Sunday, 29 December 2013

Another 5 Star rating review for Inner City

My novel INNER CITY, now has 30 five star reviews on Goodreads alone!. The latest was posted by another lovely reader on 28th December 2013.

Recently Penguin Young Adult division took a look at my book. When I say took a look, they responded to my submission with a request for the file of the novel in a different format because the copy of the file I sent them couldn't be opened.

That was the 3rd of December so I'm guessing silence is yet another pass. It's still a head scratcher to me that so many readers, now approaching 4000, have read it and it rates 4 out 5 on Goodreads, Nooks Books and Amazon, it was a finalist in a global E-book award and yet can't attract any interest. That's how hard it is to be a published writer these days. You only have to look at the huge number of quality E-books on sites like smashwords to realise I'm not alone.

It's also now available on iTunes!

My one reservation about why I can't get anyone to consider publishing is the level of sex in the book. People tell me that is an absolute no-no for a young adult novel. And we're talking one near blow-job and three tastefully rendered all the way sex scenes. Too much? It's all genuinely tasteful by the way, no graphic descriptions. In fact it's all very romance novel level sex and miles below any fifty shades of anything.

It always seems ridiculous to me that adults feel 'Young Adults' can handle gruesome violence, but have a couple thrusting away and they think today's teens will be scarred for life. Huh! Have they not searched for anything on Google lately. Try a search for "Water Sports" mum and dad and see what you end up with!

Anyway - to the reader who left the most recent review:

  • Posted December 28, 2013

     Great great read

    This was my first ebook on my new nook it took me two days to read it thats how good it is. Enjoy ....
    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to let me and others know you enjoyed my book!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Tom Daley dives into the rainbow.

That glittery rainbow just keep attracting people, doesn't it?

All sorts of people have stepped forward recently to declare who they really are and every one of them traveled a personal journey, some rocky, some smooth and then told the world they are attracted to their same sex.

The catch-cry is "It gets better" - and that's largely true. I found you do lose a few people. You put up with a load of bigoted abuse, even more casual abuse and sadly, you lose a few people you don't want to lose. Easy to say "you're better off without" - but that's not always true. Losing a friend or even worse, a relative, who simply withdraws from you is never easy. But keeping such a large secret makes life just too hard - so yes, coming out and finding people you feel safe with and hopefully someone you can love does make everything better.

But it's vitally important people keep stepping forward as LGBT because eventually the diverse mix and sheer numbers will convince even the most cynical that it's a natural part of human sexuality and doesn't stick to stereotypes.

If we are not at the magical percentage tipping point yet, where enough people support LGBT rights, then we are closing in on that number.

So while many are greeting the newly outed with congratulations and #bravery for their open admissions, I'd like to say a simple thank you. It's great you feel strong enough about who you are to stand up and be counted and every new proud LGBT person who can show the world we are everywhere and diverse helps.

Having said all of that - Tom Daley came out and he did it in an extraordinary way while saying some extraordinary things.

I've been a fan of Tom's for a while. Mathew Mitcham, our Australian Olympic diving gold medalist probably directed many Australian's to Tom's amazing story where he competed at Beijing as a 14 year old. Then Tom's father passed away from Cancer a year before he won Bronze in London at 18 and somehow he managed to remain open and sane in the glare of the public spotlight. That's probably when I became a real fan - that's when his actions showed him to be worth paying attention to.

So I wasn't really surprised when he came out in such a way that he shifted the conversation in what I feel is the right direction.

Tom Daley did two things - he came out as undefined. He's currently in a committed and loving relationship with a man. Is he gay? He only says he loves this man. Is he Bi-sexual? He says he still loves women. But he also makes it clear, meeting this man made every other relationship pale.
Tom Daley: "He makes me feel safe and happy, right now I couldn't be happier. I'd never felt the feeling of love, it happened so quickly, I was completely overwhelmed by it to the point I can't get him out of my head all the time. I've never had it before where I love someone and they love me just as much."
I have a friend who identified as gay. No, that's not accurate - he was so gay we expected him to become grandpa acid on a podium in gold hot pants at sixty. Instead, somewhere in his late thirties, early forties he met a woman, got married and is still happily married with children some 15 years later.

Does he run down to the gay sauna from time to time? Does it matter? That's his business. Maybe he's discussed his desires with his partner and they have an arrangement, maybe they don't, maybe being a husband and father is truly all he needed to remain 'gay celibate'.

There are a million questions that spring to mind when confronted by this sort of scenario, but the truth is human sexuality is complex and dependent on meeting that right person at the right time. It's great for those who feel comfortable about where they sit on the spectrum to shout out 'I am Gay!" or Lesbian or Bi or Transgendered, but often this makes a person feel tied down just as much as keeping their sexuality a secret.

How tiring to have to keep declaring 'what you are' every time you meet and fall in love with a new partner.

At the moment Tom Daley has fallen in love with a man. Good for him. If he falls in love with a woman down the track, also good for him. If he stays with his very noteworthy new boyfriend, Dustin Lance Black, for the rest of his life and still doesn't label himself as gay - equally - good for him!

