Monday, 22 December 2014

Dog Attack - You're Doing It Wrong

To the woman having coffee outside at Bean Thief in East Kew between 0915 and 0945 this morning:

Your statement that 'he never attacks anyone' is patently false, as we both saw.

Your further claim that 'he only ever attacks your dog, so I think that says something about you' is also incorrect.

It may be the case that your dog only ever attacks Emily. I am not in a position to know. But if walking sedately past him, on lead and at heel, is considered by your dog sufficient provocation for an attack, I should think it unlikely.

When your unrestrained dog attacks another dog, there are certain social conventions that govern your response, which should include the following elements:

1. I'm sorry. (or other form of apology).

2. Is your dog okay? (or other expression of concern for whether actual damage has occurred).

Once these conditions have been satisfied, you may of course then go on to make the usual spurious claims about how he has never done it before, etc. 

Do you know, woman who doesn't bother to hold the other end of the lead when you're having your coffee, what happens when a motor vehicle travelling at speed collides with a dog? It is not pretty. However, as you choose to leave your dog unrestrained while you sit on the edge of a main thoroughfare sipping your latte, you will doubtless find out one of these days. Perhaps next time someone with a dog passes you on the other side of the road.

Assuming your dog doesn't die horribly in this way, do you know what happens when a person makes a complaint to Boroondara Council about your dog attacking a person or another dog, or rushing at a person? No, I thought not. You will face having your dog declared a Dangerous Dog. If that happens, your dog can only legally be outside your property leashed and muzzled. For the rest of his life. If you ignore that restriction, the council can seize and destroy your dog. Destroying a dog means killing it. 

Do you know that on receiving a complaint the council has the legal right to seize and kill your dog anyway?

Do you also know that it qualifies as a 'rush' if the dog approaches within three metres of any human? No, I thought not.

Did you know that there is a fine of several hundred dollars consequent on letting your dog run around off lead in public? No, having a lead trailing from his collar does not mean that he is 'on lead'. You have to be holding the other end.

Do you realise that you came perilously close to having your dog reported today, by me, for an attack/rush? Do you realise that the only reason I didn't do so was that it is three days before Christmas, and I decided to give you a break? Do you realise that that won't happen a second time? Do you even know who I am?

Well, Miss It Says Something About You If My Dog Attacks Your Dog, just let anything like that happen again and you will find out.

I'll see you in court, if that happy day happens. Oh, did I mention? I'm a lawyer. So it won't cost me anything to sue you. Just the filing fees.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Music Review - Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, Volume 4

In this, Manning's fourth album, the emphasis has shifted yet again, focussing on the particular over the general in its exploration of the variety of human experience. The changes have not been limited to the album's focus, though; Manning's work is always developing, and VOL 4 brings us a number of departures in technique.

Unlike previous albums, where the majority of vocals were sung by Jeff Burstin, this one has Bruce Haymes singing all but one of the sung tracks. His softer, lighter voice gives the album a very different feeling. It is a gentler, slower take on life, and I, personally, prefer his soothing tones to the raw, slightly gravelly energy of Burstin. It seems to me a better fit with the gentle voice of Bernie Manning as he reads his poetry. The two in fact combine in Girl On A Tram, an engaging vignette of a phone conversation eavesdropped on public transport, and the combination of spoken verse and sung refrain works very well.

In another departure from established habit, Song X was the first purely instrumental track I've seen in Manning's albums. I loved its easy, loose-jointed sound, and hope there will be more like it.

Great use has also been made of special effects: beach sounds, thunderstorms, birdsong have been used to great effect, not just shoved in as background but weaving in and through the music and enhancing it. Whoever put this together is very gifted indeed. The special effects were used to particular effect in Tweed Heads 2001.

Worthy of special mention were also  Baby Boomers Rap - another delightful piece of social comment, lightened by Manning's wit, which is dry, but never unkind, A Winter's Day, a sorrowful spoken poem at the end of which a beam of hope shines through the clouds, and Smilin', in which the feeling of summer was almost palpable.

Although in general I loved all of the new developments, on a personal level I must say I was sad to see that there were no comic monologues in this album. It is the first time that these have been absent, the previous albums following a course started with the hilarious Secret Men's Business in Volume 1. I'm a great fan of these and I do hope that we may see more of them in Volume 5.

Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, Volumes One, Two and Three and Four, are available from  Bernie's own website.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Book review - Feels Like The First Time, by Shawn Inmon

A touching story of young love lost and regained, Feels Like The First Time reminded me rather of Romeo and Juliet, with a happy ending instead of the traditional stage littered with corpses.

I am tempted to say the characters were well constructed and believable, but this would be a nonsense in a book that is not really fiction, but rather a novelised account of true events. The people in the book are real, but it still takes good writing for the reader to be able to see their reality, and in this Inmon has done a sterling job.

Right from the start the story caught my interest and I enjoyed reading it very much. I salute the author's courage in sharing his personal life like this.

The only thing that did detract a little from my enjoyment was that the author uses 'lay' intransitively throughout the book. Perhaps this will be remedied in a later edition.

Feels Like The First Time, and its companion volume, Both Sides Now, are both available from Amazon.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Book review - Student Body, by Rafeeq McGiveron

In this first novel by career academic Rafeeq McGiveron, we are shown the anatomy of an extramarital affair. Little by little, McGiveron dissects the affair like a rat on a laboratory table, laying bare all of its hidden mechanics and unexpected effects.

The main part of the book traces the development of the affair, a typical enough affair, with all of its terrible consequences, some of which Rick O’Donnell, the bumbling, well-meaning protagonist, manages to avoid, and others of which he must bear the pain. Towards the end, a shocking development places the whole situation in a darker, more sinister light. The young woman is brutally murdered, and O’Donnell is implicated in the crime.

It is left to the reader to decide whether O’Donnell, already in a precarious mental state, has killed his lover in a dissociative state or whether the sleazy professor has done away with her, and whether the one witness in O’Donnell’s favour will be sufficient for him to avoid conviction for the crime. The book closes, with beautiful symmetry, just as it opened, with O’Donnell facing the possible, even the probable, ruin of his whole life as a result of his ill-judged affair.

