New Adventures

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Recently, I decided it was time for this old dog to learn some new tricks.  In my efforts to do so, I’ve:

Created a new Facebook Author page (which you can like…if you like…right here).

Begun a new blog that’s only about writing (that you can find here…if you’re a word nerd).

Learned to Tweet (which is hilarious fun and highly addictive.  Oh yeah, you can find me here).

I’m also learning to format ebooks and have begun work on my new book.

All in all, it feels like my period of stagnant hibernation is over.  HELLO SPRING.  What have you embarked upon since the change of season?

Short Stories

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In between books, in fact, sometimes during books, I write short stories.  Writing them keeps me sharp and makes me use my skills.  For me, short stories are a chance to really indulge my perfectionism and love of words.  The same rules that apply to writing short stories, apply to writing books even to the point that  I generally approach each chapter within a book, as though it’s a short story.

Recently my short story, The Water Cure, was published in Epiphmag.  Check it out.  It’s free and there are plenty of stories to read.   Tell me what you think but be warned, my short stories are usually dark, scary and at least a little unnerving.

Will Work For Food

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Food is a great motivator for me.  While I may not work for food alone, it certainly helps. As it turns out, I will also work for gratitude, adulation and friendship.  Sometimes I even work for money.  Cake however, will smooth all pathways to productivity.

Having just finished Book Week presentations, I can honestly say, I’ve never before, been so foodily

Me pretending I know answers!

flattered.  At every school I visited, I met cute kids who listened attentively.  They asked clever questions as though I might know some answers and they thanked me for my time.

Then they took me to morning tea.  Book Week morning teas consist of coffee, cakes, fruit platters and a whole range of wondrous things, which resident authors scarf, in case the food either disappears…or the bell goes.

Following a Book Week morning tea, there were usually more presentations to different classes.  By this stage, having grown unaccustomed to such long stretches of continuous speech, my voice became a little hoarse.   As if magically attuned, teachers and teacher librarians, heard the initial vocal croak.  They quietly sneaked from the room, to return moments later, with cooling glasses of water.  Wondrous.

Note the attentiveness

Then they took me to lunch.  Bread rolls, more cake, juice, biscuits, fruit, coffee.  Again conversation between writers, teachers and librarians, was interspersed with chewing, lip smacking and finger licking.

After lunch there were more in class presentations.  I was thrilled when teachers took notes and afterward told me how well what I’d discussed with students, would fit with their upcoming lessons.  I was even more chuffed when kids stayed back to have a chat, ask about my books and their own writing.

Then it was home…for afternoon tea.

Of course, this was just the schools.  I also visited the YMCA in Browns Plains, where the girls were funny, interested/ing and fed me lamington squares filled with cream.

At Logan City Libraries, I met students from Browns Plains State High.  They were part of the school’s writing group.  For some reason it makes me inordinately happy to think on teens who willingly spend their time imagining and writing new worlds. These kids filled me with hope, rather than food.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s the hope, rather than the food that’s left me feeling so satisfied.  At every one of my Book Week locations, I found myself inspired by my audience.  I was awed by the depth of their questions, their eagerness to learn and their determination to dream.

I was humbled by the staff (teachers, librarians, youth workers, counsellors etc)who arrange these events.  Their commitment to improving outcomes for kids.  Their palpable need to bring words,

Sometimes a girl needs to sit between snacks

understanding and a love of language into people’s lives.

Over the past two weeks, these people, the staff and the students, restored a little of my faith in humanity, so maybe I need to reappraise my remuneration package.

Will work for fulfillment…and food!

Will Botox Flatten The Uncanny Valley?

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The ‘uncanny valley’ is a term used in robotics.  It refers to the fact that when humans are shown perfectly humanoid features, they feel calm and happy.   This indicates that the viewer can relate to the humanoid specimen.  The specimen can be understood.  Whether the humanoid features are actually human or robotic, doesn’t matter.  The same feelings are also elicited, when the viewer sees a robot that is obviously a robot. However, when shown a robot that is ‘almost’ human, the viewer enters the ‘uncanny valley’.  In the uncanny valley, viewers experience revulsion, dislike, fear and other iterations of distaste.

Graphing the Uncanny Valley goes something like this.

Reading this article and then this one, I thought about all the women I’ve seen recently.  The ones with their flattened nasolabial folds*, their artificially wide eyes, filled cheeks, tattooed eyebrows and lips.  When I meet these women, I have to try not to stare.  I’m not revolted, I’m just…disconcerted.  I find myself wondering what to say to them, which is strange because I can talk to anyone.

It occurs to me now, that these women, may well be humans who’ve inadvertently entered the ‘uncanny valley’.  Consider the face below.  Not entirely dissimilar, right?  Which one is more expressive?

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here’s the next question: will the current tide of Botox, Restilin, implants and surgery, actually flatten the ‘uncanny valley’?  Will we become so used to looking at ‘almost human’ faces on humans, that they’ll no longer worry us when they appear on robots?  If so, are we going to replace models, newsreaders and others in visual industries, with robots?

Is this just my writer’s mind making unrealistic leaps, or is it likely?  Who knows what dreams/nightmares may come!

