Saturday, 25 August 2012

Coping with change and my Big News

This change I can deal with.
Image courtesy of Rebecca Barray WANA Commons

I'm no longer big on change. I say "no longer" because I used to be all for it.

Years ago, when a club I was involved with debated whether to cut ties with our existing sports club or go in a new direction with a new sports club, I voted for change. I was all for a new start and a chance to build something new and exciting from the ground up. In hindsight, we should have looked better before we leapt, but that's a whole other story.

Back to my point.

I now like being comfortable. I like the familiar. It's easy. It's known. It's not scary. It's safe.

When something happens to change that?

I worry. I panic. I get agitated and angry. I've also been known to swear. Or, in the case of TV shows, stop watching altogether. ("They've changed time slots again?? I'm just not going to watch any more. That will show them!" Sidenote - I really do miss Bones and Greys. Sigh.)

Sometimes, change can be sudden and unexpected.

Like last night, when we went to do our grocery shopping, we realised the shop was changing its layout. I could tell something was up as soon as I could see the toilet paper at the top end of the last aisle - it's usually at the bottom end. (Ha ha! I didn't know I'd made that joke until I was retyping this post.)

I was immediately on my guard. Lo and behold, the softdrinks were no longer with the chips, but with the condiments and sauces (WTF?) Thankfully, they'd left the chocolate in the same aisle as it had always been. I guess someone in management was smart enough not to change that aisle around.

After some bitching and whinging, my wife slapped me and told me to get a grip. No, not really, but I did get over it. The aisles that were finished didn't look so cluttered and apart from having to search for a few things, the shopping trip was still relatively painless.

Some change though, is a slow burn of acceptance.

Which brings me (finally) to my Big News.

Short version: Wifey has a new job based in another town and we're moving. (Saying that fast is like ripping off a bandaid and makes it seem easier than it is.)

Long Version: "The Plan" has always been for me to give up work and focus on my writing "at some time in the future."

That future is fast approaching.

It's exciting and scary and OMGWTF! all at once.

We've been planning this move since this time last year when Wifey landed the job temporarily. We discussed the possibility that it could become permanent which would mean a move to a small town further west.

At first I was like "no way", but after many long nights of drinking discussion I realised what a great opportunity it is for us both career-wise.

Wifey gets the opportunity to take a higher position doing something she loves, and I finally get the opportunity to stop working for someone else and start really working on getting myself published.

What did we do to celebrate the fact that we'd be dropping to one wage? We went out and bought an investment property. Yay! (Face palm.)

Leaving aside that financial decision (it will be better for us long term, I promise Wifey!), the road to acceptance has been a long one.

The thing is, I never actually thought I'd be able to take time off of my real job to concentrate on my writing. It was always on my wish-list but never, until now, attainable.

So when the opportunity arose, I railed against it. (You did what?) I actually started talking myself out of my dream of becoming a published author, able to live off the money I make from my writing.

Stupid really, but I was scared. Scared of failing, scared of writing crap, scared of letting down everyone who supports me (even though I know they think I'm crazy). Scared of letting go of a great job with great people that brings in safe money so that we can live a luxurious comfortable life filled with holidays and shopping and paying off our mortgage.

As with all change, there's a transition period. Right now we're in the "Holy shit we need to finish renovating the house so someone will pay us enough money to pay out the mortgage and let us get a new car" phase.

After that will come the "I can't believe no-one will buy our house for a gazillion dollars, it's so worth it" phase, immediately followed by "We'll never have another first house, ever!" phase.

Then there's the "I NEVER want to move again" phase as we unpack and set up a new house in a new town where we know only the people Wifey works for.

But after ALL of that, will be the (hopefully) very long phase of "S R Silcox, full-time author."

I'll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Re-defining Failure - Writing Update

Contemplating my next move, even though I have no idea how to play chess.

Things have been quiet around here over the past few weeks, and not much writing has been done. Not for want of trying - I've managed to get nearly a thousand words done over my last couple of days off, but it's not nearly as much as I was planning for this time of the year.

Couple of reasons.

Firstly, it's tax season here Down Under, which means my day job has gone from cruisey to hectic in one fell swoop. The problem with being an accountant, especially at this time of year, is that it's extremely hard to relax after a big day.

I wake up in the early hours of the morning after dreaming about tax issues for clients, and come up with solutions in the shower. Yeh, so not fun.

So as a matter of survival, I'm not writing from Tuesday through Friday (my work days). My brain is fried enough as it is without adding the extra burden of having to come up with a few hundred words on any number of my current WIP and then feeling guilty when those words don't materialise.

Secondly, we're (Wifey and I) madly trying to finish the house renovations so we can get the house on the market for a big move, which I'll detail in an upcoming post. That has basically written off my weekends completely, since they're currently spent sanding, painting, puttying, gardening and deciding on paint colours and working out how we're going to dress our house up to look her absolute best when she's finished.

The good thing about the renovating though is that it stimulates the creative side of my brain. So instead of wearing me out, while I'm doing those mundane jobs around the house, I've allowed my muse to sneak down the dark alleys in my brain, seeking out new and interesting characters and plot points.

So far, I've re-worked my YA WIP (if only in my head), which is now 40-50% complete on the first draft, and I've come up with two new plot twists and a new character in that same WIP which adds some spice. I'm finally happy with the direction that WIP is going in.

So much so, it's the one I have ear-marked to concentrate on above all others to get a first draft done by the end of January. I'm more excited about that WIP than I have been about any of them in a long time.

Great for my confidence.

