Swimming in the dark – a review

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


From the opening sentences, I felt the sadness of this story like a weighted blanket, comforting me through the book. This book is poetry: melancholic, innocent, hard and unyielding. The main characters, Ludwik and Janusz, share a love and passion that is pure; a love that is theirs to hold and that holds them in turn. The setting, 1980s Poland, and the background of unforgiving rule and minimalist existence, make their love even more valuable.
I knew I would be heartbroken in the end, even though I had no idea where the story would take me. There was something so predetermined about their love and their lives that left nothing but the knowledge it could not last in that environment.
I highly recommend this beautifully written story, about true love, of another, and of self.



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Box Hill – a review

Box Hill by Adam Mars-Jones

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Box Hill by Adam Mars-Jones is an engaging, hypnotizing, and surprising novel, exploring the relationship between the low self-esteemed main character, Colin, and the world in which he finds himself enmeshed from the age of 18. Colin is an everyman. He is short, fat and self-deprecating. He unexpectedly becomes involved in a six year relationship with Ray, a character who is mythical and mysterious. As Colin’s experiences with Ray develop and grow, so does his relationship with the world around him.
This book was an inspiring read. The language is evocative, honest, and captures Colin’s heart and soul. I couldn’t put it down.



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Invisible Boys – a review

Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a compelling read. Well written, using simple, emotional language that takes you instantly into the heads of the three main characters. A coming of age tale for gay boys. Gritty, hard, reality based stories. Highly recommended.
I found it took me longer to finish than expected, as I kept having to take breaks. The story hit my memories hard, bringing back my own experiences of being a closeted gay boy in a catholic school. Such honesty in the portrayal of what these characters go through. Great ending. Not all happy, but at least hopeful.



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The Fell of Dark – a review

The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


What a fun ride! Auggie Pfeiffer is a normal, horny, uncertain, evolving, gay teenager. He just happens to have crushes on two sexy vampires – Jude and Gunnar. Oh, and he’s being slowly possessed by a fallen Angel wanting to take over the world. Add in witches, a lesbian best friend, and loads of boners at inappropriate times, and you’ve got an exciting and angst-ridden journey through an alternative reality, where vampires, humans, and witches share the earth.
I thoroughly enjoyed this YA novel. Caleb Roehrig provides a well written and emotionally authentic journey. Well worth the read!



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Eat, Gay, Love – a review

Eat, Gay, Love by Calum McSwiggan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Calum McSwiggan spins an interesting, heartfelt, sometimes cringeworthy, tale of his travels in this compelling memoir. The locations are exotic and varied, providing a theatrical backdrop to his very personal experiences. His interactions with the people he meets brought back many fond memories of my own experiences travelling the world, sometimes on my own, and the importance of the people I met.
As Calum says, “… it’s the company you keep that makes a home feel like home.” That is what he experienced in Italy, Germany, India, Thailand, and Spain. And it is what he creates for himself in London.
Calum also manages to include references to LGBT+ culture, laws, norms and behaviours form around the world, reminding the reader that what we might have, others may not, and the fight for justice for all continues.
A touching and inspiring memoir.



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Blame vs Responsibility

Over the past couple of years, my therapist and I have been grappling with my inability to assign blame to others for the harm they have caused me. Without getting too deep, this is mainly related to my parents. What has become clear is I am able to identify and assign responsibility, but not blame.

So what’s the difference? Surely, if someone has responsibility for a certain task, and something goes wrong with that task, they then can be assigned the blame for that mishap? You’d think so, but unfortunately that’s not how my brain works.

Let’s start with looking at the definitions of responsibility and blame, from the Oxford Dictionary.

Responsibility (noun) a duty to deal with or take care of somebody/something, so that you may be blamed if something goes wrong

Blame (verb) to think or say that somebody/something is responsible for something bad

As you can see, the definitions explicitly link responsibility and blame. Why, then, do I struggle to do the same?

Well, in my convoluted mind, whilst I can hold someone responsible for something, assigning blame moves into victim territory. And I refuse to consider myself a victim.

In my therapy, this relates to my parents. I hold them responsible for the things they did or didn’t do during my upbringing, because as parents it was their responsibility to parent. But to blame them for things they did wrong, which have led to the psychological trauma I experience, abrogates my personal responsibility for my own situation and makes me a victim of their actions. I don’t like thinking of myself in this way.

To me, blame also does not always take into account mitigating circumstances in the life of the responsible person. Going back to my parents, I cannot bring myself to blame them for the mistakes they made, as perhaps their mistakes were the result of someone not taking responsibility in their lives. To blame them for something that may have been beyond their awareness or control would be cruel.

Of course, my therapist would tell me I’m just making excuses for their bad behaviour. He’s right. I’ll take the blame for that.