*nasolabial folds are the cheek lines that run between nose and the corner of the mouth

21st Century Authors

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Well, I did it.  I joined the 21st century.  I realise that probably happened when my books appeared as ebooks on Amazon.  It might also have happened when I started being allowed to submit queries by email.  Or, I might have considered myself ‘modern’ the first time I Skyped.  But no, today outstripped all my other technological advances.  Today I signed a Kindlegraph!

I love signing my books at any time.  It’s such a compliment for someone to buy, read and keep a book for an autograph.  It’s true, I worry over what to write and whether my handwriting is good enough, but ultimately, I really just love that someone wants my autograph.
For this reason, I’ve always felt a little ‘detached’ from my ebooks.  I never really considered them the kind of thing that people might keep, pore over and get signed as a keepsake.  I don’t know why I felt that way, I just did.
As you can imagine, signing myself up to Kindlegraph, was an eye opening experience.  I had thought it would involve me scanning my signature etc, etc.  But no.  For the sake of convenience, they let you choose your signature.  Serioiusly, the Kindlegraph program takes your author name and offers up a dozen different ‘written’ signatures from which to choose.  The one I selected is almost identical to my handwritten signature.  It was so exciting to see, I can’t even tell you.
The image below is the entry to the Kindlegraph site.  The front page is Tina Fey’s ‘Bossypants’ (great book btw).  You can see how the dedications and signatures come out looking.  They’re great!

Don't know how much this cost Ms Fey's publishers, but I bet it was worth it!

So the summary of my day.  Finished ghost-writing a GINORMOUS book, but got excited about my Kindlegraph.  I guess there’s just no helping a technogeek, right?
Oh yes, if you’d like me to sign a Kindlegraph for you, you can click on this link, request my Kindlegraph, your request will appear in my email inbox.  I’ll sign and then BAM it’ll be magically transported to your Kindle.  **sigh** life is just full of little miracles, is it not?

Do What You Love

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I’ve heard it said, that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  In essence this is true; but when it comes to the particulars of doing what you love, people (especially young people) often run into trouble.  The reason for this, is that doing what you love and therefore never working implies two things:

  1. You must, automatically, naturally, inherently, know what you love.
  2. Work is a bad/unhappy thing.

Let’s deal with the first problem first.  Knowing what you love. It’s easy to identify what you love when you’ve lived a bit; when life has involved more than school and an adolescent boyfriend.  When you know yourself choosing a love is easier.  But what of the young who’ve had their heads filled with the passionate words of tree-changers and change-your-lifers?  How are they to know what they love at eighteen years of age?  And will it be an eternal love, or just a short-lived passion?  At eighteen, life is still the great unknown. Of all that’s out there, how do you choose what you love?

When asked to determine what they love, or when told to only work at what they love, many young adults fall into a state of terminal indecision which, on occasion, leads to terrible feelings of inadequacy and sometimes depression.  Why?  Because they’ve yet to identify true loves and real passions. How, they wonder, can I not know what I love? The answer is simple; they just don’t.  Generally teens and young adults haven’t done or tried enough to know what they love.

Of late, this has been a hot topic of conversation between myself and my young people.  Finally, a solution occurred to me.  “You just have to try stuff,” I explained.  “Jeez, I didn’t know I hated being a secretary until I tried being one.  Sometimes you  have to get in and mess around a bit.  You have to know what you don’t like in order to home in on what you do like.”  That’s the thing, sometimes finding what we love doing, is simply a process of elimination.

Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule.  I have a very talented artist friend.  Her parents  (both of them) were artists and her grandparents, if not artists, were artistic.  She’s known all of her life, where her talents lay and I am inordinately jealous of the kind of security that must have given her as she grew and explored the world.

For the rest of us, we just have to figure it out.

Now, about work.  Work is not an innately bad concept.  It’s just something you have to do sometimes.  Sometimes, even what you love, can be hard work.  Parents know I’m I’m telling the truth.  We love our kids with an abiding passion, but there are days when we’d swap them for ten minutes of quiet and an instant coffee.

For me, writing is this way.  I love certain stages of the writing process.  In fact, I go so far as to compare the early stages of writing with the act of falling in love (you can read that particular rave here).  There are other stages though, that I would happily delegate.  The query/submission process is one.  The editing is another.  I realise these are important processes and I know they make the final product so much better and more valuable, but  honestly, there’s nothing fun about it.  It’s work; straight-out, flat-out, no-doubt-about-it, hard, grinding work. I live through the work so I can get back to the good bits, to the things I love about my job. I do the work necessary to make the final product perfect; to make it something I can love.

So here’s the lowdown on the whole ‘do what you love’ conundrum.

  1. You must actively seek what you love.  This is generally a process of elimination.
  2. All work requires that you actually work. If it didn’t, it would be called play.
  3. Parents: STOP telling your kids to do what they love.  Encourage them instead to do something.  When they hate doing that something, then encourage them to do something else.  This is what I like to call ‘failing forward’.  Eventually they’ll stumble upon what they do love then…Viola, the cliche becomes a truth!

In short, I think the cliche should say Find what you love and the work will be fulfilling…

Can I get a little support on that?