Tuesday 24 January 2017

What's my blog focus in 2017? C'mon Aussie, c'mon!

Hi there!

I haven't been posting much lately. I've seen posts from fellow bloggers who've made changes to their blogs and have thrashed about ideas for a blog focus. My posts have been fairly random--writing craft, guest bloggers, WEP (Write...Edit...Publish) news and posts, random book reviews, some political flavour, the odd photo essay, an occasional travel article.

But no focus.

So...what to do? Many bloggers have given up the weekly post for a monthly post, only turning up for the IWSG where there's a wider readership. I totally get this, and I've considered it, but the idea doesn't work for me. I totally get how time consuming blogging is, because it's not just about the post, it's about visiting other bloggers, commenting, encouraging, applauding. We all have time constraints. We'd all like more time to write. We'd all like to ignore social media at times. And once a month blogging is better than not at all...but is it? If you want to have a 'live' blog, I think you need to turn up maybe once a week or at the very least, once a fortnight. What do you think? Hit me with your wisdom!

Everyone likes different things so no matter what focus I choose (and I'd definitely like to be more focused) there will be those who like my posts and those who won't. That's human nature.

So, except when I have WEP business (and do note the badge in my sidebar telling you all about our challenges for the year), I'm thinking of making my blog more about Australia. I started blogging as L'Aussie. (I know, yawn, yawn, yawn). Time for bed. Time to run to another blog. We don't have the exciting Donald Trump-- our pollies are boringly normal and earnest people and sometimes even honest which doesn't make good copy. Australians are generally satisfied with their standard of living, high wages, unpolluted air, even if we're feeling the effects of that 'fake hoax' of climate change.

We're sizzling down here and not just from bushfires. (Peregian Beach had bushfires just last week when I was travelling in Northern Queensland -- the tropics).

Our summers have gone from three months to six month heatwaves. We go from air-conditioned homes to air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned offices or to air-conditioned shopping centres (malls), swimming pools, the waterways or beaches (80% of us live 10 kilometres (6.21 miles) from the coast.

We also have embraced solar power, a bit slowly for sure, but it makes good sense with all that hot sunshine. Our beach house is covered with solar panels. We sell to the electricity company and have another system that stores captured heat in batteries, so we can go blissfully about our lives not worrying about electricity bills, rather, the rebates go towards trekking the globe.

I know some people in the Northern Hemisphere are sometimes confused as to where Australia is and what Australia is about, and let me tell you, judging by what I read (heaps!) and what I see on TV (24-hour news), Australia and New Zealand are a completely different ballgame (to coin an American phrase). We really are lands of the free, at least up til now. All this CNN watching has cooked my brain, but here are some of the good things about Good 'Ole Oz:

  • Our health care is paid for by a small surcharge in our taxes we don't even notice (Medicare) and we can also pay private health care to ensure no waiting for procedures and a private room in hospital, doctor of choice etc... 
  • Our food is still close to nature. We usually cook from scratch. We buy organic when we can. Avoid Genetically Modified food. 
  • Nearly everyone works out. We're sporty. 'They' keep telling us we're fat, but we don't show up on the Top 10 Fattest Countries list. You don't see many obese people here. Go figure.
  • Our election campaigns can be measured in weeks or even days! We'd get too bored if it went any longer. And voting is compulsory. With a population of only 24 million, we need the turnout. We just take it as a necessary evil but appreciate election day being open to all. 
  • We're friendly to each other, even though New Zealand won't let us win too many rugby games.
  • Despite a couple of big-time crackpots who should not have been out on bail, Australia is a fairly safe country if you can avoid the wild storms, bushfires, floods, the odd earthquake and poisonous snakes. (I can always share snake stories!)

Which brings me to the fact that we like to take the mickey out of people. I've learned to stop joking too much in my posts as I've been misunderstood, but to me and many Aussies, life is a good laugh.

Here's a sample of the Australian Tourism Bureau's Frequently Asked Questions about travelling to our Lucky Country:

Q: Does it ever get windy  in Australia ? I have never seen it  rain on TV, how do the plants grow? ( UK ).

A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around  watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? ( USA )

A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q:I want to walk  from Perth to Sydney - can  I follow the  railroad tracks? ( Sweden)

A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia ? Can you  send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay ? ( UK)

 A: What did your last slave die of?

Q:Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? ( USA )

A: A-Fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not ... Oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q:Which direction is North in Australia ? (USA )

A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions. 