I've also been thinking about how I want to progress on this writing path I've chosen, and what little of the Olympics I watched has made me do a bit of soul-searching. Winning gold is a massive achievement for any athlete, but so is winning silver or bronze, and for some, just competing at the Olympics is a success.

In light of that, I've decided to re-define my idea of failure.

Notice I've chosen to redefine failure as opposed to sucess.

I don't want to move the goal-posts I've set for myself with regards to what I want to achieve with my writing. I do, however, want to remove the barriers I keep coming up against (self-imposed I might add), in order to start achieving those little successes that build up into big ones.

I've written about my fear of failure in an earlier post. It's always hanging around in the background, needling me into submission, making me throw my hands up in frustration and walk away from the keyboard with nothing to show for it except a blank page and an intense feeling of guilt and heartbreak. All because my current definition of failure is zero words per day.

But no more.

My new definition of failure is hating writing. If I ever get to that point, that's when I've failed. If I ever get to the point where I just can't physically make myself write one word, that's when I step back and reconsider my options. 

Right now? I still love writing. I love the feeling of being in "the zone" when words come easily.

I also love the feeling of bleeding out a hundred or so words when they're not so easy to come by. In some ways, I feel more triumphant on those occasions because I've managed to get words down in spite of  feeling tired/like crap/dragging myself kicking and screaming to the keyboard.

So the new plan, until my situation changes in a few months, is to only write on my Mondays off. Whether that's a blog post or outlining my YA WIP, it doesn't matter. Words are words. If I find myself with a spare hour or so during the week where my brain isn't filled with tax stuff, I'll work on the plot or character summaries, and also re-jig my writing plan to take my upcoming situation into account.

At the very least, I want to stay connected to my WIP so that when I have the time to work on it, I know where I'm headed. That time will come soon enough - I just need to be ready for it.

Every writing day will start with one question - "Do you hate writing?" If the answer is no, then there's no excuses. I must write.

On that note, I'm off to work on the new scenes my muse kindly offered up to me over my morning coffee.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

What I have in common with Beccy Cole

(Apart from stunning good looks and singing ability).

2012 seems to be the "year of coming out" for some reason. I'm not exactly sure why that's so, but I'm happy to run with it.

So far, we've seen the likes of Magda Szubanski, Queen Latifah,  and Anderson Cooper come out, and last night I watched as Beccy Cole came out on the ABCs Australian Story.

It was a wonderful program to watch - raw and honest and funny. I suspect much like Beccy herself.

One of the most common questions I see asked in comments threads about any news story that has anything to do with being gay or lesbian is why is there a need to come out at all. It's often followed by a loaded statement, such as "I don't feel the need to declare myself a male heterosexual".

Well, of course you don't. Everybody already just assumes you're straight.

Coming out is not what I really wanted to talk about in this post though.

Most of us have a kind of "aha" moment - the moment of realisation that we can put a name to our feelings. Some of us, like me, have a series of "aha" moments, which build into the Big Moment of Acceptance.

One of those moments came as a result of the BBC show "Playing the Field". It was while watching that show that Beccy says her "aha" moment came.

It was because of that show that I had one of my moments that lead to me accepting myself for who I am.

When that show was airing here in Australia, I was playing for a soccer team called The Blues - same as the show - and so my team mates and I would dissect each episode at training and before and after games. It was funny to watch a show about a team with the same name as us, and pretty cool too. We tried to match up characters with our team mates, with often hilarious results.

It was during one such discussion while watching a match with some parents of my younger team mates that I came close to outing myself. Close, but not quite.

One parent mentioned their frustration that the show was perpetuating a stereotype that dykes played soccer. I listened for awhile, and then said "I can guarantee you that every women's team in our competition has at least one lesbian on the team."

Stopped the conversation dead did that comment.

One of the mums then asked "Every team?" I just looked at her and smiled, and said "Every team."

It's funny looking back now, because I wonder if they actually worked out that I was talking about myself. When I think about my team at the time, process of elimination should have probably brought them back to me.

Nothing changed though with the way I was treated if they did put two-and-two together, and when I did eventually "come out" when I found myself a wonderful partner (who for some reason is still sticking by me), my team mates and their parents and partners were wonderfully accepting.

But helping me on my gay self-discovery wasn't the only thing that show did for me. It actually gave me the inspiration I needed to start writing again. I have two half-finished YA manuscripts to prove it. Both sound ideas, but terribly flawed in their current condition. Both ideas that I will hopefully pursue in the future.

So to those who want to know why we feel the need to come out, I guess it comes down to power. 

The problem lies with those "others" who would choose to define us by our sexuality. We "come out" to claim it for ourselves, before someone else does it for us. We do it to show we're proud of who we are, despite this "thing" that we're told is a flaw in our make up.

Being anything other than straight can still be confronting for some people - and for those of us in that minority, we take a huge risk in coming out, so it's not for the faint hearted. It takes courage and confidence.

We risk losing family, friends and jobs. And for someone like Beccy Cole, she risks losing fans, and she also risks a public (and sometimes private) backlash.

But to Beccy Cole, and anyone else coming out, wanting to come out, or wondering if they should, I have this advice:

We are who we are. Those who judge you on one aspect of your self are not worth having in your life.

And from my perspective as a writer, the people who stop reading this blog because they find out I'm gay are not the people I want as fans.

Being gay is not a huge thing in my life, unless others choose to judge me on it. But then, that's their problem, not mine.

Oh, and just one last thing Beccy - I think you'll discover a whole new group of fans after your "coming out". We're a pretty accepting bunch, and we love to celebrate and support our own.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Sunday Sesh and How reality smacked me in the face

The Beer

This week's sesh is brought to you by Young's Double Chocolate Stout, a brew from the UK.