Odd vibrations

The world oscillates with the thrill of vibrations; they make the world a living, thriving place, full of activity and connectedness. Everything, every animate and inanimate thing, vibrates to some degree. Each rock, leaf, person and animal emits a vibration at a personal pitch. When enough vibrations of similar pitch unite, they begin to form towns and cities. These places, conglomerates of vibrational magnetism, attract others who vibrate sympathetically. These others bring with them things – furniture, photos, ideas – that vibrate in harmony with their owners’ lives. Together these people and their possessions add to the overall mass of vibrations that makes a city ‘hum’.

I lived in Sydney for many years. I was born there, originally, although did not really live there until I was in my twenties. It is a city of light and colour and action. Most days you can be mesmerised by the sun glinting off the harbour like a million diamonds. The greens of the trees and shrubs are so deep you could dive into them. The shadows are enticing in the heat of the day. Sydney hums at a particularly high pitch. It is a collection of millions upon millions of small habits and movements; each person getting out of bed; going for a run; surfing; gardening, reading the newspaper in a café. It is each drunken bachelor party in Kings Cross and each football celebration at Panthers Penrith Leagues Club. It is each New Year’s Eve fireworks display from the harbour bridge, and the myriad of yachts in the hundreds of coves, bobbing in unison to the waves slapping a ditty on their sides.

Sydney’s hum is inviting, even intoxicating, to the right people. It is tantalisingly sweet for the young, drawing them in with its heady scent of wealth and sex and distinction. Most of the people who come to Sydney vibrate in harmony with it. If not all the time, then most of the time. This allows them to find their place in the metropolis.

It draws millions of tourists from around the world to marvel at its vacuous beauty. Many visitors find it exciting and exhilarating, but their vibrations don’t match those of the city and they are happy to leave at the end of their holidays, taking memories of the thrilling time they had with them.

I did not gel with Sydney. I recognised the beauty and thrills, but my vibration jarred against the city’s. Its pitch was too high strung for me. It got under my skin and into my mind and made it difficult for me to think. For years I struggled against the tide of Sydney’s vibration as it washed over me and swept me along against my will. I tried to alter my pitch, to match that of the city, or at least harmonise with it, but without success. I took drugs daily, trying to numb the pain the city’s vibration caused me, with some success. The dope did numb the pain, but it also numbed my other senses. I found it increasingly difficult to function amongst others and became withdrawn.

Some people, some very few and talented people, can live in a place even if their vibration jars with that of their town. They learn to adapt. They can ignore the discomfort that jarring causes. Some even channel the discomfort into their being, creating art from the discord. I was not one of these people. I could not adapt my own vibration to that of the city, and I could not exist while the city rubbed itself against my brain like fingernails on a blackboard.

So, I left Sydney and returned to Melbourne, where I was raised. Melbourne had a more pleasant vibration: lower pitched, slower, deeper. The type of vibration that reverberated along your bones and tingled your nerves. The type of vibration that feels like someone is tickling your balls. It’s exciting, but on a more ethereal level than Sydney.

Yet it still was not my vibration. The difference between Sydney and Melbourne was familiarity. Having been raised here, I was used to Melbourne’s vibration. I had become inured to its hoarse rasp in my ear over the years. We did not vibrate in sync. We did not match pitch. We did not harmonise or harmoniously clash. We merely existed together, like a couple who had been married for too long and didn’t know anything different.

It’s been decades since I started manipulating my vibration to match that of others. I’ve tried to meld my particular vibration with people, places, jobs and possessions. I’ve tried to mimic the vibration of others, hoping I could sustain the act and go unnoticed, or until it felt real. As they say, fake it until you make it. I could not fake it, and did not make it.

Every relationship failed because I could not contain my vibration. I would lie in bed and feel every molecule running away from the person beside me. It was like they were sandpaper, slowly wearing away my existence. I could feel myself disappearing beneath the force of their vibration. They were in sync with their world, which gave their personal vibration a force mine did not possess. In the end, I had to leave. I always had to leave.

My saving grace, through all these trials and years, has been water. For some reason, water nullifies the effects of the vibrations. They disappear, dissipating through the water. I could be in the water with hundreds of other people, and not feel like my mind was being dragged across a cheese grater. It doesn’t matter what form the water takes – ocean, lake, river, swimming pool, or bath – as long as I can immerse myself, it provides me with relief.

I don’t know why I have this affinity with water. I find it peculiar that as a fire sign I would find water so comforting. Maybe I vibrate so intensely I burn on a molecular level and need water to cool me down. I bought a house by the ocean, to better feel relief from the agony of living in a world that is constantly trying to eject me. I can swim. Even in winter I can be near the water, not quite relieved of the torture of living in a hostile world, but close enough to know the relief is only a few months away.

It’s quite odd, the way I vibrate. I am beginning to lose hope that one day I will find someone who vibrates in sync with me. Yet if I did, what rapture our vibrations would create together!

Too many ideas! 5 ways I decide what to work on next.

There’s been many a moment during the past 5 months of this pandemic craziness where I have felt stuck, unable to write. I would go to work (thank the goddess I still had a job), come home, watch Netflix, exercise, and go to the supermarket a couple of times a week. Lots of my energy was spent cooking and eating.