This is not a race to get the most numbers to qualify for a merit badge. As much as I am an advocate for Gay rights and Gay equality I recognize the community is made up of incredibly diverse individuals and it would be so hypocritical to start judging others on their choices. Seriously - so Hypocritical.

It would be like - I don't know, having a gay profile site where members wrote horribly offensive search requirements - not that that would ever happen!  

Being gay, bi or any other label on the sexuality spectrum shouldn't matter. What matters is the recognition that the spectrum is part of human sexuality and being at one end, where the majority sits, isn't better or the goal to validate someone. The goal is empathy and understanding.

I think Tom Daley's coming out brought that into focus. He's out and in love, but he recognizes life is long and things may change. What a remarkable thing to declare at nineteen.

We are all what we are at a point in time and with the right person. It would be a great place to arrive at as a society if we could all understand any of us could love anyone and the moment we fall in love we shouldn't be locked into future choices by the here and now. For many of us we will love only that type, but once again we are not all alike, some will do what some will do and the rest of us should be open to that.

The second thing that Tom did was talk about how he'd been feeling.
"It felt like a dirty little secret, it felt like I had chains wrapped around me, I couldn't be who I was, I felt alone and trapped. Just telling one person made me feel so much better, just that one person took a weight off my shoulder. I told Sophie my best friend first as I knew she'd be really accepting of it. She's been so supportive and there for me. Now that everyone knows, I have nothing to hide, those chains that I felt wrapped around me are gone and I can carry on with my life as normal and be happy."

I naively thought in this internet age that such feelings would be dissipated as young people could go online anonymously and chat and quickly discover they are not alone.

There is a time when you are just beginning the journey towards coming out - a time when you have only just, often reluctantly, accepted the feelings you're having. That's a time when you should not be rushed, so I can imagine in some cases strict parenting rules about internet use prohibit people getting online to chat when it's most needed, or in Tom Daley's case his fame made that impossible. I have rarely heard this time in the journey towards coming out described better.
Tom Daley: "I felt like there was something wrong with me, I didn't know other people out there felt that way, I felt so alone, so locked away and couldn't say anything. Tell one person. Tell your story, how you feel. I've had people send some lovely Twitter messages with people telling me they've since come out to their parents, that they've had some hope, it shouldn't matter who I'm dating in this day and age. Be who you want to be." 
And this is why so many people, including me, believe this is a subject that needs constant publicising so any others, young or old, going through this period of their lives know they are not alone and things can and do get better.

I will always mourn that I never had the full experience of adolescence. I never felt able to talk about or act on natural feelings every teenage has and needs to travel to learn about themselves and life. I hid them away until I was twenty two years old. That shouldn't still be happening. That's why it's so important that these wonderfully diverse people, with well known profiles, continue to stand up and explain what they went through and who they love and they need to keep doing it until the entire world tells them to sit down because they already know and accept LGBT as part of a very normal spectrum of human sexuality.

Until we get to that - thank you Tom and all the rest...

But especially Tom...

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Where has all the blogging gone?

I haven't blogged in a while and I'm not going to say why - because I'm one of those people who believes talking about things that are not finalised immediately puts the moz on them. Moz - def - Australian slang for ruining good luck.

I can tell anyone who is interested it involves a TV show and things are heading in the right direction.

And regardless of what happens I will blog the whole series of events from start to finish because it's been a fascinating journey. I've been down this road many times before - but never this far - and the further I get the more nervous I become.

Now I'm at a stage where all that's left for me to do is cross my fingers and pray.

Here's some stuff that doesn't have any other place to live, so I'll drop it here for anyone who finds it.

The sanctity of marriage is the new topic de jour
Anyone can do it, doesn’t matter, rich or poor
It’s a sacred oath to God that shouldn’t be ignored
Unlike other oaths to God that make us kind of bored.
But don’t let those gay folk reach the altar
They wouldn’t know their fingers from their ring
They’d decorate the church in gaudy colours
And they’d all be booking Elton John to sing!
Marriage is a union, till death tears you apart,
Unless you’re young, you rushed a bit or needed a green card
The ring, the dress, the spot-lit vows, it’s all that we adore,
And I should know, the records show, I’ve done it twice before!
But don’t let those gay types reach the alter
It’s reserved for those who understand the vows
The church is not a toy, like a priest’s young altar boy,
It’s entirely there to join the Herr and Fraus.