The characters are beautifully drawn out. It’s not easy when writing in a limited third person point of view to give the reader information the protagonist doesn’t have, and in this McGiveron excels, giving us a portrait of a nasty, self-centred, possibly sociopathic young woman determined to have what she wants no matter the cost to anyone else, while poor, trusting O’Donnell retains his belief in her purity and innocence.  I found O’Donnell himself eminently believable; a clever young man who has found life easy, and when presented with his first major challenge, fails dismally because nothing in his life has prepared him to encounter difficulty.

Although I’m not, in general, a fan of graphic sex in a book, the various sexual episodes were beautifully excecuted, to the point where, despite an activity being described which I, personally, consider beyond disgusting, I found myself carried along and, for those few minutes, sympathising completely with O’Donnell as he wallowed in the warm, gushing milkiness. Now to be able to achieve this, with a reader who is actively repulsed by the activity being described and whose ears in any case go back at the very suggestion of explicitly described sex, is a very considerable achievement, and I applaud it. The ability to carry the reader from his world into your own, whether he will or no, is the quintessence of the writer’s art.

So we have a nicely symmetrical plot about a very human situation that’s familiar to everyone – after all, who hasn’t known someone whose life was ruined by adultery, or who was badly taken in by an unscrupulous person – we have very substantial character development, and wonderfully evocative sex scenes. But all this would not make Student Body the fine piece of work it is without the author’s wonderful use of language. A writer’s writer through and through, McGiveron wields the language like a Bach or a Corelli, winding it around and back on itself in layer after layer of baroque curlicues, producing an exquisite tapestry of imagery that delights both mind and senses. I enjoyed it more than I can say, and confidently expect to see it winning awards.

Student Body is available from AMAZON.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Book review - The Slave Auction, by Ray Anselmo

In a magnificent leap across genres, The Slave Auction combines elements of romance, post-apocalyptic science fiction, Christian fiction and crime thriller. I read it in a single day, staying up late to finish it, and I love my sleep.

The theme of Christian faith is woven throughout the book, but is so subtle that readers unsympathetic with a Christian worldview will not be put off by it. There's no in-your-face preaching. In fact, nothing about the book is in-your-face, and the whole work is characterised by a lovely subtlety and restraint which many of today's writers would do well to emulate.

The characters are well drawn and believable and the post-apocalyptic world is realistic and grainy. As a treatment of our world after global nuclear war, it seemed to me very realistic. I was particularly pleased to see the treatment of slavery, not as a creepy sexual titillation, as sadly is often the case in modern fiction, but as an understandable economic development.

With regard to presentation, the book is well written and edited, and there was nothing to interfere with the reader's enjoyment.

All in all, a thoroughly good read.

The Slave Auction is available from AMAZON.

Monday, 1 December 2014

On Writer's Block

The repairman looked sadly at my inert washing machine, shaking his head slowly.

"Can't you fix it?" I asked, thinking with alarm about the cost of a replacement.

"Sorry. I can't."

"What's wrong with it," I asked. "Has the motor burned out?"

"Well, see, I've got Repairman's Block. So I just can't, you know, fix anything at the moment."

At this point I lost my temper.

"You fucking retard," I shouted. "You're charging me $75 per fifteen minutes for a service call and you won't fix it? You fix my washing machine RIGHT NOW or I'm calling your boss."

I went to work, but sitting at my desk I found any desire to work had left me. "Where are the Johnstone contracts," my boss asked me. "Sorry, Mr Finkelstein," I told him. I haven't drafted them yet. I've got Lawyer's Block."

"Oh, you poor thing," he sympathised. "You'd better take the rest of the week off and go to the beach. Perhaps the sights and sounds of nature will inspire you."

When I returned from the city, I found my house had been broken into and all my jewellery stolen. I rang up the police.

"Sorry, Ma'am," said the desk sergeant. "I can't help you today. I've got Policeman's Block."

Of course, the above conversations never really happened. But they ought to illustrate the amazing fatuity of so-called 'Writer's Block'.

Writing, if you choose to make it your job, is a job. It's work. An activity that you do, day after day, in order to obtain some reward. You do not get to sit in a corner and whine that your 'muse' has deserted you or that you are 'blocked'. What you need to do is get over yourself and get on with your work.

If you haven't chosen to make writing your job, then it is a hobby, and you've no business whining if you don't feel like playing with your hobby that day. No one cares if you don't fancy playing golf or tennis on any particular day, and no one cares if you don't feel like writing. Again, you need to get over yourself.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Book review - Alouette's Song, by Andrew Jonathan Fine


Inspirational fiction is traditionally couched in terms of a romance, with an occasional mystery. Alouette's Song is the first I've seen that combines inspirational with traditional science fiction. It should be an encouragement to anyone who'd like to write inspirational fiction but doesn't want to fit into the usual romance mould.

Viewed as science fiction, it's a strong piece of work, very much in the tradition of the early Heinlein. Purely on this basis I feel sure the book will find an enthusiastic readership. It's exciting, it keeps moving and it resolves very nicely.

Read as inspirational fiction, though, Alouette's Song really shines. Perhaps because that's a genre that appeals more to me, or perhaps because inspirational/SF combination is rare, or perhaps because it's so nice to see inspirational fiction based on a faith other than Christianity, but none of these things fully accounts for my reaction to it. It's a deeply moving and informed story of a young man's struggles with an aspect of his religion, and very, very well done. Although not Jewish myself, I found a great deal of it personally relevant and helpful. I honestly can't recommend the book enough on this basis.

I did have a couple of criticisms. I felt the four young protagonists were a little too perfect; a bit too superhumanly good and self disciplined and moral, a bit too wise for their ages. This was particularly the case with the violinist. There were times when I really wanted to hit her with a brick.