At other times I have felt an overwhelming urge to let my creative juices escape the confinement of my head, as they bubble to the surface and threaten to drown me in their tempest. This, of course, has created a new dilemmas for me (and us writers are all about our internal dilemmas!).

Dilemma – with lots of ideas in my head, how do I choose what to work on?

I’ve developed a few strategies to address this common conundrum. Feel free to use them or take them as a springboard to develop your own strategies.

  1. WIP – Work(s) In Progress

This strategy is about prioritising my works in progress, and focusing my energy on the most important ones.

Currently I have two works in progress. WIP1 is a novel, of which I have written about 40% of the first draft. WIP2 is a novella idea (or potentially a series of novellas), of which I have written 0% but have started an outline.

In this strategy my novel is my top priority, and when using this strategy I remind myself of this, praise myself for what I have achieved so far, and set a short term target for what I want to achieve next (e.g. 2000 words, complete a chapter, etc).

This is the main strategy I use as I have made a commitment to myself to completing this novel within a certain timeframe.

Which brings me eloquently to strategy number two.

2. Deadlines

I am really good at writing plans, developing structures, making notes, and setting personal goals. I am really crap at following those plans and achieving those goals. I’m the type of creative with a wandering mind.

Except when there is a deadline.

This closing date for entries to a writing competition, or for submissions to a magazine. Or a deadline set by someone commissioning a piece. It doesn’t matter where the deadline comes from, as long as it is set externally, i.e. not set my me!

This approach to writing works well for me, and I have never missed a deadline. I find external restrictions help me focus my energies and channel my creativity into a finished product.

This probably also has something to do with my desire to please people and not let them down, but we’ll leave that conversation for my therapist.

3. Distraction

Ah! My favourite strategy for deciding what to write next.

This is one of the simplest strategies, whilst simultaneously being the most procrastinating. It involves writing whatever I want, regardless of what I should be doing.

This strategy ignores priorities, deadlines and expectations. Instead it’s all about instant gratification. What do I want to do right now?

This may sound negative, but distraction has it’s place. Writing a short story or poem can help explore a new style, get an idea out of my head and into a format I can work on later, or be a strengthening exercise.

Regardless of the purpose of the distraction, I still take pride in the fact I am writing. Which, after all, is the point of being a writer.

Sometimes, a good distraction is exactly what you need to get back on track.

4. Inspiration

This strategy is about harnessing creativity. It is aligned to the concept that ideas come to us from the ether. Let me give you an example.

Last week, while sitting on the train on the way to work, I looked out the carriage window and saw the empty streets and dull buildings whooshing by in the grey morning light. Everything was deserted and depressing.

Objectively I knew this was because the city was in lockdown due to COVID-19. But creatively, this scene, and my relationship to it, inspired contradicting whimsy and melancholy in me that inspired a poem.

I immediately took my notebook out of my bag (I never go anywhere without a notebook for this very reason) and started scribbling out the poem as it flowed into my head.

This is inspiration. It’s like creativity is passing through me from some external mystical source, and I am being given the opportunity to capture it and turn it into something of my own, something I have created.

For me personally, this strategy takes priority over all others. When inspiration strikes, I just really want to get something down on paper. I may not work on it again for days or weeks, or never, but in the moment it feels like the most important thing to do.

5. Learning

As a writer constantly looking to improve my skills, I regularly enrol in courses that spark interest for me. Currently I am enrolled in two online course – one focusing on dialogue and one focusing on point of view.

When working on my WIP or another piece, I may find myself feeling stuck, or questioning what I am doing or how to express myself. If the scene I am writing is related to the course I am doing, I may choose to stop writing and do a couple of modules or look back through previous modules, to clear my head and bring confidence back to my work.

All the courses I do have practical elements where you are given opportunities to complete a short writing task to practice what you are being taught. These exercises, and continued learning in general, are good ways for me to maintain focus on my writing, and keep myself motivated.

So that’s it. These are the five strategies I use to decide what to work on next. This blog post, for example, was a combination of strategies 3 & 4. Now it’s done, I can get back to my novel and finish that chapter!

Happy writing, y’all!

‘You’ve lost weight’: The unconscious judgements in compliments

I returned home from overseas in March, and entered two weeks’ isolation under the rules to contain COVID-19. This was early in the virus spread, so I was lucky enough to spend the two weeks in a holiday house near the beach.

During those two weeks, I did not leave the property. On sunny days, I could not go to the beach or walk into town. I had my groceries delivered from the local supermarket, and occasionally spoke to a neighbour over the front fence. But mostly, I was alone.

What I did, was eat – lots! I was bored and lonely and spending most of my day on Netflix. I would start off eating healthy – cereal for breakfast, and a sandwich for lunch. By dinner time I was looking for all the favourite comfort foods I had bought – schnitzels, mashed potato, chips, chocolate, and several bottles of wine. I also took a case of beer with me, left over from my last birthday, and drank one every day.