Last night a bottle thrown,
Delivered message not condoned,
As I was walking hand in hand,
On darkened street and else alone.
We jumped and looked as tires squealed
A beast to feel in terror taking flight,
It drove at night, sped away.
And then we walked alone,
Our hands still holding tight,
The darkened night was ours to own.
We said a word and labeled them a hoon,
Then passed it into memory soon.
Sad too little fuss, hardly a cuss,
It’s not the first bottle thrown.
This is part of who I am and what my life contains.
Why tell when others yell or comment under breath.
I hardly notice anymore as stares that last,
From those that pass, seem hardly worth my time.
And never tell of moments feared,
When two or more find me all alone with he.
He who lisps a bit and glides,
He who laughs so loud and high,
He with hands that signal every word;
The man whose life my own is blurred.
I never tell when fear comes grim.
When I can’t act for fear of him.
How I just stand and cower long,
In hope he isn’t hurt,
In hope we stay alive.
So far so good, but why?
It’s not a happy thing to say,
I wish I’d gone the other way.
The sisters shake their fists at those that hide,
They yell of heads not held up high in pride.
But every time I see a friend,
Now at the middle of the weary drive,
A friend with son or daughter’s mirrored face,
With shared inflection sharing grace.
I see the moment’s love conveyed,
The child to parent and back the other way.
I see the soul that’s grown,
Asking urging begging to be shown.
I think of all the moments shared between the two.
Years of moments I can only rue.
And all those moments good and bad,
That I will never have or had.
And then the memory of that bottle thrown,
And I am standing once again alone,
Or staying clear from those who disagree.
But why am I a threat to anyone but me?

I heard of a man, who can,
Or at least thought he could,
So he ran; this Two I.C. man.
If he could, I’m sure he would.
He’d be in the know, C.E.O., with an income to flow,
A bonus, a package and a golden hand when let go.
He’d be of the elite, unknown on the street,
Like all any you could meet,
With a lifestyle of kings.
But those type say no to that place, no disgrace,
For the want of a face, unknown.
But the Two I.C. in his suit needs more.
For he doesn’t know of the second logo.
He wants to own a face well known,
Flown and bemoaned, by those set to dethrone.
So what does he need to heed such greed?
To forgo C.E.O of only thousands to stow.
He hasn’t the choice, like many in suits,
Not drilled for the office to settle disputes.
The degrees may be held, but the practical lacked,
So he’s now on a quest, provided he’s backed.
And that’s how they arrive, those who lead us so bright,
The two I.C. men, who could never take flight.
And they stand at the doors as you pass them your votes,
Promising all and spewing out quotes.
You never did know a more trodden on grave,
The democratic ideal, once dreamt of so brave.
For the hollow suits walk down the halls of the laws,
And they guide without knowing what’s behind the closed doors.
They never should lead, the two I.C. kind,
And usually do, from way back behind.
And why are these little men all we can choose?
The leaders we want are too smart to be bruised.
They don’t want their lives in a blind trust hiatus,
Or the prying eyes of a new public status.
It’s the system we’ve fostered,
The system above,
When comes a real leader do we greet him with love?
Or pick on his wife and find a drunk son,
We ignore his real talent and search for the gun.
Because a story is here in a man who won’t fight,
He came down to lead and he’ll do what is right.
The gutters no place for a leader to lurk,
So his arms remain holstered as he gets down to work.
But the public keep reading and they’re not growing near.
They don’t understand as the sheets generate fear.
He’s on the first carriage, as the two I.C’s cheer,
It’s back for their close-ups, another fine year.
For they made all their promises when we lined up to vote,
The odds they’ll be kept are not for the tote.
They’re two I.C. men; they were two I.C. boys,
And they’ll lead us as if we’re all two I.C. toys.
They’ll stay in their club, the house with no name,
Banding together in teams with no game.
They look like they’re playing, with pseudo respect,
Amplified speeches to heighten effect.
But the words are not theirs, for they’re two .I.C. boys,
If they spoke their own phrases it would all be white noise.
These are the men who lead us to where?
And why do we follow? - Because we don’t really care.
One law in a thousand raises eyes, if at all,
But they keep their stamp moving and answer their call.
There’s no thrill in creating red tape everywhere,
That wraps and binds like the most humid air.
Let them stay where they sit, alone on their hill,
Two teams and a few, signing their will.
Look east and west, but no-where near them,
For we’ve all had enough of such two I.C. men.

In all things.
At the cooler as the water flows,
By the lift as numbers grow
There’s a way to behave,
Be brave and it will be your grave.
But once you rise ahead of those,
Who crawl and lick at larger toes,
You smile, and wave and slap the backs,
Of foes who strive to knife attack.
They smile and grin as hand folds firm,
Around a blade, your name has earned.
The crimes are many,
Incompetence rife,
But all is fixed with a swift strong knife.
You can’t speak up or talk of things,
That makes upset or truth that rings,
It’s silence all, and silence gold,
A stellar career to the corporate old.
And tasks that lie and go undone,
Are not relayed to anyone,
Ideas of fresh and exciting scope
Lie in minds that have lost all hope,
The corporate way is a silent one,
Those who survive have avoided the gun,
By lying low in mediocrity,
And choosing a path where they pay no fee.
Their heads below the grasses stay,
That’s the only corporate way.