The other criticism I would make is that I felt there were too many technical terms used without explanation. Writing for a wide readership, one can't assume anything about the reader's education level. In particular the science was over my head. In a traditional science fiction work, of course, this is often the case, and one has to cut writers a bit of slack in that genre as it is sometimes not completely avoidable. However, the combination of this with some technical terms of Jewish practice that I also did not understand, and then the bowling terms - the combined effect of science, Judaism and bowling did leave me feeling like 'Geez, am I really that dumb?' Of course, if one is aiming at a particular readership, some of these concerns won't apply, but a reading population of people who understand all three of science, Judaism and bowling would be, I felt, a little narrow and I would have liked to see the Judaism and bowling made a little more accessible to the general reading public.

Over against this, I absolutely loved the use of the multiple points of view with first person. It was very well executed, and almost never did I need to flip back to check who was speaking. I particularly liked the way the villain was portrayed, saving him from being a cardboard villain.

Overall, I liked Alouette's Song very, very much and I look forward to seeing more from this talented author.

Alouette's Song is available from AMAZON.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Book review - Trial Run, by Ella Medler

The opening of Trial Run led me to expect a standard romance in the vein of Mills and Boon. The strong, clever, resourceful hero with his high-handed, masterful attitude, the ditzy heroine who needs to be 'saved' - and I might almost have stopped there, as I'm not a fan of the genre, only for the fact that the young woman had been portrayed as fundamentally of sound character. A woman who spends all her time acquiring skills such as plumbing and car maintenance, in order always to maintain complete independence, can hardly be the fainting heroine of a 1950's style bodice-ripper.

The central character, Amelie, was surprisingly complex for a work of this type, with a tension between her tough-minded independence and business acumen and the emotional immaturity of a spoiled schoolgirl. This tension fleshed her out into three dimensions, saving her from the flat banality of the traditional romance heroine.

I therefore continued with the book, enjoying along the way its pleasant, easy style and the drama of the action sequences which are a particular strength of Medler's, and was rewarded for my perseverance about halfway through, when the hero, in a surprising plot twist, re-examined his life and actions and experienced a change of heart, rejecting his high-handed and arrogant behaviour and emerging as a decent and rational man. This metanoia really defines Trial Run, lifting it from the mere romance into a really satisfying read.

There was rather more graphic sex than I like to see in a novel, however it was well enough executed and my distaste for scenes of this kind is one of personal preference. I feel sure that afficionados of the modern romance genre will enjoy this book.

Trial Run, with Medler's other work, is available from AMAZON.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tabitha's Excellent Cooking Adventure - Shepherd's Pie

Today we are going to make traditional Shepherd's Pie.

Turn on oven to preheat.

Turn off oven. Ring up husband on the telephone, to expostulate about Mr Muscle which has not been wiped out. Extract promise of immediate return.

Peel potatoes. While peeling, listen to audiobook. Shout abuse at person reading audiobook: It's fucking CONSCIOUS, you bloody moron. He was CONSCIOUS. Not fucking CONSCIENCE. You stupid bitch.

Put potatoes on to boil.

Les Pommes de Terre qui se bouillent
 Mix vodka martini.

Le martini! Le excellent!

Drink martini and read some Agatha Christie.

Drain and mash potatoes, with various crap. Milk, butter, salt, pepper.
Ring husband again to demand his immediate presence re oven.

Listen as husband relates his adventures while cleaning the oven. He has rescued a lady in distress and her autistic daughter. Congratulate self once again on Getting a Good Husband, which my mother said I would never be able to do, because of having a Heavy Hand with Pastry, and being a bitch.

Brown meat. The recipe calls for 750 grams and I only have 600 grams. Meh.

Realise that have forgotten to prepare vegetables. Panic when cannot find capsicum. Accuse husband of stealing it.

Apologise to husband.

Chop onion and capsicum, crush garlic and add to meat.

Cook for some time, while reminding husband what a Domestic Goddess I am and how lucky he is to have me (in case he has forgotten).

The mixture. Take as directed.

Let dogs in from the garden.

A dog.

Recipe says 'drain off fat'. I wish! Pour some wine instead.

Reduce heat and add other ingredients. All kinds of shite. Who cares? Shove it all in. Pour more wine.

Now with added shite!

Recipe says spoon into pie dish. Bullshit. Tip it in straight from the frying pan.

Layer the mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle with paprika.

Ready to go in the oven.

Oven it. Heave sigh of relief.

It was good. I think it could have done with a shade less thyme.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Guest Fiction - A short story by Jazmen Bishop

 Today's post is a special treat - a short story, previously unpublished, by writer Jazmen Bishop.