By the second week of isolation I realised something had to change. I was feeling the weight pile on. Already a larger person, this added weight was not welcome.

I started exercising.

There wasn’t a lot of variety in the exercise I could do, stuck in a house. I alternated between a high intensity interval workout in the lounge room, and jogging around the outside of the house. I even completed 20 kilometres around the house one day, (333 laps – and my legs paid for it!), but usually managed between 7-12 kilometres.

Returning to home and work, I continued my exercise routine. I also started changing my diet. I still drank wine and beer, and ate chocolate and chips, just a lot less than before. As all the cafes were closed, I made my lunches to take to work. This allowed me to focus on healthy options.

You can imagine what happened. I lost 12 kilos (so far!). I felt good. I was fitter than I had been in years. I was even hammering new holes in my belt to hold my pants up!

Then I started receiving compliments from people, both at work and in my private life, about my weight loss. For some reason, these compliments made me uncomfortable.

I realised I was interpreting ‘You’ve lost weight’ as ‘You’re not as fat as you used to be’. While this obviously was not the intended message, it was a clear message behind it. To notice I have lost weight, they must first have noticed I was fat. Not being able to say ‘You’re not fat anymore’, they use the commonly accepted phrase of ‘You’ve lost weight’.

Our culture is ingrained with the concept of ‘thin is best’. I don’t need to go into this idea – there have been countless articles, critiques, and studies done to prove this point. What I’m focusing on is the praise we give weight loss, and how this message is received.

Some people crave this positive reinforcement of the hard work they have done to achieve their weight loss goals. Some people accept these comments as the normal response to weight loss, and even give the comments out themselves. Then others, like me, find the comments offensive.

As you can see, I interpreted the message as an unconscious acknowledgement that not only did they think I was fat, they paid attention to how I looked and judged me negatively for being fat. They could now judge me positively because I was aligning to the societal belief of ‘thin is best’, and publicly declare their acceptance of my physical form.

This also implied they felt more comfortable with a thinner me, as well. I mean, who wants to be friends with a fat person?

It got me thinking about the privilege thin or average weight people have, of which they are unaware. How else to explain someone feeling they have the right to comment on my body in the workplace, or in public?

I also thought of what message these comments send to others within earshot; others who may struggle with their own body issues. Giving this praise, and accepting it, reinforces the message of ‘thin is best’. If praise is only given when someone loses weight, this can reinforce negative body beliefs for others.

At my first dinner out since restrictions eased, two friends commented on my weight loss and started asking questions about my diet and exercise. I quickly but politely shut the conversation down. I thanked them, and said I did not want to discuss this further. They both accepted my stance, hopefully without offense, and it was not raised again.

But can I do this in the workplace? In my particular workplace, it is usual for staff to discuss their weight, diet and exercise. How then to politely shut down comment on my weight, without impinging on the conversations of others? I also know some of the people I work with take offense easily. If I were to raise concerns regarding their comments about my body, this could easily lead to conflict, and eventually involve management. Both things I wish to avoid.

Should I skimp my pride and go along with the status quo, to avoid conflict? Or should I politely introduce the topic of inappropriate body comments, opening a discussion (and possible conflict) which could change the conversation positively for me and others?

Courage would dictate I take the latter course. Another benefit from the Black Lives Matter and #Me Too movements is that courage is not always easy, but is usually necessary. This issue may not be as life threatening as what BLM and #MeToo are addressing, but every step towards confronting prejudice in any form can only be good for society as a whole.

I will challenge the idea that my body is an open topic of conversation for others, and hope this brings about positive change. In the meantime, feel free to talk about my self-inflicted, isolation haircut. Now that is a topic worth discussing!

Since I became a writer …

It’s been a year since I resigned from my job as a manager and moved to a part-time, low-paying role within my organisation, all so I could focus on becoming the writer I always wanted to be.

In the past year I have started two novels, written and rewritten over thirty short stories, created more than 20 poems, completed a couple of essays, and composed a plethora of flash fiction.

I have entered hundreds of writing competitions – from flash fiction to novel development – and only won once. I have submitted poems and short stories for publication, and not had a single acceptance.

Does this mean I’m a poor writer? Or that I just have nothing worthy to say?

The most success I’ve had with my writing has been through this blog, and Twitter. The responses I’ve had go someway to disproving both the questions above. On reflection, though, there is an element of truth there also.

I believe I am becoming a better writer as time goes on. I am learning from courses I have undertaken, from following other writers’ blogs, and reflecting on the feedback I get from some of my submissions. This would indicate that although I may not be a poor writer, I definitely had (and continue to have) room for improvement. The more I write, the better writer I am becoming.

I am also finding my voice. As soon as I resigned from my manager job I started working on a novel, the idea for which I carried around for a decade. I was surprised when I found it difficult to focus on writing this novel. I mean, I’d thought about writing this story for ten years! Why was it so hard to do? I thought the problem was just me adapting to a writing lifestyle. Then it dawned on me – I’m just not that into the story.