I have a friend I do not like
He visits every day
And even when I lock him out
I know he’s come to stay.
He came again this morning
To greet me when I woke
Accusing me of doing wrong
Without a word he spoke.
He talked of those in struggle
And how I turned my back
He added up my foolish buys
Relentless he attacks.
And as I argued every point
His patience caused him wait
And then a moment’s lull in time
Before he castigates.
He thinks I’m foolish, hiding out
He thinks I run away
He thinks it’s only time before
The truth will come my way.
And every soul whose eyes look up
While walking separate tracks
Will realise what he says is true
I’m holding them all back.
I’ve tried to reason with him
And he seems to understand
But then he’ll bring up something else
And we‘re back where we began.
I really hope he leaves today,
This friend who’s come to stay
Not to be rude, but time has come
For him to go away.

I haven’t seen a race today,
No-one came around my way,
They didn’t puff and blow on by,
No effort going, no will to try,
Dust remained unturned and still,
And no-one saw an iron will,
As laws of greatness passed away,
I did not see a race today.
And when I slept to end alone,
My feet felt heavy, made of stone,
As if they’d run and pushed on through,
With sweat and grit and teammates who,
Had never been ahead of me,
Behind my feet I couldn’t see,
A single soul that raced today,
Those who did are well away.
Tomorrow’s gun will fire still,
And call for those awaiting will,
To clamp their feet and curl their toes,
As crowds give roar and shooter goes,
Another race will start again,
Another straining path and then,
Those racing will be well away,
By the bell to start the day.
Tears will fall when at the end,
From long behind a signal sends,
It isn’t fair how far to go,
As health and memory outward flow.
But still they’ll call in voices loud,
Ignore the past and speak up proud,
It seems they’ve finally woken up,
And now they want to hold the cup.
But races end as sun sinks low,
The time to run will come and go.
You did not see a race today,
The time for racing’s gone away,
The fear and doubts that stopped you then,
Will haunt you now in folds of ten,
So move your feet and start to run,
Only fools await the gun.

My eye sees upside down, while I look the right way up,
It takes a view like mirrors and the mind is what corrupts.
Inside a skull, like software code, the vision pours on by,
The mind of past recollections makes to find the missing lie.
A sight I see a thousand times is shown as if brand new,
But not before it’s twisted round and decoded of its clue.
And while this concept critics hold as though it’s not bazaar,
Another thought rarely said seems drifting from afar.
When earth became from clouds of dust as twisting gasses flew,
And spinning discs all settled down surrounding our small blue.
The idea goes that force ejects and pushes all apart,
But when we slow and come to halt an inward force restarts.
And back we come as where we were, and passing by what went,
The distance traveled now retraced, the outward dusts re-sent.
These forces larger than a mind, and consequences more,
Who says we haven’t been this way and passed on by before?
Perhaps my life is shorter now, than my father has to live,
Perhaps my Grandma’s brother’s soul, his sacrifice to give.
Perhaps when thinking of the past, it’s all still yet to be,
While my mind has lost what just went by in memory still to see.
And as the mind restructures all, the spiritual to find,
Are not the gifted with next sight, but the rest of us are blind.
If I could have my time again and make good all my wrongs,
And know the fears which lie ahead are worries not held long.
If I was now the wrong way round and heading back to front,
It means my worry’s wasted on a futile long past hunt.
And while our lives progress away and youth comes into sight,
And as our children younger grow, in spite of what is ‘right’,
And when you sit in softer chairs and talk of how you ran,
Perhaps you should be open to the fact that you still can.  

God’s older than time, that’s not just a line,
Even Gaydar would list him above 39.
He’s certainly single, no wife on the shingle
No fiancée, or girl, no regular twirl.
And a lot has been penned about God and his friends,
But never a line of a girlfriend spoken
In his house the male form goes unbroken
So he’s up their alone, in a home he calls heaven,
Avoiding suspicion with Romans 1:27
But he’s not all alone as he works on our fates
There’s talk of his friend, attending the gates.
Peter his ‘flat mate’ who works the front yard.
Toiling all day, his abs cut rock hard.
And the bible tells more, about others before,
One of them Gabriel who God once adored.
Cast out of heaven in a terrible fight
God took off his wings denying him flight.
And unlike straight couples who argue for debts,
A gay separation is about wardrobe and pets
So Gabriel’s wings, the metaphor clear,
The wings were designer, the season last year.
And why should we argue or take any bets,
When Noah’s quite famous for taking the pets.