Truth be known, I've been eyeing this one off for a while now, and I figured you can't really go wrong with beer and chocolate.

Double Chocolate Stout

What I didn't figure on was this being a burp-factory. This is another with light and tingley carbonation, but it's so black you can't see any bubbles in the glass. I can attest to them being there though.

Taste-wise, it's not as impressive as the name would imply. There's a slight taste of chocolate on the first sip, but apart from that, it's a poor cousin to something like the James Squire porter.

The burnt toffee aftertaste lingers initially, but gradually disappears the more you drink - and being a 500ml bottle, there are two whole drinks in this one.

Having said all that, I did finish it, even though it wasn't one of the best I've had. Probably wouldn't get this one again.

The Post

I had a really cool rant about politics loaded up and ready to go but I came across something while I was traversing the interwebs that I had to share.

Something that made me start thinking about my mortality.

Something that made me realise just how far in the past my childhood is.

Ralph Macchio is fifty. Fifty! I know, right? I can't believe it myself. I thought he was still sixteen, which would make me around, um,one. (Though in reality, he was twenty-three when he played Daniel-san, so I was actually eight when the first movie came out.) 

The Original Karate Kid
I know, I know. I'm not eight anymore, but that still doesn't make the fact that The Original Karate Kid is over the hill any easier to take.

I know what you're thinking too, and yeh, he was a hotty (I can still appreciate a good-looking lad), but I didn't want to date Daniel-san - I wanted to be Daniel-san.

True story (I have lots of them). When I was a kid, I used to stay at my cousins' house on school holidays. We used to play Barbies and stuff (I was always Ken - the one with the plastic hair), and we used to have a disco at night where we put cassette tapes in the cassette player (usually home-made ones from taping off the radio or Rage), and we'd turn off the lights in the bedroom except for the bed lamps and the glow worms, and we'd party down.

Usually, we'd have a theme, but no matter what the theme was, I would wear a red robe, tie a hanky around my head, and BE The Karate Kid.

"King Fu Fighting" was my song, and when that song came on, I got to cut loose. ("Wax on, wax off").

I was also told when I was a kid that I kinda looked like Ralph. (Un)fortunately, I can't actually find any photos of me when I was eight, but I did have a haircut similar to the photo above, and I could do that intense look quite well. Especially when I was fielding at silly mid-off for my school cricket team.

So anyway, after this discovery, I need more beer to forget the fact that I'm no longer a kid.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Where's the beer?

Four weeks in and I've managed to miss two of those Sunday Sesh's. Various reasons, but suffice to say that there have been some distractions (to put it mildly), that have taken me away from both drinking beer, and my writing.

Not good.

Normal services will resume this Sunday.

Because yeh, I've pre-loaded a Sesh, so it'll go up whether I'm here or not.

Friday, 15 June 2012

What's my value?

(Apologies for the length of this post. I really wanted to be brief but once I get started, I just can't seem to stop.)

In Queensland, we currently have Civil Partnership Laws enabling couples (hetero and same-sex) to register their relationships. It's a step down from marriage, and isn't recognised in all states or federally, but it's a start.

The new LNP government has decided to leave the registration part of the law as it stands, which is a sigh of relief for those of us (609 couples at last count) who registered.

The LNP have decided, however, that the bit that upsets the Christians (the Premier's words) is the state-sanctioned ceremony, currently only able to be performed at specific courthouses around the state. They've decided to scrap those ceremonies, but still allow the filling out of forms and the paying of money for the priviledge of having our relationships recognised.

On the surface, nothing changes. We still could have ceremonies, and then fill out the paperwork later, or do the reverse - fill out the paperwork and have a celebratory ceremony after the fact.

We still get the extra legal protections, regardless of whether we have the ceremony or not.

All good, on the surface. Seems like a nice compromise.

I have two problems with the reasoning put forward for the change.

The first is the offence caused by this legislation to various churches and religions. I understand the thought of gay marriage, or indeed gay partnerships, are offensive to some people of faith. But not all religions or churches feel that way.

Using this reasoning sets a precedent for other faiths to lobby the government to demand changes to things that cause them offence. That's their right of course, but should offence be a reason to change laws that in reality only affect those who would choose to use them?

The second is that the government has given a clear indication on where it stands on recognising same-sex couples, and indeed LGBTI people individually, whether it meant to or not.

They can say nice words about how much "we're" respected, but it's their actions that really count. And like it or not, the way they treat people, or seem to treat people, sets an example for the rest of us.

By not allowing a simple ceremony (when the whole point of Civil Partnerships is for state-based rather than church-based recognition) sends the message that our relationships aren't valued by the people we have charged with governing over all of us.

In light of the changes, I sent emails to each of the LNP members (which, incidentally, bounced back, but I don't want to scream "conspiracy" just yet), telling them my thoughts.

It took me a long time to put into words why I thought changing the laws would be a step backwards, but when I'd finished and read it over, one sentence stood out above all others. 

"The new law sent a clear message to those of us who struggle with our sexuality, as most of us do at some stage in our lives, that we are valued."

I have railed against the arguments against gay marriage, from religious reasons to blatant disriminatory reasons, but it wasn't until now that I was able to actually put how I feel into one word - VALUE.

It comes down to how much we value our fellow human beings.

For those of you who are against gay marriage, for whatever reason, or are non-committal, and don't think it affects you in any way, and for those of you who have gay friends or family members and are still against gay marriage, I ask you to consider this:

Think about your sons and daughters, parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews and friends.