I was writing something that I thought other people would want to read, not something I wanted to write. I was approaching my writing from a sales perspective: this book has the potential to appeal to anyone from a teenager to a grandmother, therefore it has the potential to sell and be popular. This was true when I started writing the novel, and is true now. But it was not enough to inspire me and keep me engaged with actually writing the story.

I have since put this novel aside and started a new one. This new novel engages me at a personal level where writing is a pleasure, and words pour out of me with little effort. The story entertains me as I write it (I even laugh out loud at what my characters say!), and I think about it all the time.

This is what writing is meant to be.

I may not be having much success with all my submissions and competitions, and I may still be struggling to cement my voice and ideas into writing that is compelling for publishers and readers. But I am writing. And creating things no-one else has created.

This is what I have achieved in the past year. It gives me hope for what I will be able to achieve in the year ahead!

Would you move for love?

This is an interesting question that someone posted to my Twitter group a couple of weeks ago. The answers submitted by members included: ‘Yes! Enthusiastically, anything for love’; ‘No, I’ve done it before and it didn’t work out’; and, ‘I wouldn’t make room on the couch, let alone move to another city’.

It got me wondering – how stuck in our ways are we?

I know as I get older, I become more comforted by my habits and routines. It generally makes for an easier life. I don’t need to make difficult decisions. I don’t need to weigh things up, or care about the details. Because all these things are taken care of. We spend our lives creating a sanctuary, a place where we are safe and secure and can relax.

But is it wise to give up on challenges, even small, everyday ones, as we get older? Should we sacrifice the possibility of love, for comfort?

Recently I’ve connected online with a guy that lives in Sydney. We’ve gelled really well, and very quickly. In our current situation, distance is both our friend and our enemy. Distance has prevented us from meeting in person, or taking our connection to a physical level. Distance, though, has also slowed everything down, forcing us to spend more time just talking than we might otherwise. We recognise that distance may help us to get to know each other better in this initial stage than we would if we were in the same city.

But what will happen if this is ‘love’?

I was born in Sydney and I’ve lived there a couple of times in my twenties and thirties. When I returned to Melbourne at forty, it was with relief at escaping Sydney’s oppressive over-population and rampant vacuousness. I was mainly raised in Melbourne, and it had always felt like home to me. When I was living in Sydney it felt as though I was visiting, as though I was on holidays.

So would I move back to Sydney for love?

Honestly, I don’t know. I would like to think I am still adventurous and willing to take risks in my fifties. Then I think of my friends in Melbourne, my created family, and the thought of being away from them, even just in Sydney, makes me sad.

The other option is he moves to Melbourne. I’m not sure what he thinks about this idea. And honestly, it’s far too early in our relationship to even have this conversation. But it’s there, in the background, hanging over us. What if we put all this effort into creating a relationship, then can’t even commit to living in the same city?

How much is love worth?

That was me, then, but not me, now

Advice to writers often consists of ‘write what you know’ and ‘writer from the heart’. As both these things are inconsistent – that is, they change constantly – how difficult is it to be consistent in our writing?

Writing a novel can take anywhere from a few weeks to years. It is inconceivable to think a writer’s personality remains static for this length of time. Writers like to learn, change, and challenge who they are and what they think. Thus, at the beginning of a novel someone might write ‘what they know’ at that time. Twelve months later they might ‘know’ something different. If they are still working on the same piece, how do they ensure consistency in their work?

This is one of the skills needed to be a writer. The ability to ‘trick’ yourself into being who you were, in order to return to the time and place of your work. You may bring new words or experiences with you (after all, a work in progress often evolves) but the voice needs to remain the same.

I could work on a my novel today, and would need to find the voice I’ve been using since I started this piece a year ago. The narration, the voice, of the work needs to be steady so a reader can follow the story and not feel like they are being tossed around.

If I also wrote a poem today, I could use whatever voice I thought appropriate to that piece. This could be today’s me, yesterday’s me, or four year’s old me. Whichever voice I chose, I would then need to re-access that voice every time I edited that poem in future, to remain consistent.

Does all this sound confusing? It certainly can be. This process – finding, using, and re-using a particular version of yourself, your voice – is one tiny element of a great big whole that goes into writing, and is reflected in how writers relate to the world. There is so much going on in a writer’s head that they may come across as absent-minded, distant, self-absorbed, introverted, air-headed, distracted, forgetful, a little bit crazy, and a whole lot of weird.

All true. But that’s not all there is to a writer, who is just a person, like you.

Writers Victoria April Flash Fiction

Thanks to Writers Victoria, lock down in April was a lot of fun! They ran a daily Flash Fiction competition for the month. Each day a ‘prompt’ word was tweeted, and writers had until 9pm to tweet their flash fiction reply. All entries had to contain the prompt, and be less than 30 words long.

I didn’t manage to enter every day, but got there most days. I even won on day 19!

Here’s a selection of my entries.