The beggars are better in Moscow,
Than those you’ll find on the tube.
They have more of a style for theatrics,
And hanging limbs they can’t move.
For the handout that’s asked on the circle,
As polite a request ever made –
And he stands with a cup held in both hands,
And speech well rehearsed for his trade.
“I’m sorry to bother you people,
As you silently ride on this train,
But I need to buy food and find shelter,
To keep me out of the rain.”
And he stands with both arms working,
On legs that look firm and strong.
And his teeth all line up, in the suit that he wears,
And his beard and his hair are worn long.
And I’m wondering why he expects this,
From people worn from the fray,
To give him their change, just give it away,
When they have been working all day?
Does he answer to bosses promoted?
Who served in his place years before?
Does he stress if he’s late and work through his lunch
Has his work become a great chore?
No, the beggars are better in Moscow,
They don’t even need to speak,
There’s the man with no legs on a skateboard,
With only one arm limp and weak,
And it hangs like a tail as he travels,
And swings from in front to behind,
But no-body seems all that bothered,
For this stump on the skateboard is blind.
And the woman whose face rests in fire,
And the skin that’s now fused to her bone,
She doesn’t ask for a handout,
She just stares with a hideous groan.
And the grandmother blind on the corner,
With the scarf wrapped tight on her head,
With her hand outstretched and arthritic,
Come winter in Moscow she’s dead.
These are all career beggars,
Not the hobbyists found on the tube,
To assume that you deserve money,
For just asking is foolish and rude.
And why are you even riding,
On a tube criticized every day?
It’s not like your job is the city,
And you’d lose it if you moved away.
I once saw a beggar in Paris,
And his choice made me nod and agree.
If your goal is to work as a beggar,
Why not choose Rue Rivoli?
For begging’s a fluid position,
With few roots that really take hold,
The weather is better in Paris,
And it’s hard to beg when you’re cold.
I’d like to see a progression,
Of Tesco carts all in a row
Heading away from the city
To the Chunnel and Paris the flow.
But once they are all lined up there,
They should stop and consider it done,
For there’s little left in a beggar’s career,
Why not retire and have yourself fun?
Then there’s a question I’d ask them,
When retired do beggar’s start work?
Wouldn’t that be a wonderful end to it all,
And add a colourful quirk.
There are so many questions to ask them,
And only one thing I know,
It’s a simple fact, but one to be sure -
They don’t want to end in Moscow.

When you see a fly
Go sailing by
Zig zagging round your room
With a high pitched zing
And a see through wing
Ahead a window, boom.
It’s a funny thing
Of all things winged
We call this fool a fly.
We attack with spray,
Or shoo away,
Or electro zap then fry.
Why not call buzz,
This blackened fuzz
With whizzing fizzing yell.
As he dives and zings,
Loops the loop and spins,
His sixteen eyes serve well.
With his big bro blow,
Who is fearless though,
As a house invasion looms,
So we take fly spray,
And aim all day,
Then bizz, buzz, bing, bang boom.
Into walls above
Into windows - shove
His head must be so sore.
We chase and flay,
Won’t he go away,
Can’t he see the open door?
Then he’s out of lives,
On a power dive,
For him there’ll be no later.
On the window-sill
And spinning still
Like a Russian figure skater.
Black Buzz is gone,
No more bing, bang, bong,
As he bounces off my ceilings,
As he lies there long,
I don’t feel wrong,
For a fly I have no feelings.

When I was small, I wanted to crawl,
That’s all.
I’d crawl on my knees,
And jump round with ease, like fleas.
Then I started to walk,
I started to talk, to stalk.
As I stood on my feet,
And walked on the street,
My friends I’d meet.
I’d go on a hike,
To see my friend Mike,
‘Cause he had a trike.
A three-wheeled trike was what I liked,
Then I saw a bike.
On two wheels fast,
It sped on past, a dream at last.
I wanted to ride, down the hill I’d glide,
Full of pride.
Then I saw a board,
On a half pipe broad,
I won an award,
Ollie and hop, a Casper stop,
And a killer tail drop.
Mike wanted to trade,
He put on the blades…
We both needed first aide.
Then I got old,
The board’s buckled and cold.
I’m no longer bold.
I watch from afar,
As I pass in my car,
And tell tales in the bar,
Of the days when I rode,
Tall I once strode,
From the tricks we all showed.
And now with a wife,
For the rest of my life,
Twin boys full of strife.
The day will soon be,
When both of them see,
What sets young boys free…
A shiny new trike.

A Seussian Rhyme
Of all the things you could ever see,
There are probably some you don’t want to be.
There are things your friends will be dreaming of
But they may not be the things you love.
I’m sure you’ll discover your very own dream,
Then watch out world as you head down that stream!
But it’s time that you started, so I’ll get out of your way.
And let you be off, for today is your day.
Go conquer your dreams and find fortune and fame
Go find out if others will remember your name.
Go off to all parts, I don’t know just where.
But promise me this, go with great care.
Some things you’ll find quickly and some vanish like air.
I could tell you of each, but that wouldn’t be fair,
You must find them yourself, as you travel around,
For you may not agree with the things that I found.
So I am letting you go and I swell with great pride,
As you head out my door to a world big and wide.
Never be scared or doubt you are ready,
Chart a straight course that is swift, safe and steady.
And when you need port from any old where,
Make sure it’s my door you return to for care.
Now go and catch fire! Let the world know your name.
Burn out a path that helps stake out your claim.
There’s so much ahead that begins with one stride,
And once you start moving you’ll be in for a ride.
If you work really hard and let yourself grow,
How can you guess how far you will go?
And whenever you rest along your way
I hope you look back to here and say,
“That was the place where I got my start.
Where I found my strength, my voice, my heart.
That’s where I found what I needed to go
And to them goes some credit for the seeds that I sow.”
So hold onto the tail as that tiger roars past,
Hold on for dear life and hold on to your last.
I know there’s no chance of you being eaten,
For you are too fast and bold to be beaten.
My last piece of advice, to help you fulfill
Is to dream bigger dreams and then dream bigger still!
Remember your loved ones, we’ll cheer from behind
As you seek out a path that is all yours to find.
You are only you and that is your fate.
But just so you know – we all think you’re great!