Stacey thought she had it all, but  boy was she wrong.  Everyone else looking at her situation could tell she really had nothing at all.  She had been with Darius for 4 years.  She absolutely loved him, and that’s where the problem began.  She worked as a bank teller and adored her job.  She made great money and loved the customers she met on a day to day basis.  Darius had promised her the world kids, a house, cars everything she ever wanted.  He at the time wasn’t working and this made him feel less than a man.   Over the next two months he slowly started talking Stacey into quitting her job and focusing on their dreams of a future and family. She was so excited. She thought this sounded amazing.  She went into her job the next day and talked to her boss and told her she would be quitting. 
Absolutely shocked the boss said, “Are you sure?” Stacey reassuring her said,
     “Yes I have a great man that wants to give me the world and I am ready to give myself to him completely.”
     Speechless the boss simply muttered,” Ok” and let Stacey go about her way.  Eager to start planning with Darius, Stacey rushed home.  Taking two buses as fast as she could, thinking about how bright the future was going to be the whole time.  At first things were great, Darius fixed her breakfast in bed, they made great love and he took her out and treated her like his queen.  He got a connection from an old friend and started working construction at a local site making 14 dollars and hour.    He got great hours weekly so he was able to provide for her and pay the bills and things were great. With only a few months of things going smoothly there began to be a great decline in their progress.  Darius began to be very demanding wanting dinner ready as soon as he walked in the door from work, he wanted her to fix breakfast and lunch made before he left for work each morning.  He wanted the house spotless and didn’t want her to talk to anyone else besides him, including her family.  They began to fall on tough times financially and she just wanted to help so they didn’t lose anything and so she didn’t have to put so much pressure on him. She offered to get her old banking job back but he refused and told her the only job she needed to be focused on was cleaning his house and making sure that he was satisfied in every way possible and then some.  She had no problem with him working but she desired her own so badly now that she wasn’t getting to bring her own money into the household anymore.  She no longer felt worthy and loved as she once had, now she just felt used.  She had also contemplated leaving but where would she go.  All of her family was gone, and it wasn’t like she was talking to them anyway.   When she began to fight with Darius about them she gave in to his request to not have contact with them because they didn’t like the things Darius was doing.  The family felt as if he was trying to isolate Stacey from them.  At the time she didn’t see it, but now that the signs were right in front of her she had no choice but to see what had happened.  She had 2 close friends who she had kept in contact with minimally and they were doing very well for themselves.  They had kids and husbands ‘of their own, plus their own businesses so she never wanted to intrude on them with her problems.  As if things weren’t bad enough, she was pregnant now, two months to be exact.  She had not told Darius, she didn’t want to make him mad or more stressed than what he already was.  Stacey tried her best to keep this a secret for four months and as she began to eat and crave more things she began to get bigger.  The insults began to get unbearable; he would call her a cow when she would go back for seconds at dinner he would look at her crazy when she would crave peanut butter and cheese.  She finally told him sitting down one night at dinner. 
     Look baby I have some news, “I am pregnant,” she said looking down at her plate playing with her peas with her silver handled fork. He seemed very happy about the news.  He looked up at her and grabbed her hand with so much enthusiasm in his eyes.  He hadn’t looked that happy in a long time.  Stacey was somewhat happy he had taken the news so well but she was still miserable inside. 
     Darius said, “Now we can plan, see aren’t you happy that you quit your job?  “Now you can stay at home and take care of me and the baby.” 
     Stacey looked up as soon as he mentioned staying at home with the baby and she said “I am going to get my job back.” 
     Darius looked and said, “Uh no, you won’t make as much as me so I don’t think that’s a good idea and now that I think about it says Darius that sounds terrible.” 
     She cried out “Well how am I supposed to be a stay at home mom, what is a stay at home mom do?” This was the last thing in the world that she wanted to be completely honest. 
     He said,  “You will figure it out and you have to figure out fast because I am not quitting my job anytime soon, and plus you will be pregnant who will hire you or even take a second look at you nobody wants someone wobbling around fat and pregnant doing things for them.  Sneaking food left and right because you are craving it.” 
     She took Darius at his word and although it made her sad she began to believe maybe he was right and fell into a deep depression.  Nine terrible months crept by, she had terrible morning sickness every morning.  She would crave food and then when she would go to cook it she would no longer desire what she had made.  She craved soda and cheese nonstop throughout the entire pregnancy.   She had terrible back pains that kept her up at night, not to mention the baby seemed to be on opposite sleeping schedules with Stacey.  At night when she was ready to go to sleep the baby would be up bouncing around from wall to wall in her stomach.  The baby would always be hungry right when she would get ready to leave the house to run errands or go to doctor’s appointments.  When she started having contractions the fake Braxton Hicks’ ones or not she was so excited she knew it wouldn’t be much longer before she was finally holding her baby, she was rushed to the hospital.  Looking for Darius she called and called him, but he was nowhere to be found.  When she finally did get in touch with him hours later he told her he had picked up an extra shift and that he would be stuck at work for another three hours and that there was nothing that he could do or say to get out of it.  She was furious and wasn’t helping the fact that   she wasn’t moving very fast through the stages of labor.   She needed to be dilated to ten before she could start pushing and she was only at a two.  Her labor pains were terrible, she just wanted to sleep and eat and those were the last two things the baby and the hospital were letting her do.  The hospital told her she could not have anything to eat until she had the baby.
       “What I haven’t eaten all day.”
     They simply told her to focus on her contractions and her breathing.  She wanted to call someone to come be there with her so badly.  This was the worst time she had ever imagined being by herself.  Having some nurse holding her hand through the difficult pains rather than her boyfriend and the father of her unborn child.  Hours went by and she spent the entire labor by herself and she gave birth by herself with no one there to congratulate her besides the doctors and nurses.  She never thought she could be so happy and so depressed at the same time. They were still between two names but since Darius wasn’t there anyways she didn’t care to have him have a say so in the end.    She named the baby Olivia Marie, after her grandmother who had passed many years ago but Stacey still missed dearly to this day.  Darius finally showed up that night at 1130 p.m. Stacey had given birth to Olivia at 2p.m. that afternoon. He had missed everything and wanted to do nothing but argue.  Stacey was exhausted and that was the last thing she wanted to do.  She asked Darius to leave because them arguing was too much for her to handle at the moment.  Livid to no end, Darius snaps.
“What do you mean can I leave I fucking take care of you and you don’t even do shit.  All you do all day is eat and sleep and you supposedly do house chores but damn every time I come home the house looks like shit to me and you always act like you are so tired from what, I am the one that is tired I am tired of you tired of taking care of you tired of you not having anywhere else to go besides up under me I am tired of having to do everything.  You don’t even have sex right you don’t even make me come I make myself come thinking about other women. You disgust me and I don’t want you to come back home with this baby you can just go stay somewhere else.”
 Flabbergasted Stacey was sobbing, “Just leave you dumb bastard just leave now she was screaming at this point.”  He left slamming the door behind him and making a ruckus within the hospital as he walked out.  The nurses were all in the office area on peas and cures in case they needed to get law enforcement involved.  The nurses came into the room seconds later and asked if everything was okay and if Stacey needed anything.  Very upset sobbing and trying to talk threw tears she tried saying no but nothing came out so she simply shook her head and the nurses walked out of the room giving her the space they could tell she needed.  She just kept repeating to herself that she couldn’t let her child live like this and she refused to have her child exposed to this.  She regretted even meeting Darius.   She wondered why God had done things the way he had and if she had done something wrong and that was why she was now in this terrible situation.  Frustrated and thinking of how to change her situation she slowly drifted off into a peaceful sleep.  She slept for hours it was the best sleep she had had in weeks and she loved it.   She woke up refreshed and didn’t hardly recognize where she was.  She knew however that she was ready to try to conquer her situation.  When she woke up she was surprised to see Darius sitting there with the baby and a nurse in the room as well. 
