants something to explode.

Not literally, but they expect instant action; twists; turns; surprise endings.

Most of the time I can oblige; most of the time it’s what I like too, but every now and then it comes out as something else.

It doesn’t have a lot to do with me it’s just the way it comes out.

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Sometimes I forget to write for me and end up writing for someone else.

Not that there is anything wrong with giving your readers what they want, but when it gets in the way, there is a problem.

For the last few weeks, I’ve had a nasty little virus which has turned my body and mind to mush. I’ve been doing my best to read [as in, listen to audio books, because my eyes don’t work too well], but writing has been out of the question.

Hemingway describes what happens to you when you go too many days without writing, and I wish I had written it down when I read it, but if you are a writer you know what he is talking about; it isn’t pleasant.

I have a lot of ideas and heap of characters in my head, and they each demand their time in the sun. It’s good for them, but it does not always serve me well.

I have two novels, both partially written, but the progress is slow because various short stories demand to be written.

If I weren’t enjoying the process, it would be a lot easier.

I could simply lock myself in my writing room and not allow myself out until one, or the other of the novels is completed, but the truth is I love the short form. I love the ‘slice of life’ approach. I love coming in near the end.

I love the feeling of standing at the bar of my local pub and telling a story —- beginning —- middle and end —- all in the time it takes to drink a good whisky.

I love that my main character might be a tough bloke or a suburban housewife.

He might be a she, and either one of them might be a dog or a guardian angel.

They might be an inventor or a murderer or even a damsel in distress.

And yes, they may even be a writer.

While we are on the subject; why do editors of literary magazines hate stories about writers?

A story is a story, so WTF?

Why do they care so much?

Someone wise once said that there are only three stories in the world, and every story stems from those three basic stories.

Victor Gollancz

I had an interesting experience with editors just recently; I submitted one of my favourite stories to a handful of Lit Mags and went back to writing and reading and worrying about stuff; my usual routine.

A bit of time went by and I heard from two different editors about the same story.

In one instance, the story was shortlisted for a prestigious University Lit Mag here in Australia [in didn’t make the final cut, unfortunately], and I was honoured to be on that short list.

I was probably lucky that their theme [they only publish four times a year, and they only publish three stories, so it is a big deal if you are chosen] was ‘Into The Future’ because my story was slightly Sci-Fi.

I don’t write a lot of Sci-Fi, mainly because I’m not very good at it, but this story demanded a Sci-Fi setting.

Now here is the interesting part; when I published this story on WP a while back, you, my lovely readers, commented on the content and the style and singled out certain elements that you particularly liked.

They were the things that I liked about this story as well, so I was very pleased.

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Obviously the University Lit Mag editor felt the same way, but when I received a very polite rejection letter from another Lit Mag, they pointed out that they thought it ‘started off well’ but then it fell down in the middle by describing certain places and events and ‘this was time that could have been better spent telling us more about the main characters’.

I laughed when I read this [even though I appreciated the feedback] because these were the very parts that you and I liked about this story.

Can you see my frustration?

Can you see why writers tear their hair out?

I didn’t want you, or them, to know more about the characters; that wasn’t the point of the story.

You and they were supposed to fill in the details for yourself.

Knowing more about the characters would have made the story longer and not necessarily more interesting.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining; I just find it interesting.

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I write for me first, but I definitely write for you.

I want you to have as much fun with a story as I’m having.

I want you to wonder about my characters.

I want you to wonder what comes next and what came before.

I want you to feel sorry for them and to be angry and frustrated that they cannot see what you can see; and I want them to make you laugh —- sometimes at them, and sometimes with them.

Above all, I want you to enjoy the ride.

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I mean it when I say that I often don’t know where these characters are taking me so I get a buzz as it starts to unfold and I hope that you do too.

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Sometimes I sit on trains and I look for a face that interests me; someone I’m drawn to.

I build a life for that person inside my head.

I imagine those that are around them now as well as those who are passed on.

The ones who have passed on are invariably the most interesting; they are ‘the ones who have come before’.

We all have them; they are the ones who loved us or influenced us or were touched by us, but now they are gone. What would they say if they could communicate? I often imagine mothers and grandmothers who are immensely proud of how a young person has turned out. “He’s such a good boy”, said a grandmother who had watched her grandson grow from a boy to a man; she is so proud.

These exercises can sometimes leave me feeling a little sad but on the other hand, it is fun to think of loved ones being reunited.

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I’m not sure what effect these sessions have on my stories, because my stories tend to be in the here and now, but I know that I get a great sense of connection when I practise this. “Everyone has a story to tell”, my mother said this a lot and she was right, they do, it’s just that it sometimes takes a second person to bring out that story.

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As this essay is entitled ‘Everyone Wants’, and just at this moment, my dogs are looking at me as if to say, “We have waited patiently for you to type your story, and now it is time to walk in the sun.”

Winter does not produce a lot of sunny days so they are right, it would be a shame to waste a sunny day.