Are you happy to see them hurt? Would you be happy to hear them called "pedophile", "not fit for parenting", "mentally unstable", and "diseased"?

Would you stand by while someone says they should all be shot?

How would you feel reading comments to articles on gay marriage and civil unions that say things like "the worst thing the government in Queensland did was make being gay legal. they should be put in jail for their perversions." (A real comment believe it or not).

How would you feel to get a phone call or visit from a police officer, informing you that your loved one is in hospital, or worse, simply because someone else took offence to their sexuality? Or because your loved one committed suicide because they couldn't deal with the stress of being gay or lesbian? Because they were bullied for being different. Because they were told they were inferior.

You may think I am being extreme. "These things don't happen all the time," you say. I'm sorry to tell you that they do.

Why? Because those who say and do those terrible things don't value others. They feel they have a right to punish those of us who are a little different.

How will allowing gay marriage change that?

It shows that at the very highest level, we are valued. It takes away an excuse for marginalising and discriminating.

It shows us that we are valued as human beings, and as citizens of our great country. It makes a statement that we are no different from our heterosexual friends and family, and it acknowledges that we too, can fall in love and make the decision to make a formal commitment to the person we love.

A civil partnership is not marriage. It's the furthest a State may go with regards to legal recognition of relationships, but it's a start.

So I ask you:

How much do you value your friends and family?

How much do you value me?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

An offer almost too good to refuse

This week's Sunday Sesh brought to you by Montheith's Black Beer.

As you can see, I'm trying out a new format this week. Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Also, I should put a language and content warning on this one for those of you sensitive to words containing asterisks.

The Review

We all know the rivalry and the brotherhood we have with our cousins across the ditch. It's always been a love/hate relationship. We love them for giving us Russell Crowe (most of the time), Keith Urban, Rebecca Gibney and lesbian icon, Lucy Lawless. We hate them for taking the Bledisloe and World Cups.

We forgive them for beating us in the second test in Tasmania last year, if only because they hardly ever get close to us, and we also have a soft spot for Dan Vettori, Richard Hadlee and the Crowe brothers (the latter tearing us up in the 1980s).

I'm happy to report that they've given me something to crow about with Monteith's Black Beer.

It smells sweet and fresh in the bottle, and pours like sars. It tastes immedediately of coffee and caramel, but gives a slight aftertaste of burnt toffee. I have a mouth full of sweet teeth, so just writing that makes my mouth water.

It's another of those beers that isn't overly gassy, so it tingles your tongue. I like how you don't feel like you're drinking a mouthful of air as well as the beer.

Although not quite as sweet as Engine Oil and a little drier, this would make a great winter session beer because it's not as filling as the UK brew I tried last week.

At $3.60 a bottle ($52.99 a carton), this is a mid-shelfer.

The Post

I've been wanting to do a post on the shit that comes into my email box for ages but most of it's been relatively boring. Things like:

  • offers for replica Rolexes (as opposed to those nasty fake ones)
  • Gambling offers ('Free $300 credit when you JOIN NOW!')
  • Free viagra (I read it as "free vagina once" and almost clicked through)
  • College f*ck books ('Two hot college girls want to sleep with you this weekend.' Such a pity I'm always busy - with my Wife!)
  • Fifty Shades of Grey alert from Amazon. Oh wait, that was a legitimate one. (And literary fiction? Seriously, Amazon?)
But one that landed in my inbox this week looked pretty legit. It was from facebook with the subject 'Re:'. Now anyone who knows me, knows I just can't go past an email with the subject 're:'. I mean, 're:' what? It could be anything, right?

So I took a look.

(The email in italics, and my comments underneath).

BABE... i guess your not getting any of my email huh? ive been tryign to email u so many times but this dam laptop is such a piece of garbage and keeps freezing.. anyways how u been? In case u dont know who this is its ME TORI.. we used to chat a bit on facebook and then I think u deleted me :(

First things first - I live in Australia. The only Tori's we have here are imported. I have never, ever in my 36 years, known a Tori.

Oh, but I've been good. Thanks for asking. And I hate to be pedantic but you know me - I'm a writer so spelling's kinda important. It's 'trying' not 'tryign'.

anyways guess what... I got 2 things to tell u..  1) im single now.. yup me and my bf broke up about 3 months ago... and 2) guess where im moving?

Oh see, now that's really unlucky, because I'll be moving soon to a small town far, far ,far away. Sorry about your break-up though. That's sad, right? (By the way, there's the reason for your content warning right there - I hope no-one's offended by Tori's use of 'effing', especially since she YELLED it).

I remember when we chatted u told me u thought i was cute and u wanted to chill so now we finally can HAHA! ...maybe even help me move my shit in...

I don't drive so you'll have to move your own shit in. Sorry.

And I tell so many people they're cute, I've lost track. You'll have to remind me who you are.

ok so more info about me.. well im 23.. virgo.. love the outdoors and love to socialize, go out for drinks, restaurants, movies etc.. travel.. i have a lil kitty named BOO and i luv her to death... uhhh oh im a super horny gurl too but every gurl is they just wont admit it. so ilove watching p0rn and all that..

You should have mentioned your kitty earlier. I totally would have clicked through right then. I also love how you evaded my filter by using 'p0rn' instead of 'porn'. That show's you're smart. I like smart women.

i hope u remmeber me and still wanna chill and arent married yet lol..

Does it matter if I am if I tell you I'm not?