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia ? ( UK )

A:Why? Just use your fingers like we do...

Q:Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? ( USA )

A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is Oh forget it. Sure,  the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia ? ( UK )

A: You are a British politician, right?

Q:Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? ( Germany )

 A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q:Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. ( USA )

A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q:I have a question about a famous animal in Australia , but I  forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. ( USA )

A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q:I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia ? (USA)

A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather

Q:Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia ? ( France )

A: Only at Christmas.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? ( USA )

A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first

Let's see how this goes! 
Photo of koala taken by moi on Magnetic Island off Townsville

Thanks for coming by. I hope you'll be back for more tall stories...

And please note, WEP's first challenge for the year opens on February 1st. I hope you'll get those thinking caps on and join us!

Monday 16 January 2017

Barack Obama, the writer, the son...Dreams from My Father...Obama gives insight into writing his memoir.

Hello there!

Writers come from all walks of life. It's not odd that many famous people choose to write/ghostwrite a memoir after they retire, but it's unusual for a very famous person to write one before he becomes famous.

Image resultI'm talking about Barack Obama, out-going US President. Dreams from My Father, first published in 1995, then re-published in 2004, makes riveting reading in my opinion. According to the blurb, "...it is a 'lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir [about] the son of a black African father and a white American mother [who] searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American."

If you haven't read it, you can probably guess what lies between the pages. Sure it's provocative, as Obama describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither, but I'm posting about the writer, Barack Obama, here today.

I'm a sucker for Prefaces/Acknowledgements and so on, and I found the Preface to the memoir intriguing when Obama talks about writing this memoir.

"Like most first-time authors, I was filled with hope and despair upon the book's publication--hope that the book might succeed beyond my youthful dreams, despair that I had failed to say anything worth saying. The reality fell somewhere in between. The reviews were mildly favourable. People actually showed up at the readings my publisher arranged. The sales were underwhelming. And, after a few months, I went on with the business of my life, certain that my career as an author would be short-lived, but glad to have survived the process with my dignity more or less intact."

There was a spate of publicity following Obama's election to the Democratic US senate seat for Illinois. His publisher was prompted to re-publish the book. Obama said:

"For the first time in many years, I've pulled out a copy and read a few chapters to see how much my voice may have changed over time. I confess to wincing every so often at a poorly chosen word, a mangled sentence, an expression of emotion that seems indulgent or overly practiced. I have the urge to cut the book by fifty pages or so, possessed as I am with a keener appreciation for brevity. I cannot honestly say, however, that the voice in this book is not mine--that I would tell the story much differently today than I did ten years ago, even if certain passages have proven to be inconvenient politically, the grist for pundit commentary and opposition research."
"And then, on September 11, 2001, the world fractured. 
It's beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day, and the days that would follow--the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass, the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves, the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I begin to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction."

I think he captured the day and the aftermath exceedingly well.

Then there's the bond he shares with his mother:

"She traveled the world, working in the distant villages of Asia and Africa, helping women buy a sewing machine or a milk cow or an education that might give them a foothold in the world's economy...We saw each other frequently, our bond unbroken. During the writing of this book, she would read the drafts, correcting stories that I had misunderstood, careful not to comment on my characterization of her but quick to explain or defend the less flattering aspects of my father's character.
...she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and that what is best in me I owe to her."
I think Barack Obama shares many of our insecurities about writing. I felt inspired to know someone of his ilk struggled with his subject matter and syntax. How many times have you asked yourself as a writer, 'Why does the world need a book by me?'

Farewell, President Barack Obama, much loved here in Australia, and I suspect, in many countries around the world.

 Thanks for reading.

Sunday 1 January 2017

All the best of 2016--What does your list look like? And and #IWSG late note...

Hi there!

Sheesh! I've been checking out a few blogs and see I've missed the IWSG, probably for the first time ever! Sorry if you came by to check out my post, but hey, I've been too involved in real life and forgot digital life there!  Anyway, while I'm here, I'll just say that I'm not feeling insecure this month. I'm feeling very grounded in my writing and am back to writing hours every day. How about you?

The awesome co-hosts for the January 4 posting of the IWSG will be Eva @ Lillicasplace, Crystal Collier, Sheena-kay Graham, Chemist Ken, LG Keltner, and Heather Gardner!

If you want to hang around, I have some pretty pictures for you as I relate my Best of 2016...