Moving through the abandoned spaceship, Alana heard a rumbling growl. She unholstered her laser gun. There! She fired, missed. Her last thought – why is there a lion on this ship?

Day 18, prompt word – Laser.

A person forces spoons of mush into my limp mouth. I drift into memories.

You, me, swimming off the Italian coast. The sea sparkling, hypnotising.

The majesty of youth, lost.

Day 19, prompt word – Drift. The winning entry!

It’s here. I need it.

Tears roll down my cheeks, then a spotlight hits the memory.

There!

You, in bed, smiling sideways at me, face creased.

God, I miss you!

Day 20, Prompt word – Spotlight.

‘Theesway,’ she said.

‘Thee sway?’ I asked, confused.

‘Si.’

I swayed. She walked away. I followed, swaying side-to-side.

‘Your table,’ she said.

Oh! This way!

I stopped swaying and sat.

Day 21, prompt word – Sway.

They pushed me to the centre of the dais. Tears flowed. I smiled proudly and knelt, my head overhanging the block.

The honour of being chosen to appease the gods!

Day 22, prompt word – Centre.

I read the letter again; white faced, slack jawed. Lymphoma – confirmed. Words drift dizzily across my vision – radiation, chemotherapy, bone marrow. All I see is a death sentence.

Day 23, prompt word – Read.

‘Measure twice, cut once,’ my father always said.

Sage advice from the old bastard.

He screamed into his gag as I sawed his leg, exactly 25 centimetres from his foot.

Day 24, prompt word – Measure.

The mirror assaults me.

I pinch skin between my fingers but it’s stretched too tight.

My eye’s reality is distorted in my mind.

I’m so fat!

My body consumes itself.

Day 27, prompt word – Distorted.

Lashes dipped seductively over smoky eyes. Lips licked in anticipation. Elation a dance beat in the veins.

Fixated on you.

Magnetic gaze drawn together. Breathing faster. Velvet touch.

We crest.

Day 29, prompt word – Fixated.

‘Paola! Focus!’

Paola pushes the tablets away, fear scowling her face.

‘I don’t want them! Leave me alone!’

Her mother sighs, exhausted by this daily battle with a damaged mind.

Day 30, prompt word – Focus

Promoting Mat Clarke

Please check out Mat’s short stories from my collaborative website “https://www.worldwriterscollective.com/mat-carke“, there are also many great authors to chat to and other stories to read.

Mat Clarke | free-stories – Read Great Stories

This makes sense considering it requires no research. If it happened to you then you are the best person to write about it. The only thing you need to do then is make it interesting for people to read and put it in a format that people will want to read.

http://www.worldwriterscollective.com

I will be promoting a different writer from the World Writers Collective each week, as a plug to my fellow collective members, to promote our work, and provide entertainment and inspiration for everyone. Enjoy!

This is sooooo boring

There’s a lot of people complaining online about being bored right now, what with all the restrictions, social distancing and closed attractions. That’s part of the reason we are seeing a more of restriction breakers in public places.

‘Boredom: the desire for desires’ – Leo Tolstoy

I’m feeling it today. I have editing that needs to be completed, which I am steadfastly avoiding. It’s boredom, born from procrastination. I’ve vacuumed, mopped, shopped, and had three coffees. I might be bored, but I still find plenty of things to do whilst feeling bored. The problem with doing all these avoidance tasks is eventually I’ll run out of distractions and be faced with nothing but the original task. Oh well, at least the house will be clean and well stocked!

Why do so many people have such difficulty sitting with their own boredom? Have we, as a progressive and connected society, lost the ability to entertain ourselves? Many people are going shopping because they are bored. It seems shopping has become one of our society’s greatest recreation activities. All I can say to that is – boring!

‘I’m rarely bored alone; I’m often bored in groups and crowds” – Laurie Helgoe

Here’s my issues with people going out and about, and declaring their boredom online for everyone else to see.

Firstly, we are in a PANDEMIC! Going shopping because you are bored puts you and everyone else at risk.

Secondly, use your MIND! Using shopping to fill your boredom is lazy.

‘Life is never boring but some people choose to be bored’ – Wayne Dyer

This ain’t so bad (except for all the dying)

Take away the illness and death and economic recession, and this isolation/distancing thing ain’t so bad. Alleviates most of my social phobias. My counsellor was like ‘I knew you’d be enjoying this’ and I’m like ‘Well, the government said I can’t go out, so it’s not my fault’ and he’s like ‘You don’t have to sound so pleased about it’ and I’m like

Arnold Schwarzenegger Smiling GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I hope everyone is doing ok.

How many Twitter followers do you have?

I’ve been a Twitterati for a few months now. It is an enthralling, engrossing and enriching place to make contact with other writers – new and established – particularly at this time of social isolation when I don’t have access to my usual writing groups and supports.

I’ve learnt most writers on Twitter are generous with their time, feedback and ideas. Even in Twitter-speak (240 characters, including spaces) they manage to convey a sense of welcome and belonging to others.