OH YA also..

i need to find a job when i get there.. do u have any hookups or know anybody hiring? id LOVE to work in a bar or osmehting like that...really anythgin cause my current job is fun and all..

and technically i CUD keep doign it but i want a change.. i currently work from home and well thats cool but i need ot be out meeting people.. oh wait. i dont think i ever actually told u what i did? hmm shud i......????

Wow, you really don't ask for much, Tori. And there's that spelling thing again. You seem to have trouble with where the 'n' and 'g' goes in 'ing' words.
But yeh, why don't you tell me what you do.

ok WELLLL... and dont get all weirded out on me.. i work on a webcam chat community site and i get paid to chat with people

A webcam chat? Like skype? Cool. I like skype.

and get naked HHAHA...

Oh, riiight. THAT type of webcam.

anyways i hope u dont look down on that and NO THATS NOT WHY IM CONTACTING U RELAX URSELF lol... i actually need help once i move and i remembered u live there so im reaching i said before this computer is a complete piece of CRAP and freezes NON STOP..

I'm so happy you're only contacting me because you want my help, and not because you want my business.

I do think you should get your laptop fixed though, otherwise your webcam chats could end up looking like they were filmed in a nightclub with strobe lights, all jumpy and pixelated.
ANYWAYS.. heres the deal....every month (my boss) gives each of us 3 VIP codes to give out to whoever we want.. so with this code u can lgoin to watch me at work for free and dont have to pay like everyone else...

I love freebies :) Where do I sign?

i only get 3 a month and she gets pissed if more than 3 people use them so DONT SHARE IT MISTER...

Oh no problem. I don't like sharing anyway. Plus, it's Ms, but whatever.

 i figured u cud always email me back instead but my email account doesnt even let me login half the time.. so the bets palce ot chat me is my chat room...

Freakin' email. It sucks when you can't log in. I'm glad you can still log in to your webcam chat account though. Such a relief.

Freakin' email Sucks when you can't send any. Just like this one. Must have gotten its little self through before it wigged out on you, huh? Lucky me.

anyways ive rambled on and on now and ur probably soooo annnoyed with me so ill stop now.. im gonna go start work..

k babe im out for now... chat ya soon..

kisses xoxo

Wow, I think I've got a good one here. What do you think?

On the up side, at least her english is readable, even with the bad spelling.

One question though, who wants the free codes?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

What I learnt about writing from my dogs

When Wifey and I decided to get our first dog, we knew we wanted to adopt one from our local RSPCA.

There's no doubt it's a huge choice and we even used their website survey to work out what breed would be best for us (a beagle, which is exactly the opposite of what we got). Then we hit their website and trolled through the photos, oohing and aahing over the online profiles.

We spent a few weekends going in to the kennels, walking past the hopeful adoptees and walking out again, unsure about what we wanted. Everytime I walked out without a dog, it broke my heart to think that there were so many in there looking for new homes - a home that we didn't think we could give.

We continued this for weeks - me checking the website, emailing profiles to Wifey with "Could this be our Lola?" (the name Wifey was determined to call our dog, so we were predestined to get a girl).

During this time, a little 5 month old kelpie-cross came up. We glossed over her profile for weeks - she was gorgeous, but we figured we preferred a more sedate type of dog. Kelpies are working dogs, and notoriously hyperactive.

We came close with a golden retriever called Magic, but when we took him for a walk he was more interested in being out in the park than he was in us. We also found out that he was a master of escaping yards. Thankfully though, he found a home with a family with kids, which was perfect for him.

Finally, after a few months of looking, I opened up the little kelpie's profile, and had a really good look at her picture. She was a tiny, skinny little thing, and jet black. Her tongue lolled out the side of her mouth and her ears pointed straight up and alert. 

I suggested to Wifey that we might get her out for a walk when we went back to the RSPCA that weekend. Wifey agreed, because it was the one profile she kept coming back to as well. What could it hurt?

That weekend, we walked straight up to her kennel and spoke to her. I can't remember what we said, but Wifey probably said something like "Do you want to come home with us?" We should have known right then that she was the one - she leapt at the wall and flipped off it. Wifey and I stepped back and said "whoa!" We knew we might have an excitable puppy on our hands. We also wondered what she'd be able to do off our six-foot fence.

Undeterred by her acrobatic abilities, we asked a volunteer if we could take her out to have a play with her. When we first stepped into the yard, the volunteer took off the leash, and I knelt down to the kelpie's level. She walked straight over to me and put her head under my armpit, resting her chin on my leg.

I looked up at Wifey and smiled. This kelpie was the one. We played with her for awhile, but in all honesty, we didn't need to make our minds up - she'd picked us, so we figured we better just formalise the adoption and take her home.

While we were there playing with her, we had a few of the volunteers and staff come up and say how happy they were that this little kelpie had found a home at last. She'd been in the kennels for nearly three months, and no-one had shown much interest. They all fussed over her and said she was a beautiful dog.

We can certainly attest to that.

So, after signing the paperwork and paying the adoption fee, Daisy became the first addition to our family.

Wifey and Daisy the day we brought her home

I always say that Daisy chose us, rather than the other way around.

I'd like to think that she waited until we came along to show us her best side so that we would be the ones to take her home.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Early on when my writing was just a hobby, I wanted to reach the world. I wanted 'everyone' to read and love my work.

Since then, I've realised that not everyone's going to like what I write, and that's ok.

My job is to be my best self. To write what I'm passionate about. To write in my own unique way.

Sure, lots of people might come and have a look, but they'll keep smiling and walk right by, knowing my stuff just isn't for them. But just like Daisy, if I'm true to myself and write what I love, the right people will come along.