The nurse whispered to Stacey, “I hope it’s okay I let him back in he was asking about the baby and he has been her for about an hour just holding her and talking to her.”  The nurse smiled when she got a confirmation look from Stacey that things were fine.  The nurse smiling at Darius walked out the room to go finish her rounds within the hospital.  Darius looked at Stacey and smiled you are finally up sleepy head, he laughed he went to stand up and walk over to her with his black moisturized hands holding Olivia tightly. It was like he was a brand new person and nothing bad had occurred within them.  This scared her a little how he could just act like things were great after such a big blowup not too long ago.  But she assumed maybe he said things out of anger and stress and now things were going to be fine again.   I love you both he said as he gave Stacey a kiss on the forehead and smiled at her.  He looked at her and said sweaty are you ready to go home with our bundle of joy, Stacey very happy by the way he was acting simply said yes.  The doctors and nurses were more than willing to let her go home with the baby and with Darius.  Stacey had actually thought for a second that Olivia had changed him and that now he was going to be a better man after seeing his daughter and realizing that he couldn’t treat and act anyway he wanted with the mother of his child.  They got home and things were great for the first few days.  He was up helping her at night with the baby and making bottles cooking cleaning and everything.  By the beginning of the second week things had slowly dwindled once again and he was now back to the old Darius being very demanding and asking her to do everything once again.  So tired of the situation Stacey began to cry she didn’t know what else to do or where else to turn.  Stacey was beginning to be exhausted each and every day and there was nothing Darius was doing to try to help her with the needed house duties and Olivia.  Stacey was having to clean the house fix three meals a day for everyone change the baby feed and play with her and find time to have sex with Darius when he came home.  Getting sleep seemed impossible so that was always the first things neglected.    She was literally on E trying to keep up with everything it was just too much.  All Darius would do would be to come inside and play with Olivia for about an hour each day after work and the rest of the night he expected Stacey to wait on him hand and foot until  he went to bed for the night.  It was as if she gained two kids when she had Olivia.  Extremely exhausted Stacey decided to take a nap one day while Olivia was sleeping.  She hadn’t done any of the house chores because she was too tired and she hadn’t been feeling well.  Stacey didn’t know Darius was going to come home early from work that day.  He came into the house an immediately flipped out on Stacey in front of Olivia; he was throwing stuff and yelling at the top of his lungs.  Olivia was now wide awake screaming.
 “Why the fuck is the house not clean what the hell have you been doing all day and where is the baby why is she crying like that what you did you do to her?” He was flipping out about everything, “Why isn’t my dinner ready? What was this leftover crap you made me for my lunch today?  You know I don’t do leftovers I never do leftovers.  I want a new fresh meal made every single meal.”
He was furious at this point because Stacey just kept crying.   He whaled off and slapped Stacey hard as if she was a nasty fly he was trying to kill and get out of his house.  She couldn’t believe what he had just done and was pissed beyond words.   She ran off into the room crying, she locked herself in the room for hours with Olivia.  She kept waiting for Darius to leave or someone to come and save them but no one ever did and Darius never left.     He finally went to go lay down.  She was completely over everything that was the final straw to everything she could not take any more from this guy who claimed to love her.  She now had a plan to how she was going to handle the situation.  She was going to kill Darius.  She had all the details planned out in her head.  She had been contemplating this for some time and kept telling herself that this was too drastic and that things would get better.  Things never would get better and seeing how he acted just then with her was confirmation that he was just going to do what he wanted so she was going to make a stop to him and for good.   Now she needed to get all the details planned out and just sit back and wait for the right time to set her plan into motion.  She went to sleep that night feeling at ease and thinking about how nice it was going to be to slice his throat open.  She knew she wasn’t going to back out this time like she had other times.  This wasn’t the first time she had thought about killing Darius but every time she got those ideas, crazy is what she once called them she would tell herself that he was her heart and that things would get better but now there wasn’t much worse that things could get that she could still sit back and just continue to let happen she was officially through with his bullshit.  His shit talking, he thought he could do whatever he wanted, and he thought he could get away with it. The more she began to think about everything that had just happened the more she wanted to just go in the kitchen and grab the biggest butcher knife and slice his throat open right here right now.  She told herself to calm down and due to her daughter being there and still awake she didn’t want her to witness or hear anything so she told herself just to wait till tomorrow and to find another way to get him to hell where he belonged.    She went to bed holding Olivia thinking things will be fine after tomorrow.  The next day Stacey woke up bright and early ready to get things going the way she needed them to.  She got up and got them ready for a very eventful day with a happy ending she hoped, they both hopped on the bus to go to the store.  She bought food to make a superb dinner for the family that night she bought spaghetti and meatballs, red wine for her to take the edge off and some special ingredients to take care of her problem.   She headed home and cleaned the house superb.  Everything was in its spot it’s smelled like lemon fresh pine sol and dinner was cooking when Darius walked in from work.  She met him at the door and gave him a hug very surprised by her actions his face was amazed as if he thought she was going to be acting very different after their incident last night.  He came in and played with Olivia for a little while then started looking for dinner to be ready.  Stacey was on her ready tonight though she had dinner completely ready about 30 minutes after he walked into the house.  He was surprised to see that she had gone to the store.  Darius was feeling as if he had made her get into check with the smack he was feeling on top of the world and Stacey was ready things were working out perfectly.    She simply smiled and thought in her head if he only knew.  She fixed the glasses of wine first, then the plates to follow, piling his plate high with spaghetti and meatballs.  She was excited and had drank too much and had to tell herself to slow down, she wanted to savor every moment of what was about to happen.  He ate and kept complimenting her on how good the food was.  He looked up and said baby why aren’t you eating.  She kept reassuring him that she had already eaten while she was cooking the food and she just wanted to watch him get nice and full and talk about their day.  He began to talk about the guys at work and all the chaos that his day consisted of and she sat there patently listening to his every word sipping her wine.  When he finished eating she offered him more and when he was a little hesitant to answer she took it upon herself to make sure her man was nice and satisfied.  She made him a nice big second helping and they continued their conversation.  Once he could not eat another bite, his mouth was seeing the food and just refused to open. He told her he was nice and satisfied and she said okay and quickly did the dishes. He said I am going to lie down and get ready for tomorrow.  She asked him if he would wait for her because she was ready to lie down as well.
  “Well what about Olivia, asked Darius?” She looked over at Olivia who she had already fed and she was sure she was tired from all the running around earlier.  Stacey had just given her a big bottle with extra oatmeal in it to have her nice and full and at peace while she handled business.   
“She is fast asleep and she has been up all day so she will have no problems for a few hours so I can get some sleep with you,” Stacey reassured Darius.
She quickly finished the dishes and was ready to lay with her man for what she knew to be the last time.  They began to lay down and Stacey began to regret her decision for a brief second, at first Darius was declaring his love for her telling her how happy he was that they had decided to go this way with their lives and be together and how she would be a different place right now if it wasn’t for him.  All her hatred for him began to come back and she sat and listened as he began to down her.  
 He said, “Well I am about to fall asleep on you what did you put in this food he asked Stacey I am really tired now for some reason.  She smiled and looked at him.
  He was falling asleep fast, she looked him and said, “I can’t do this anymore and therefore I had to put a stop to this and to you. You think you can just talk to me anyway you want you asshole and then you had the nerve to put your hands on me last night with my daughter not too far from us.  Enough is enough.  You are so sleepy right now because I poisoned your meatballs.  I put sleeping pills and chemicals in them.  I hope you enjoy.  Your daughter and I will be fine without you.  We will struggle and do what we have to do before I let you continue to abuse us!”
 With nothing else to say but ready to see him go to sleep and never wake up she simply kissed him on his forehead, with tears in her eyes,  she sat and watched his eyes close and never to open.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Music Review - Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, VOL III