I like the rain,
Sliding down the drain
And taking leaves away.
I like the shine,
From a day less fine
As the fine mist forms a spray.
The streets go dark,
And the empty park,
Where the dogs delight in play.
And the faces hide,
With umbrellas wide,
Under awnings scared they stay.
I like the smell,
And the thunder’s yell,
And lightning’s wild display.
When the wind whips by,
And the papers fly,
And the world is drenched in grey.
I like the feel,
Like a sliding eel,
Of the wet shoes on my feet.
And the world goes by,
Just as if it’s dry,
With a drumming rhythmic beat
And I like the still,
When it stops to spill,
And the cloud no longer purges.
Then the world revives,
And while wet, survives,
All other life emerges.
And the people say,
As they chat all day,
That the weather’s been so bad.
But they’re talking rot,
And thinking not,
For a bad day’s never had.
When it rains on you,
And soaks you through,
Think of barley, wheat and oat.
And next time greet,
A soggy street,
With a water-proof raincoat.

Have you ever wondered why,
When you’re walking on the street,
That certain other people,
Don’t like your shuffling feet?
And the moment that you take a step,
Off the sidewalk curb,
They scream and shout and wave their fists,
As cycles skid and swerve.
But cyclist always hate the slow,
As they plod and trot on by,
They say we do not watch before,
We cross the street or try.
They’ll come spinning, fast as wind,
Without a single sound,
And swerving to avoid our feet,
Will leave them on the ground.
But cyclists aren’t the only ones
With grudges growing old,
For drivers of the smallest cars,
Hate cyclists too I’m told.
They hate them in the big wide lanes,
And climbing up a hill,
With scant and total disregard,
They hunt out new road kill.
And cyclists hate the drivers back,
Especially while they’re parking,
And open up their driver’s door,
A crash, then fights they’re sparking.
But in the end it evens out
As hatred spins around,
There’s another whole new group who hate,
They’re easy to be found.
The big rigs running interstate,
They rule the roads with fear,
They run up close and push them on,
And want the roads kept clear.
There’s a circle going round and round,
As trucks aren’t loved so well,
And the group who hates them most of all,
Is who, or can you tell?
Those walking and just passing by,
On corners wait to cross,
And then comes by a ten ton truck
With logo loud embossed.
So maybe we should stop the hate
And smile and wave on by,
The ped can greet the cyclist with
A warm and loving smile.
If cyclists loved the cars and trucks
They’d learn to love them back,
And jams will never clog the way,
As patience clears the track.
And all can drive in peace and calm
A vehicle state of Zen,
Our roads could be the example set,
A bitumen U.N.

It’s an act, no more; for everyone.
We heroes too scared to show a flaw.
I sit and watch and walk and talk and say nothing real
I answer true to faces upset on subjects I didn’t begin
I see hollow faces enduring times they will gloriously recreate
I say hello to facebook friends to greet but not to meet
Another neighbour died last month, I know because he rots
And in my car I sing and yell because the airtight shell protects
At night I dream and wake in tears, I laugh and hug and feel
So long as no emotion’s spilled in time or space that’s real.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Creative Storytelling - I May Be Wrong

I may be wrong.

I say these words to myself almost everyday and about many things, but there is a growing, nagging, festering unease that washes over me as I get older and experience more. It is an uneasiness towards the number of people who regurgitate ideas that are learnt and not their own.

Great if they've really thought about it and decided it lines up with how they think, but many parrot what is taught without ever truly testing those ideas or asking themselves if they stand by them. They are the established ways and they are taught in a structured environment or discovered through personal curiosity from great books, then those ideas are lauded and revered as the best on the subjects - so the information is locked in as proven beyond doubt because it is thought or reported by greater minds than theirs.

Ironically I'm going to go to one of my favourite authors now - Malcolm Gladwell - who, in his new book, David and Goliath, makes note of the fact progress from great people comes from those people being unreasonable - not unlike-able or disagreeable, but unwilling to accept the current paradigm and refusing to put an idea to bed because everyone has told them it will not work. They were unreasonable in their stubbornness to give up on an idea. Of course he doesn't spend anytime on the millions of people who did the same only to discover they were wrong and the masses were right - but MG writes about things that are illustrative examples that, I believe, are chiefly examined to make you think and decide on aspects of life for yourself. That's why I think so much of his writing.