We always knew we wanted two dogs, because we didn't want to have a lonely dog on our hands, since both of us work full time. Our other dog, Ruby, is a rescue pet from the same RSPCA we got Daisy from.

Rubes (front) and Daisy tuckered out after a tough day
I'll tell Ruby's story in a future post, because she taught me things only a Labrador could.

And if you're after a dog, cat, rat, chook, or other type of pet please consider your local RSPCA or shelter.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Harviestoun Brewery Old Engine Oil

It's been perfect weather up here on the Ridge for getting stuck into a few dark ales - cold, windy and rainy.

So, welcome to the first winter Sunday Sesh, brought to you by
Harviestoun Brewery's Old Engine Oil Porter. 
Something I drained out of the car earlier

Well, this certainly looks like engine oil, but it does have some carbonation, hence the short, creamy head. Tastes a little of burnt caramel, and sweet like a good porter should. There's a hint of chocolate, but there's a most interesting aftertaste - vegemite. I guess that's because vegemite is a yeast-based product, but it was funny being able to taste the stuff I used to eat by the bucket-load for breakfast when I was a kid.

Anything that tastes like an Aussie staple is alright in my book. I really like this beer, but would maybe stop at two or three. It's quite heavy to drink, as in thickish compared to summery lagers, so fills you up quite quickly.

A side note on this, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Porters were named after the transportation workers (porters) who enjoyed this type of beer in 18th century London. Apparently, they used to make a meal out the beers. And I can see why, as these types of ales fill you up fast.   

A great beer to kick off the winter Sunday Sesh's.

A couple of things caught my eye this week.

The first was this news about swing bowling in cricket.

Apparently some scientists discovered that it's not moisture in the air that causes swing.

I think those scientists haven't been to a test match in Brisbane. When the humidity's high at the Gabba, that red ball is practically moving 90 degrees as can be seen by the very first ball of the 2006 first test delivered by Steve Harmison.

One commenter on this video said that maybe it was a tactic by England - to get the ball to Freddy Flintoff as soon as possible. It's a shame that tactic didn't quite work. We won that series in a white-wash.

The other thing that caught my eye was this mash-up from youtube. It's a very clever look at the goal celebrations in football (that's the round ball game), and adding in some Hollywood-style FX.

Some of the world's best players are known just as much for their celebrations as the goals they score. So I'll leave you with this little piece of brilliance to finish of the Sesh.

My favourite is the accordion playing 'keeper.

Next week, I'm trying out Monteiths Black Beer, a drop from our cousins across the ditch. The last time I had a Kiwi beer, I wasn't impressed. I have had a Monteiths before when I holidayed in Queenstown and it wasn't too bad. I'm looking forward to this one, since it promises lots of caramelly, chocolatey, nutty, and coffee goodness.

Until next Sunday's Sesh,

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Reason for the New Blog Title

I’ve copped a little bit of flak for the new blog title, and admittedly, I almost changed it to something a little more palatable. However, I’ve decided to live with it for a few months and see how it fits. In this post, I thought I’d tell you why I called my blog “The Shit I Know” instead of something less confronting like “My Writing Blog” or “I Write”.

Quite simply, I know shit. About lots of things. Useless shit, but still, I know it. And I talk it. A lot.

I compare it to my wife who saves up all the nails, screws, bits of wood and anything else we pull off the house when we renovate. She tells me she never knows when it will come in handy.

No different to the shit in my head.

The problem with knowing so much shit though, is my brain keeps it all locked up in a tiny corner of my memory, and only lets out little bits at a time when prompted by something totally unrelated.

Conversations are good to unlock the hidden shit in my head, but drinking is what really does it. I no longer drink as much as I used to, so less shit gets out, which means there’s still so much of it clogging up parts of my brain. That means less room to retain more shit.

I need to clear some of it out so I can cram more in. Why? Because I’m a writer and you never know when that useless shit can come in handy.

Anyway, long story short,I needed an outlet to get that shit out without getting drunk every weekend (though that would have been fun), and I thought what better way than my blog.

Plus, it means my wife doesn’t have to pretend she enjoys listening to my shit.

So there you go - that’s just a little about The Shit I Know.

What do you do with the shit in your head?

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sunday Sesh Preview

The first winter Sunday Sesh kicks off next weekend, with a review of Harviestoun Brewery's Old Engine Oil Dark Beer.   

Before I kick it off though, I thought I'd share a beer that I would love to get my hands on, but at $169.99 a bottle at Dan Murphy's it's a little out of my price range.

It's called Tactical Nuclear Penguin, and it's made by a brewery in Scotland called Brewdog.

I always thought Scotsmen were crazy, and after seeing how they came up with this beer, I know I'm right. You can't help but love their ingenuity.

Since I can't afford to get this one I decided to live vicariously through someone elses review.

What do you think? Is it worth $170?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey - Is It Black & White?

I decided pretty early on that I would never do book reviews on my blog. The simple reason is that books, as with any type of art, are subjective. Whether someone likes them or not depends more on taste rather than the skill of the author.

Also, I’m a writer myself, and I don’t want to come down on other writers in any way since I know how hard it is to finish even the shortest of stories. For that reason, I had decided to stick with the adage “if you can’t find something good to say, don’t say anything at all.”

I also pride myself on not buying books just because they’re trending. Not that grossly popular books are necessarily a bad thing. I like to wait until the hype has died down a bit, check out reviews from what I think are reputable sources, and decide whether I’ll jump in and see what the rest of the world is talking about.