What I don’t understand is the constant push by some writers on Twitter to increase the followers for all writers. Does having more followers equate to increased book sales? And if you are a new, as yet unpublished, writer, does having more followers equate to increased interest from agents and publishers?

Does having more followers even equate with increased popularity?

I’m not sure any of this rings true. This could be an indication of my ignorance for all things Twitter related, and the importance of Twitter popularity for publishers. Maybe someone will put me in my place about it, and that’s ok.

I don’t have that many followers (95 at present) and I’m sure I am not that interesting that they all pay close attention to every post I make. I follow 146 Twitter accounts (most are writers, but some are publishers or magazines) and I know I don’t pay close attention to every one of their feeds. I just don’t have the time.

Perhaps the push for followers is a reflection of the need for external validation, a societal addiction to quantity over quality. It’s been ‘going around’ for a while now, the need to be publicly recognised. Perhaps all these writers pushing for more followers are literary influencers. Perhaps they believe if they have a thousand more followers they will influence which books are sold, which publishers are honoured, and which authors are followed. Perhaps by writing this, and questioning their motives, I have cut myself off from a well-spring of advertising and promotion.

Personally, I like to know who I’m following. I read their profile, read a selection of their tweets, and look at who they follow, before I follow them. There have been a couple of people who have followed me whom I have not followed back, because I did not think their interests aligned with mine, or I found something offensive in their posts. To me this is quality control, and I am mostly about the quality.

That said, once I publish my book, there’s a possibility I will become a popularity whore and pimp myself out on Twitter too! We all have a price, right?

A writer or a fraud?

I read advice once, on becoming a writer. I think it was in an interview with Matthew Reilly. He said – if you want be a writer, you need to call yourself a writer. On my way home from my last overseas trip (remember those, pre-corona?) I listed writer as my occupation on the immigration form. I called myself a writer, I thought. I’m a writer now. Right?

I keep looking for advice on how to become a writer. Many other writers say – to be a writer, you just have to write. So, I do. I write as much as I can muster, and the rest of the time I think about what I will write. Some days I write pages and pages. Some days it’s a few lines. Other days it’s edits and re-writes. And still other days it’s a desolate canyon with tumbleweeds lazily rolling past. I’m writing, I think. I’m a writer now. Right?

Still more advice promotes the need to learn the skill of writing. If you want be a writer, you need to perfect the craft of writing. I believe in the importance of honing my craft, and enrolled in (another) online writing course, this time with C.S.Lakin. It’s very good. I’m learning the craft, I think. I’m a writer now. Right?

Someone from my writing group said having a blog is a good way to raise awareness of your identity as a writer, and get your writing out into the world for others to read. So, I went on WordPress and created a blog – this blog. I make posts (though not as many as I should) and upload stories, flash fiction and poetry. I have sent my writing out into the world, I think. I’m a writer now. Right?

Just today I won a flash fiction completion through Writers Victoria, and received posts of congratulations from so many writers on Twitter. I won an actual writing competition, I thought. I’m a writer now. Right?

So why do I feel like a fraud?

Promoting Cecile Ravell

Please check out Cecile’s book on tainted love, of which has been published, from my collaborative website https://www.worldwriterscollective.com/cecile-ravell

‘Love on a Faultline’ takes you under the skin and into those intimate places where a woman’s vulnerability lies. It shows how her fragile sense of self-worth makes her a ‘sitting duck’ for a dominating man and how she eventually struggles to free herself. A manual for reflection and a testimony to resilience.’ Magz Morgan.

For more information: https://ravellc.wixsite.com/ravell-the-writer/more-info
Copies available at $25 plus postage, via email from website.

‘Dilemmas of a Middle-aged Madonna’ soon to be released, opens with:
‘Jessica Vale sat on the warm sand, her chin in her hands, and looked out at the pristine water. Her skin yearned for Jake’s touch. Tears welled as she watched the waves gently caress the shore, their alluring rhythm beckoned. How soothing it would be to rest forever in their comforting embrace, free of the unbearable pain that pierced her heart.’
https://ravellc.wixsite.com/ravell-the-writer/single-post/2018/02/05/Loves-dilemma

There are also many great authors to chat to and other stories to read: https://www.worldwriterscollective.com

I will be promoting a different writer from the World Writers Collective each week, as a plug to my fellow collective members, to promote our work, and provide entertainment and inspiration for everyone. Enjoy!

Dear World, are you dumping me?

Dear World,

Are you dumping me? It feels like you are pulling away from me. I feel isolated and alone. I’m confused, to quote the Handsome Furs. Did I do something wrong? Did I offend you? to quote Lauren Ruth Ward.

I know I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to you lately. You know how it is – work is full-on, I got bills to pay, to quote LunchMoney Lewis. I try. Remember when I took you to Bali for a week, and we stayed in that luxury villa with a private swimming pool? You did like the beach and The Warmth Of The Sun, to quote The Beach Boys.