This third album by talented Melbourne songwriter Bernie Manning has veered away from the protest and is more a celebration of the varieties of human experience. I found it interesting as a kind of crossover piece between the worlds of music and poetry; Manning is essentially a poet, and the lyrics in Volume 3 reflect this bent in particular as the album rides the range of humanity, from the cheerful, cock-robin tone of the opening track, through the thought-provoking 'Do What You Do Best' and the nostalgic song of filial love 'My Father' (I was listening to that track on Father's Day and I must admit it brought me to tears) to  the gentle, valedictory sorrow of 'Sorrento'.

Humour isn't missed in the collection;in Track 10, 'I Am Not A Refrigerator' we see a rare lighter side to Jeff Burstin's voice, and of course there is a special treat for fans of Manning's dry, but essentially kind, humour in the two closing tracks, Men's Secret Nightmares 1 and 2.

The booklet of lyrics is provided with its usual professional presentation. I was a little sad that the lyrics  of two of the loveliest tracks, The Artist and Sorrento, were omitted from it; they are the two tracks (apart from Men's Secret Nightmares) where Manning speaks his own lyrics, and are also particularly beautiful tracks. Sorrento in particularly is heart-breakingly lovely. 

However, the clear diction of all three of the vocalists renders the book a luxury rather than a necessity. Altogether a very satisfying work, and one I will play often.

Bernie Manning's Greatest Hits, Volumes One, Two and Three, are available from  Bernie's own website.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Interview with the Author - Cathy Jackson on writing Inspirational Fiction, and achieving stupendously large wordcounts.

Today's interview is with Cathy Jackson, author of As You Wish.

OK, Cathy, thank you for joining us today. Let's start with the genre. Can you tell us a bit about what led you to write Inspirational Fiction?

Trial and error led me to writing inspirational fiction. I did try writing other genres but they never seemed to fit me. When I began writing Inspirational Fiction the words just flew onto the page.

And you call it Inspirational Fiction. Now in the past I've generally seen this genre referred to as Christian Fiction. Is there a difference, or what's the reason for the name change?

My mother's death is why I call what I write Inspirational Fiction. I wanted to take a very dark time in my life and give people hope so that they knew if they were going through something that it was going to be okay in the end. 

Oh that is lovely. And of course it opens the way for the genre to be inclusive for writers of other faiths.
And how has your own faith helped you in your work?

I base my writings off of real life situations. Empathy is one of my greatest emotions and if I can understand how the character(s) feel I know how to write them. What I don't try to do is generalize my faith in my books but try to inspire people by how the characters use it to be better people.

And what about the genre, if anything, do you find difficult?

I think I have written most genres. It's weird because when I find the one song that writes the chapters for me I'm done.

What do you mean, the one song?

A novel will usually write itself in my head while I am sleeping our taking a nap. I use music to fit each chapter of the book when I write the novel. If I need a sad song to write a chapter, I play a sad one. If I need a happy one because the chapter is happy I play a happy one. If I find the right song to fit the mood of the chapter I can usually type around 10 pages in a half an hour.

My goodness! That's a very novel approach, very original. Can you give us some examples of the songs you used when writing As You Wish?

No. I have started a Playlist for my other novels but I don't think I made one for As You Wish.

OK then, could you give us some examples of songs you've used in your other work?

No One Ever Saw – Lykke Li
Love Someone – Jason Mraz
Run (Revised Album Version) – Snow Patrol
Magic – Coldplay
Geronimo - Sheppard Best Day of My Life – American Authors Strange Enough- Verite Little Bit – Perrin Lamb Jose Gonzalez, Stay Alive This Love – Julia Stone   

So, how does it work? You can write 10 pages or so in half an hour with the right song: do you put the song on continuous repeat, is that how it works?