To me, at the moment, I feel I am zeroing in on something to do with the teaching of screen writing. How many books, lectures and courses I have attended I can't even begin to number. But as I hear the same structural lessons over and over again in minutely different language, I am becoming more convinced that the learning centered around the structural elements of film are inadequate and largely being taught because those elements CAN be taught.

To be clear - I am not dissing this teaching or the learning or structure, I have said before, it is like someone who wants to write learning the alphabet. Nothing is more important than the foundation. But structure is only the foundation and I have spent years being annoyed and frustrated that the higher learning seems only ever to be a more intimate and detailed examination of that structure. A million films are broken down and laid across that structure and this so reminds me of the economics degree I dropped out of in third year when I realised they could only ever analyse efficiently in hindsight.

The structure of films is taught by deconstructing it in ever increasing detail. A thousand incredibly talented academics who are fluent beyond any need with that structure then levitate to positions where they either teach or adjudicate any and every script that comes across their desk.

Good for them. All they need is a story that really connects with them, that meets all the right structural points and they'll be off to production quicker than you can say Academy Award.

But what about the content. Not the form, the content. Who is teaching that? The element which is creative, the element which is subjective is far harder to teach and to learn. And like so many things that are hard it is ignored.

We get airy fairy dismissals - you either can write, or you can't. A fact clearly proven incorrect by their structural lessons. Anyone can write - just follow the form. But they mean write well. They mean write something that will capture people's attention. They mean you can either tell a good story or you can't. They may also mean you can either write dialogue, think up extraordinary twists and turns and surprise your audience or you can't. But these things are much less innate and can certainly be learnt by learning structure and then deconstructing thousands of great films. Whether you call it stealing or learning from, it is still able to be learnt or mimicked at very least by everyone.

I am talking about pure creativity. The thousands of minute moments in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series come from a creative mind and lift a story copied from many sources to be its own story and genuinely original.

And while that is something a person either has naturally or they don't, it can be learnt by many - not all - but by many. And even more who have a creative mind can have their processes improved. In a way there are structural models to follow to refine creativity. And this is the area that I see lacking. This is the area, where if more time were spent on it at the very beginning of the creative process, far less revision would be needed at the end.

Robert McKee advocates a professional writer plans and plans some more before writing a word. He states all the hard work is done at the beginning - but even he I feel starts too late, because again he is talking about the structuring of a story and only barely touches on the creativity - where he notes you can change the creative elements to make the story fit the stricture.

In the same way that great speech writers and advertising men look at and study how every word and combination of words will create and direct an audience's emotional reactions, the same is equally true in the creation of a story and yet this is an aspect that seems to be totally lacking in the current teaching. Or am I wrong again? Are there courses for writers that inform and analyse emotive outcome of story choices?

This may sound like I am trying to formularise and limit creativity, but I don't think so. I am simply arguing that a better knowledge of the elements going into a story - in terms of the most likely reactions those elements will receive - will allow writers to be better informed and make better creative decisions at the very beginning of their process, not in order to fit the structure - which will come later - but in order to avoid the wholesale changes to stories that are forced on writers at the end of the process and often involve massive re-writes on a simple reactive impulsive decisions by whoever has the power to say yay or nay. And those people are making those decisions on issues that should be known by the writer at the very start of the process.

Recently I was throwing around ideas for a new TV show that is looking promising and we discussed giving the male lead, who is about to get married, a child from a former relationship. The producer had asked us to consider a character that would appeal to a younger demographic - and this was one solution. The problem with a child from another relationship for a mid-life male character, who has had little or no contact with that child, is it becomes a negative. We wanted this male lead to be a hero - and yes a flawed hero is often great - but he is flawed enough, so we wanted to avoid more negatives. In this scenario there are only negative explanations as to how the situation came about.

  1. He had a relationship that failed
  2. He had a child outside of a relationship
  3. He didn't want to stay in touch with that child  

Remember we are talking about a reactive negative. How information makes those receiving it feel and in this case, while there are justifications for so many issues at play here - ask yourself - if you were online and trying to evaluate someone to date and they told you they had a child in their teens who they rarely if ever see - what would your reaction be?

Our solution was sperm donation as a Uni student - so now when the child arrives, aged eighteen on 'Dad's' doorstep, there is no negative response to be awarded to our character - except from those who feel jerking off into a beaker for $50 is the lowest form of the service industry.

I was lucky enough to do a fine arts course in theater before I began studying film. I remember many classes that were insane. Pictures and written material stuck to walls in studios, where we would run around until the music stopped, no really - I did that!. Then we'd stare at whatever material we had stopped closest to. Then we would run again as the music started and for ten or twenty minutes we'd do this. Then come and sit and write for two hours whatever was in our heads. We were encouraged not to think, just to write, in a genuinely Kerouwhacky experiment in free form consciousness. Did it help? It didn't hurt, but I also remember one frustratingly angry young man, a younger me, who exploded at the lecturer, who, after I read out my offering, critiqued it on formal grounds, pointing out where my structure had failed me. My fury was vented part because the exercise was about freeing from the structure, but also because back then I lacked the knowledge of structure that any screenwriter requires - so I had missed it more than I usually would. And every one knows as a young man, when challenged - you attack!