But before you do, I should answer this IWSG question:

What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?

Well, there's a lot of writing rules I wish I'd never heard. Most seem to be just to trip up newbies, as I see best-selling authors breaking these so-called rules every time. One that I find particularly galling is the 'never use as except as a comparison.'

As in (((snark))) (((snark)))

'I fell over as he threw the ball at me.'

Should be...'He threw the ball at me. I fell over.' Yes, sometimes the 'as' makes the sentence out of order, but there's times you just have to use 'as', in my humble opinion.

I read every book from those 4 guys who sell the most popular fiction in the world...Lee Child, Michael Connolly, Dean Koontz, James Patterson...they must laugh themselves silly at this rule, not that they would care. I counted about 20 supposedly bad uses of 'as's' in one page of a recent Lee Child Jack Reacher book. It bothered me that he can do it and still sell gazillions of books. Goes to show readers want a story, not a rigid conformity to rules. Don't get me started...oh, you did. Now I'd better stop or I'll offend the rules police even more.

Happy Writerly New Year!! And blast those rules!! Tell that story!! 


The year that was. 


The great humanitarian crises in Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, the rise of nationalism in Germany, the terror threats/incidents in France, Germany, Iraq and Turkey and so on, multiple terror threats thwarted in Australia over Christmas, Brexit in Britain, Trump in the US, a killer president in the Philippines...oh, wow, get those fireworks happening! 

I'm not into New Year's Resolutions. Why shoot myself in the foot? But I rather enjoy thinking about what's been good in the past year while at the same time wondering what the New Year will bring. If you'd like to write your own list of My Best in the comments, that'd be awesome!


MOBILE APP: Tinybeans (a baby-picture sharing app for those who don't want their baby's pictures all over the internet). My daughter is a social worker and sees too many wacky things. She chooses not to share photos of her baby, my one and only shiny grandchild. It's tough for me as he is the most gorgeous little fellow, but I totally understand.

INTERVIEWER: CNN's Christian Amanpour. Love the way she takes on the biggies and crooks of the world and at times squeezes a little truth out of them.

DOCUMENTARY: Utopia, produced by John Pilger. A very, very disturbing trip through central Australian aboriginal communities, showing the long history of mainly white abuse and how the situation is even worse than it was in the '60s despite millions of $$$ being spent. Unbelievable.

BOOK I READ: THRILLER - I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes. I hated being so fascinated by the evil, but it felt a reality in our world.

MOVIE: The Light Between Oceans, based on an early Australian true story of a young couple living in a lighthouse on a remote Western Australian island who find and keep a baby who washes up on the shore. Tragic.



TV SHOWS: The Good Wife/Madam Secretary

OVERSEAS TRAVEL: China, although it took me 2 weeks to get the pollution out of my system.

WITHIN AUSTRALIA TRAVEL: Sydney/Hunter Valley Wine Region

THINGS ABOUT MOVING BACK TO THE BEACH: Watching whales frolicking from my deck, growing my own tomatoes and herbs. Begone, plastic tomatoes.

BLOGGER MOMENT: Meeting Lynda Young in person on a terribly humid day after her move to Brisbane and sharing a French meal together.

-- Bernie Sander's run for President, albeit brief.
-- Michelle Obama's speeches and positive actions for African girls.
(Okay, not Australian political moments. Our politics are deadly boring which is not necessarily a bad thing after seeing the global trend)

-- Baked Poetry Cafe, Peregian Beach, iced coffee.
-- Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory's Mexican Hot Chocolate.
-- Pink Champagne from Peterson's Champagne House, Hunter Valley

CHRISTMAS SNACK: Chocolate and hazlenut truffles from the Hunter Valley Chocolate Factory

-- Finishing my Paris novel and getting it published.
-- Writing most days
-- Meeting with my 2 fabulous critique partners every month and exchanging chapters every few weeks

-- The opening of a French restaurant in Peregian Beach. (No big deal if you live in a big town, but Peregian is a little village of 3,500 people who enjoy the best of everything!!)
-- Finishing watching Netflix's House of Cards.
-- Travelling to the UK in April/May to visit my daughter who's there for a year, then taking her on a guided tour of Paris. Tres magnifique!

Happy New Year!! May all your dreams eventuate in 2017!!

  • The WEP winners are announced at Write...Edit...Publish. Please check them out if you have a moment.
  • And I'd love to read your list of Best of 2016. Please play along.