And so it was that last week, when looking for something a little different, I finally relented and decided to see why everyone was making such a fuss about Fifty Shades of Grey. Apart from searching for something to read, I also like to download samples of big sellers to see what they’re doing that I’m not to see if I can learn anything from them.

Anyway, I read some reviews on Amazon for Fifty Shades - a lot of them singing its praises, some of them ho-hum and a lot that were quite scathing. At risk of being unpopular, I’d be in the latter camp.

Since I read most of my books on the kindle now, I took advantage of the sample feature so I could decide whether to plunk down $9 for the full electronic version. I’m pretty glad I did - safe to say, I saved that $9 for a more worthy book.

It’s no real secret that this book (and series) began life as Twilight fan fiction somewhere on the interwebs where people flock to read that stuff for free. It would, after all, be a major copyright headache for people to write about their favourite characters (who they did not create) and make money off them without the original author’s permission. There is a whole other discussion about the ethics and legality of making money from fanfiction on the interwebs as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

Seems there’s not too great a change needed in order to avoid a copyright suit these days. While I also didn’t read any of the Twilight series (at the behest of some good friends, who said not to waste my time), I did get talked into watching the movies. I have no idea whether the movies stayed true to the books or not, but usually the movie versions tend to be more dramatic than the books. If that’s the case with Twilight, I’m glad I didn’t read the series. However, I digress. My thoughts on Twilight are for another post, but my point is I have no idea how much of Fifty Shades (formerly known as “Masters of the Universe”) is similar to the Twilight series.

Anyway, after struggling to get through the sample chapters, I was not happy to go ahead and purchase the full version of Fifty Shades because, for me, the writing was (as Ana would say) “triple crap”.

It came across to me as a fifteen year old writing an erotic fantasy about hooking up with her unattainable crush in the secrecy and safety of her bedroom. Even from the start, the character of Ana seemed naive and not in control of her life.

The dialogue was stilted and overly formal, and the author seemed to have a very limited vocabulary when it came to cursing (crap, double crap, holy cow) and description (lips and eyebrows “quirking up”, Ana biting her lip and rolling her eyes). Apart from that the author is British, and the setting is the US. Nothing usually wrong with that, except that the whole book is really written in British language, despite the American spellings.

Apart from that, the whole thing just didn’t really make sense to me, even in the very little I read of this book. Granted, I never got to read any of the erotic stuff because the sample only ran to two chapters, but I was ready to give up after the first page. The whole scene in chapter two when Christian comes in to the hardware store, where Ana works, to buy rope, cable ties and tape is just a bit weird for me. Having read the reviews and knowing what the whole deal is with the series, I know it’s not a romance, but come on. He just happens to decide that Ana is someone he wants to bring into his seedy world of BDSM after meeting her once?

I must admit though, I was disappointed that the sample ended where it did, and I was tempted for a second to download the full version just to see how bad it got - you know, like seeing a car crash and despite feeling queasy you just can’t tear your eyes away? But I told myself that, in reality, erotic fiction isn’t really my thing anyway, no matter how good it is, so even I would have questioned why I didn't like it in the end.

So, rather than try to discern why it is people are raving about this series so much, I’m going to ask you. If you’ve read Fifty Shades, or Twilight for that matter, what about them made you enjoy them? And if you’ve read both sets of books, are there any major similarities between them? Anything that made you get that de ja vu feeling of having read it before somewhere?

I ask these questions, not to scoff at you for reading tripe, but in order to discern why it's such a phenomenon despite it's short-comings. I am, afterall, still learning my craft, and part of that is finding out what things work in other fiction, and why.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Broadcasters - the new rule makers for the NRL

Turns out beer isn’t just for summer. I should have known this since the Poms drink beer even though it’s like winter all year round in their half of the world.

During summer, I discovered I quite enjoyed the dark ales - the traditional wintery brews - and want to get some more under my belt. I’ve done a little bit of research, and have come up with a “short” list of 26 beers I’d like to try, and will whittle this down to 13 over the coming weeks.

Each week, I’ll try to give you a heads up on what’s coming up next so you can enjoy a couple with me and tell me your thoughts. All of that kicks off with the official start of winter on the first weekend in June.

Until then, I’ve decided to reprise the Sunday Sesh sans beer, just to flex my writing muscles a little, and because there’s so much to talk about.

This week, it’s footy.

I wasn’t really going to take too much interest in it this year to be honest. The Origin is the only series that still really gets me excited, but I’ve been hearing things around the ridges and reading a few things that have taken my interest. Plus, I’m in a tipping comp so I really should take some sort of notice in order to have a chance at winning at least some of the pot.

So this weekend I was reading the Saturday paper (the courier mail) and a little article, tucked away beside an ad and under a match preview, caught my eye.

Apparently, the TV rights renewal for the NRL is coming up for renewal, and Channel Nine has launched it’s new bid, along with Fox Sports. Now, I don’t get pay TV, and I’m happy(ish) with the number of games I get to watch over a weekend. After all, I can’t possibly find time to watch all of them, and not all of them would interest me. If there are games I’d want to watch but miss out on because they’re not on free-to-air, I just suck it up and move on.

This article made me take pause though. Because apart from wanting to dictate on what nights are best for their bottom line, they also want to make subtle changes to the game in order to increase their advertising revenue.

This (from the Courier Mail) is (probably only part of) what they’re proposing:

  • Increase games from 90 to 95 minutes
  • Extend half-time from 12 to 14 minutes
  • 30-second breaks for stoppages on scrums and line drop-outs, and between try conversions and restarts

On the surface, this doesn’t look like much. The stoppages occur anyway, and the extent of the time is at the referees’ discretion. Often, one team wants to keep the game moving, and the other wants to slow it down. Also, an extra 2 minutes at half-time could be good for coaches - we often try to squeeze as much out of the time we have in the sheds so I can’t imagine there would be too much of an uproar.