Yes! It drove my husband INSANE when I began doing it. But on repeat the words fly from my head onto the page.

That's probably THE most original writing technique I've ever heard of. How did you come up with it?

I guess that's why my husband calls me unconventional. But it works! Original!

So how did you come up with this technique?

How did I come up with it? I was trying to find a song one day to fit a mood in the book. It was The City by Exitmusic. I played the song over and over again and noticed the words would just fly from my fingers. 

But what made you think of listening to music while you wrote in the first place?

I love music! I have always associated my moods with music and to an extent the type of music I am listening to is how I feel. So I just thought, hey maybe the same thing would happen with the scene I am trying to write.

Brilliant. Ten pages, that would be around 5,000 words wouldn't it? Gosh, you could finish a novel in a day at that rate. Or is it something that can only be sustained for short bursts?

Short bursts. My husband says I am manic. I just finished 70,000 words in 9 days.

Oh, that is so very impressive. I wish I could do that. So tell me, what things do you find difficult in your work? Obviously not meeting a daily wordcount!

Difficult in my work? World building. I dislike the tedious stuff. So my husband Matt and I have begun collaborating on world building.

Do you build your whole fictional world before you start the book, or is it more of an 'as you go' kind of thing?

For me it's a build as I go kind of thing. I know what it looks like in my mind but getting what I see onto the page is a challenge.

And is it a new world build for each book? Or do you use the same framework with different characters for multiple books?

It's a new world build for each book.

Can you give us some examples of the kind of information?
For As You Wish?
Or any of the 15 books I have written?

Oh, let's say As You Wish if that's convenient.
Story starts out in any town USA then moves to England then to Scotland.
I didn't want to peg down any particular location because I wanted the book to be universal.

So what kind of information went into your world build?

I made it up as I went. Airport and hospital UK along with a travel agency. What they saw and heard. I had a lot of feedback from those living in the UK on what was right and wrong.

So do you write full descriptions of all your settings? And end up with a really detailed file, floor plans of the houses and all that kind of thing? Or is it more generic?

Full descriptions of the settings? No. Only what the character is seeing or experiencing at the time. Definitely generic because I want the reader to feel like character I am describing.

OK. And do you use pictures at all? A story board? Writing software, any of that kind of thing?

No. The entire idea is in my mind and I have to get it on paper. I have tried writing it all down but it just confused me and I didn't end up using it.

OK, well we come to the biggie for a writer in your genre. How does your faith contribute to your writing?

I know what I believe and what has made me who I am today. A big part of who I am is my faith. My mother and father's family is riddled with drug abuse and alcoholism. I am making the choice not to fall into the trap of either. I chose to believe in God because he gives me the strength every day to be a better person. I know that if I lost my faith, who I am as a person, would no longer exist. And I need to for my family and for those I love.

So would you say that your faith sustains your writing by sustaining your existence as the person you are, and the person who writes the things that you write?

Yes, my faith sustains my writing. I write honestly what I have been given. Yes, my faith sustains my existence as the person I am. My faith helps me to write what I do.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers today?

I just want people to love reading. Find a book you love and immerse yourself in it. Fall in love, fight alongside a warrior, be a vampire or a shifter, or anything else that makes you love to see words on a page.

Well, thank you Cathy for joining us today. We'll all go and struggle with the sin of envy now, after hearing about those amazing wordcounts.

Cathy's newest book, As You Wish, is available from Amazon.








Friday, 10 October 2014

Book review - As You Wish, by Cathy Jackson

A beautiful tale of three second-chance loves, this book twines about like a vine, bearing fruit at the end with two lonely people finding love and a lost faith regained. On the way, the vine offers various flowers of wisdom as Daniel faces the many obstacles he has placed between himself and his God.

The book opens with a delightful air of mystery as two strangers meet in a park at dead of night. Neither knows who the other is, and neither is completely honest with the other. The intensity of dark mystery that is conveyed is almost Gothic.

The central question of the book is undoubtedly the male protagonist's faith journey, but it is twined so completely with the love story that the two quests merge into a harmonious whole. Very nice writing, and a well thought-out  plot from a writer who obviously is blessed with a deep and informed faith. The beautiful treatment of the age-old problem of evil on its own makes the book worth reading.

This book will appeal to anyone who is, or wishes he were, close to God. The specific faith setting is Christian, but I am sure there is plenty here for those of other religions too.

As You Wish is available from SMASHWORDS.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Book review - Dragon Sword, by Susan Brassfield Cogan

I found Dragon Sword immensely entertaining. It's a fast-paced, action-packed urban fantasy with a smart-arsed young heroine. Unlike most books I have read in this genre, though, it doesn't fall into the trap of taking itself too seriously, so a leaven of humour lifts the tone throughout, like yeast bubbling in warm bread. And the dragons! Ah, the dragons. Who doesn't love dragons, and good, noble dragons are even better.

This book is evidently the second in a series, and another common fantasy series mistake Cogan has deftly avoided is banging on about forerunners. There's enough backstory that one isn't left floundering, and one is aware that there's a book before this one, but the point is not laboured and one has all the information one needs.

As far as form goes, the work has been edited to a high standard, and I was delighted to see this, for it is a common failing with indie writers that quality issues are neglected. Chapter heading quotes from the Tao Te Ching provided a delightful counterpoint to the book.

Dragon Sword, along with Ms Cogan's considerable body of work, is available from Smashwords.

Friday, 3 October 2014

On Self-Revelation in Fiction Writing

It's a truism in writing fiction that you must show, not tell, your reader what is happening. And a good writer either bears that constantly in mind, or it comes naturally to him. 

What we don't always realise, however, is what else you are showing your reader with every word that comes out of your keyboard. 