I strive to make time for you, and only you. I made a Date Night, to quote J Tillman, just for us. You know the one, Earth Hour. You said it made you feel special, but I guess with you feelings don’t last, to quote Six Part Invention.

What do you want me to do now? I don’t want to just be somebody that you used to know, to quote Gotye.

I’ll keep my distance for a while, if that’s what you want. I’ll respect your desire for breathing space. I won’t grab your hand if I see you in public. I’ll keep my tears to myself as they flow like the ocean, to quote Clean Bandit.

Please World, please don’t leave me this way, to quote The Communards. Give me one more chance, to quote Jackson 5. I will always love you, to quote Dolly Parton.

Come on World, baby, boo. You know I love you, and I’ll make it up to you, to quote Imagine Dragons.

Just don’t talk to me about the environment, ok?

Love,

Humanity.

Jericho Writers Twitter competition

All right, here’s what I submitted.

For the first novel:

She cares for the wounded & dying. He’s suffering a mysterious illness. The war gave them opportunities outside their normal lives. Their friendship will give them solace they never anticipated.

A story of unexpected comradery during misfortune. Based on actual letters from WW1.

And for the second novel:

My heart is broken but the condom’s ok! An erotic & neurotic journey through a gay man’s life.

A corpus of funny & disturbing anecdotes on life as a gay man, from a teenager to fifty. A mocking array of relationships–infatuations, one-night stands & boyfriends. I dare you!

I think that’s pretty creative for 2.26am. Maybe I am a night-scriber. Now if I could only get my mind to stop thinking about this damn virus and GO TO SLEEP!

Day-writer? Or night-scriber?

I’ve figured out I’m more productive when I’m alone; now I’m figuring out if I write better during the day or at night. Why? I here you ask. Well, it’s 1.36am and I can’t sleep. So I did what many of us do in such a situation – I checked Twitter. Lo and behold, what do I find – a writing competition!

Jericho Writers has challenged authors to pitch their novel in one tweet by 5pm today (Thursday 26th March). I know I said I wouldn’t do any more competitions, but this is too much fun to ignore.

It’s micro-writing. Twitter allows 280 characters, including spaces, per tweet. So far in this blog post I have used double that allowance. You see the challenge in this? Delicious!

What am I going to promote? As it happens, I’ve been working on two novels for the past year.

The first novel is based on letters my great-grandmother received during world war one. The story is a fictionalized exploration of the friendship that develops between an English Red Cross volunteer in an army hospital in Oxford, and an Australian officer admitted to the hospital with a mysterious illness. In the story, their friendship helps her deal with suppressed emotions from her brother’s death earlier in the war; while it helps the soldier deal face the prospect of his death, and the stigma of being surrounded by soldiers injured in battle, whilst having no war injury himself. Their friendship is platonic, which adds another element to the story.

Hmmm, difficult to encapsulate in 280 characters – including spaces!

My other novel is bit more risqué. Ok, a lot more risqué. It’s a collection of inter-related short stories about my experiences as a gay man, from a teenager to my fifties. The stories examine the relationships I’ve had in my life, from infatuations to one-night stands to boyfriends. The working title of this novel is My heart is broken but the condom’s ok: An erotic and neurotic journey through a gay man’s life. That one should be easier to tweet about, as that’s a tweet right there!

Let’s hope writing this in the middle of the night sparks some extra creativity in me.

Production? or Procrastination?

As I previously stated, I find being alone to be more conducive to productivity. As I am currently in two weeks solitary confinement for the crime of traveling to Bali, I wondered if this would make me more productive? Or if I would slip into a stupor of procrastination, fueled by Netflix, books and chocolate?

Well, I’m halfway through my confinement and I have to say, so far so good. I had a couple of days where nothing could tear me away from binge watching an Icelandic crime drama on Netflix. But other than that, I have managed to balance Netflix, reading, and writing.

As of today, I have entered seven short story or flash fiction competitions in March. I have one more to complete to round it out to eight. These writing competitions run throughout the year, so here are their details if you are interested. These organisations/companies also offer editing and other services for writers. They are really good resources to keep for the when you need them, or join their mailing lists.

So, I’d have to say isolation suits me, creatively at least. I’m fairly happy with my output in both quality and quantity. I think for the second week of my confinement I’ll focus on my book(s) and give the short stories and competitions a rest. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going without a deadline to meet!

Promoting Amanda Burchell

Please check out Amanda’s book on smoking with funny anecdotes, which has been published, from my collaborative website https://www.worldwriterscollective.com/amanda-burchell

I Like Everything Smoked by Amanda Burchell. Available by request, (please enquire via email). Languages: English. Published 26 – May – 2010.

Research on taxes from tobacco and comparisons with other pollutants were used amidst funny anecdotes and short stories and accompanied by photo/graphic- creations by Mike Cook.

http://www.worldwriterscollective.com

I will be promoting a different writer from the World Writers Collective each week, as a plug to my fellow collective members, to promote our work, and provide entertainment and inspiration for everyone. Enjoy!