The problem, however, lies in who is asking for these changes. The broadcaster should not be the one dictating these types of changes to the group that provides the entertainment. Changes to the game, even small ones, should always be about the game itself. They should come from the players and the people who run the game, for the betterment of the game, rather than the maximising of revenue.

I know, I know. Sport is supposedly all about the dollar now, and I accept that to some extent.

My problem lies in the fact that if we allow a broadcaster to dictate how a game can change, where do we stop? Do we introduce stoppages for substitutions? Or how about we allow whole forward-lines and back-lines to be substituted at the same time, depending on whether a team is attacking or defending?

And who times these stoppages? Do the ref’s on ground get a call from another official that it’s okay to blow time on? And how do these stoppages in play affect the overall time in the game? Does the clock get stopped for these breaks or does the 30-seconds just tick down until the ref blows the whistle to say the ad break’s over?

My biggest problem, however, is that the game isn’t just about the fans who love it or the advertisers who support (and make money off) it. It’s about the players who play it. Most of them will tell you that they want a free-flowing game, that can ebb and flow on its own merits, not at the will of advertisers or officials.

There are subtle nuances of the game that I fear are being lost. I love yelling at the TV for players to get up and stop trying to slow the play down, or at the ref for letting them get away with it, or at my team for not doing enough to lay around on opposition players trying to make fast play-the-balls.

I get cranky with the opposition team when they're only 1 or 2 points ahead, kicking the ball out, or taking ages to get back for a restart. And don't get me started on the 10-metre rule (I swear the refs have no idea how far 10 metres really is).

All of that is at the discretion of the players and the refs during the game.

The thing that rugby league does so well that other codes could learn from is stressing the grass roots - the fans and the amateur players. If we start making it about advertisers and broadcasters, that grass roots philosophy starts to take a back seat.

Besides, isn’t it enough that we have to listen to Ray Warren and crew rabbit on about the betting odds at every opportunity? Not to mention cross-promoting The Voice and other shows I doubt they’d take any interest in. But that’s another post altogether.

What do you think? Are Channel Nine’s proposed changes good for the game? Should “partners” to the NRL be allowed to dictate them? And what changes, if any, would you want to see if you had a say?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

How my Dad taught me about persistence.

Today is the 1 year anniversary of my blog. I started it with a post about my Nanna, and how she inspired me to get off my butt and work hard on my writing. Today, I’m writing a post on someone else who has inspired me, though I don’t think he knows how much.

My dad (and me) at my christening in 1976

I’m a child of the 80’s, so I remember back when video games were literally black and white (in the case of Pong), or green and lighter green (in the case of type-your-instructions RPGs), depending on your game. Game consoles didn’t come with memory cards, so when you turned your game back on, you had to start from the very beginning, every single time.

Like a lot of kids back then, my first game console was a Mattel Intellivision. We got it for Christmas when I was 6 or 7 and I have one very distinct memory from that time.

The day my father set it up was the day he gave me a lesson in persistence.

I didn’t know it then though. I thought it was a lesson in “adults will always play kids games first” and “little kids just have to wait until the big kids finish” or maybe “men just never grow up”.

Anyway, with that first ever game console, Santa brought us 2 games - Tron Deadly Discs and Checkers Draughts.

That first day, while all of us kids were out playing with our other shiny new toys, my dad set up the Intellivision and stuck the Checkers cartridge in to have play. Nothing unusual about that with my dad really, since he usually got to have first play with our toys so he knew how things worked.

Well, my dad played that thing for hours against the computer. I don’t know how many times I went back inside to see if I could have a turn only to see the screen unchanged and dad working out his next move.

You have to remember, this was before the internet and walk-throughs, so when the computer beat you, you had to work out why yourself and then counteract it the next time you played.

I think it may have been dark outside by the time my father triumphed over the computer, and I don’t know how many times he lost against it to get that one win. I just remember how stubborn and determined he was to not let a stupid machine beat him in a simple game like checkers.

Here’s why I think that lesson is important now.

Today, we have so many options to take the easy way out. We have books and websites and apps that tell us how to do things, the way we should live and how to beat games. Lots of people watch the movie but never read the book.

We have instant gratification. We want things, and very often, we get them now. Our attention spans seem to be on the decline. If it’s not interesting right from the start, we discard it. If we buy something second-hand, we only want it after someone else has spent the time restoring it.

I think the challenge is to remember that the things we tend to appreciate the most come to us from hard work and persistence.

Kind of like my writing.

I’ve been at this gig for nearly 13 years now. A lot of people tell me I’m crazy. Sometimes I think I just might be. How can I keep doing something that hasn’t paid me a cent? How can I keep wanting a career in an industry that is so hard to get into, and then stay in?

Because it’s who I am.

I love writing, even during the times I say I hate it. Why? Because occasionally, I read something back and I can see how good I am. I can see how good I am getting after 13 years, and I can see how much better I can become.

Just like my dad, I’m determined to work on what I’m doing wrong so that I can be better. Instead of competing with a computer, I’m competing with myself, and sometimes others, trying to tell me I’ll never be good enough.

Just like my dad, I’m not going to give up because it gets too hard.

Unlike my dad though, and lucky for me, computers now have memory. Everything I ever write can be saved and re-read. So unlike my dad, learning from my mistakes is a little less frustrating.