The real problem is that teaching creativity is very hard. To me Pride and Prejudice seems like a 19th century version of the Kardashians. Yes I can see the nuance and the subtleties of an examination of the absurdity of social protocols - I've watched the Kardashians (See what I did there?) but that doesn't mean I am enamoured with or choose these stories as my entertainment. I read them with a sense of dread - occasionally I am pleasantly surprised, but often I find it hard going. But I know it's one of the most popular books on the planet - so I can work out I am out of step in this genre. My creative interests are in other areas and that's a really important part of creativity - being aware that yours is not the only voice in the room worth listening to.

I wrote an earlier blog entry about the different story telling personalities I had come across in my work - and this again seems to be the essence of this creativity problem - you cannot teach a master bricklayer and a pianist the same way - even though, the administrators of this world may quite rightly label both as people who work with their hands. Individual creativity is so lauded because it comes in so many unique forms.

But the creative art of storytelling can be taught, or at very least improved. But it has to be done individually to be valued. And if it is done individually, then others can glean like meaning and example and apply that to their own work. I believe getting to hear the individual analysis and development notes towards the creative content of other's work allows you to learn and apply all sorts of moments to your own work. Certainly not all, but some and it allows a writer to get a flavour or a feel for what should be looked for, what should be manipulated and why in order to meet the formal structural foundations and how to choose, tweak and even create the story to be told.

I have said many times, it's all about risk reward - if changing an element in your creative list makes little difference to your story or the direction you want to take that story in, and it gains you a great deal, in most cases meeting the structural paradigms of storytelling - make the change. But if it loses you more than you gain - become unreasonable and stick your heels in.

I feel you can teach creativity as a language the same way you can teach structure. Not everyone will be helped or will gain what they want. Some people truly don't have story creativity in them. Perhaps they have computer programming creativity, perhaps accounting, perhaps scientific - just not story. They cannot, as hard as they try, think of a way to tell a story that interests anyone but themselves. And that's fine, by the way - as long as they're not trying to be storytellers.

I have come across a few, very few, who desperately wanted to be storytellers and simply didn't have it in them, but they are the exception, not the rule. The laws of cumulative advantage usually help the right people stick with it and the wrong people go in another creative direction. I do feel for those people with a yearning and no tools - the Salieri's of the world. To me, as I struggle to make a living as a writer, I know and understand that tragedy. As I named this entry - I am all too aware - I may just be wrong.

But if you are a story generator of any kind, you will have more than one story to tell. And rather than having a bevy of incredible structuralists, who can tell you instantly something doesn't work because it doesn't fit the structure of a well told story, we need to start looking to a group who can help before that stage - creative ideas people, who have the perceptive ability to spot a great story and help develop it so it can be brought to life and then worked on to meet the structure.

I guess that is the central idea of my entire thought process. It comes from my experiences as a writer struggling alone at a desk and trying to create something that will be both, my own story that I want told and a story that others find acceptable and entertaining. It comes from my years of teaching and my years of practical experience as a writer working on shows, running shows and freelancing as a scriptwriter. I feel there is a whole level missing in the teaching of storytelling that comes before the standard teaching currently available.

If storytelling were a plant to grow - then we have many fine topiarists waiting to take the wild bush and finesse it into something extraordinary, but we have very few horticulturalist teachers, ready to help find the seeds and then explain the outcomes that seed, in that soil, with those supplements and climate chosen will produce. At the moment - this judgement is heaped on the writer within the ethereal 'talent' gene. But why? In marketing, public relations and human resources it is taught with an ever increasing number of elaborate tools and studies. Why can't the writers get in on this too?

I feel we are being told to go away and grow the bush and bring it back once it's mature - we'll work on it then. I think it's time we started working on the other end of the creative storytelling journey - the one right at the very beginning when the idea is formed and before it is in any way crafted.

Of course for many young writers, the bush selected at the very beginning will be weed, and then all their passion, hard work and dreams will simply go up in smoke. Nothing wrong with that either!

As a footnote - I did some terrific workshops with Laurie Hutzler about evaluating stories and characters and this is exactly the sort of writer's tools I'm banging on about that needs to be known and understood by writers BEFORE they create the story to give and allow them to make the choices that will deliver the results they are after. It's a little bit like the chicken and the egg in that you need a screenplay to deconstruct in order to understand the work fully, but the work, once understood, about what makes up the personality of character, is exactly what writers need to be aware of when making their story choices. Get one wrong, so a character does something to facilitate the story and is untrue to their character and you will end up with those pesky notes from readers evaluating your work - the sort that strike a deep ache in your stomach because you know the comment is justified and will send you back to the plotting table.

If you haven't heard of Laurie and her work check it out here. Laurie Hutzler.