To write is to expose yourself. This is particularly true of fiction. In a textbook or treatise, tight focus on the subject matter may leave the writer entirely out of it, but with fiction this cannot be so. Your book is the product of your mind, and just as observing a dog or child can tell you a lot about the person who's brought him up, so in our fiction do we reveal ourselves.

Now I am not speaking here of writers such as Robert Heinlein and John Norman, who keep pausing in their books to deliver a fourteen page lecture about their own social, political, or sexual views. That kind of exposure is quite deliberate (although in fiction, always a mistake, but we are not concerned with it here). I refer rather to the unconscious revelations that infuse every piece of fiction, and have generally been made unconsciously. 

Like most things in life, this is a two-edged sword. 

On the positive side, a writer's personality can shine through, illuminating his work with warmth and kindness. A good example of this is Could You But Find It, by Robert Cilley. The author's deep and kindly knowledge of human nature infuses the whole work and adds gloss to his writing.

Other knowledge about a writer may also be a necessary result of the work. For instance, you don't read my own story, User Pays, without discovering that I'm a Socialist. A lawyer can't read Lynne Cantwell's Pipe Woman series without realising that she is in the law herself, and knows her way around a mediation. Political stances and specialist knowledge, where present in a substantial degree, will always be observable, and that's by no means a bad thing. And I don't read much erotic fiction, but I'd be willing to bet that reading a number of books of that kind by the same author would give you a pretty fair idea of where his own sexual tastes lie, or even of his unfulfilled fantasies.

What, though, of the less pleasant revelations we may make about ourselves? I have an example in mind, a book I read recently: Cherry Cobbler, by Jo Hannah Reardon.

This book falls into the pseudo-genre of Christian Fiction, or Inspirational Fiction as I prefer to call it, for this kind of work could just as easily be concerned with some other faith. I'd already read another of Reardon's books (Crispens Point), liked it a lot and given it four stars in my review. That book was a charming romance, squeaky clean and full of good Christian principles. A delightful book, and so when I came to read Cherry Cobbler, the second book in that series, I was fairly confident of what I would find. 

In fact I did find all the things I expected to find; competent writing, sympathetic characters, a nice leavening of humour, lots of good Christian messages. All good. But I also found something else, something not so nice. In three places in this book, incidents of cruelty to an animal were treated by the protagonist as unimportant or even mildly amusing. This impaired my enjoyment of the book to such a great extent that, although in every other way it was just like Crispen's Point, I gave it only one star.

Now this is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about when I say that we constantly reveal ourselves to the reader. The three incidents of animal cruelty in Cherry Cobbler were all minor incidents, just a little texture, nothing at all relevant to the plot in any way. They could have just as easily been taken out and left not a ripple. But the cost of leaving them in was high. I'm just one reader, but not only has this writer gained a one star instead of a four star review, but she has lost a reader. Lost a reader who would have gone on buying her books. And I'm not an unusual person. I'm pretty average, really. If I had this reaction, then so, probably, did a lot of other people.

How to avoid this happening to you? It's the kind of thing you need to be picking up in revisions. If you use beta readers, ask them what, if anything, they learned about you in reading the book. If you don't, you need to be looking very carefully for it in your read-through. Your editor might pick up this kind of thing for you, but you shouldn't rely on it. It should be eliminated before the book goes to the editor.

So, bottom line, people - when you're going to strip yourself in public - make sure you have nice underwear on.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

book review - Doreen, by Leonardo Acebo

She's loud, she's foul-mouthed, she's slutty, she's dishonest, she has anger management issues and absolutely no impulse control. She is Doreen McCrullers.

From the first page to the last, this hilarious book grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn't let go. You'll gasp with shock and terror. You'll scream with laughter. You'll even have the odd 'awwww' moment as you follow the eponymous heroine and her wildly dysfunctional, but at bottom cohesive, family through a rake's progress of farcical, dangerous and often sordid adventures. From blackmail to shoplifting to theft of motor vehicles to rifling corpses, Doreen will stop at nothing to take care of her children.

Highly recommended to all but the prissy.

Doreen and its sequel, Doreen: Blonde Ambition are available from Amazon

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Book review: The Universe Builders, by Steve LeBel

In The Essence of Christianity, the philosopher Feuerbach posited that man creates God in his own image. In The  Universe Builders LeBel has done, although rather less seriously and more entertainingly, just that, creating gods who are just like us, even down to the jeans and untied shoelaces of the young god. Just the originality of it would have been enough for me to rate it above average, but to the novel premise are added solid writing, likable characters, humour and that favourite of mine, a bully who gets his comeuppance.

Suitable for all ages, this book is a thoroughly good read. It rollicks through the attempt of a young god to survive the sabotage attempts of a workplace bully and secure his place in the prestigious Business, and comes to a very satisfying conclusion, neat but not too pat.

Given the subject matter, I feel I should not close without mentioning that devout readers need have no fears of blasphemy; there is no suggestion of conflating LeBel's gods with anyone's Divine Being, or of disrespect to any faith.

The Universe Builders is available at AMAZON.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Book review: Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hills

It's not easy to write well for children, and Ms Cross has done a superlative job in this entertaining adventure story.

The book starts with a couple of familiar tropes (the creepy old house, the keen boy/girl detective) and in the opening pages I was expecting a standard 'Nancy Drew' kind of offering, albeit very well done. But The Mystery of Shadow Hills unfolds layer by surprising layer, revealing with each turn something that takes us completely off guard. Oh, there's witches. Oh, no wait, the witches are real and dangerous! Oh, but wait....

Skylar is a wonderfully down-to-earth heroine; there are no child prodigies here, no soaring intellects or paranormal abilities. Just an ordinary little girl with a consuming passion and the patience to learn to use her tools. As we follow her through some really hair-raising experiences, we watch her discover the difference between real and false friendship, and after a few false starts, find her way onto a solid path of common sense.

A wonderfully enjoyable read for ages 8 to 13, but able to be enjoyed by all ages.

Skylar Robbins: The Mystery of Shadow Hill is available from Amazon for Kindle and in paperback.