Wednesday, 26 October 2016

G is for Guest - Guest post by Wendell Thorne

Today I have a guest post from my friend, author Wendell Thorne, lawyer, barber, author, thinker and all-around decent guy. Wendell is the author of The Hot Dog King, Green Tequila Beach, and Don't Worry, It'll Grow Back. 

Today Wendell is going to share with us his thoughts on parenting So, without further ado, take it away Wendell!

When my kids turn 18 and graduate from high school, my job is done. 

Tons of people, when I tell them this, laugh. “Haha,” they say, “we’ll see about that.” 

But the truth is, I already have a daughter who will be twenty-seven next month, and she’ll testify as to the veracity of my stance. I talk to her a few times a year and I see her now and then; sometimes I take her to lunch or, since she is a food-service professional, I’ll give her an exceedingly large tip if I visit her restaurant.

But my job as parent of her has been over for a while. I’m still her father and I’m still here, emotionally and intellectually, for her. She knows that. But the job of providing for her is done.

To many, I'm either a cold-hearted bastard or I'm deceiving myself. (Don't sell me short; I could be both).

Because my way of thinking is not common in our society today. Lots of parents pay for their kids to go to college, or help them financially along the way, or both. A few of these kids graduate and move onward and upward with their lives, but far too many continue to be unprepared for the future and frequently end up back living with their parents. The framework has been set; mom and dad are here to take care of me. They co-sign loans or maybe give the kid a credit card; which provides similar results--but is easier to carry around--as a can of gasoline and a Zippo lighter.

I had one 75-year-old customer who, when I asked him what he was doing that day, told me that he was “going to buy a car for my son.” 

“Really? Why?”

“Well, he got drunk and totaled his truck the other night.”

I asked, “Why doesn’t he buy the car for himself?”

“Well, he’s had a lot of problems, couple of bad divorces, lost his job, you know…”

All too well, I thought. “How old is he?”


That’s the result of parenting one’s adult child. In my way of thinking that’s a form of child abuse, and I’m not going to be guilty of that.

Being a good, tough parent isn’t easy, especially if you’re what’s referred to as an “adult-child.” Children who grow older but do not develop thoroughly as an adult (mostly due to never being required to be responsible for his or her actions, or having a parent who continually “bails him out” of bad situations) make horrible parents. The growing epidemic of these kinds of legacies forms the rickety floor of an unstable society. 

Capitalism is somewhat to blame as well. Parents who consume themselves with their vocations or professions frequently have little time or energy left to model other appropriate parental behaviors. Instead, and due to their job success, they toss money at their kids and purchase whatever a child wants in order to keep him or her “happy.” That’s ridiculous.

The Self-Esteem movement that began in the 1960’s is also a major adult obstruction to proper child development. Stoking a kid’s self-esteem is a fabrication, one that our kids are fully aware of. They know they came in last in the hundred-yard dash; telling them they did a good job and giving them trophies and ribbons only undermines the invaluable importance of failure while instilling a twisted sense of success into the child’s mind. 

You’ve seen adults who aren’t grown-ups. They litter our political and business landscape. They are teachers and police officers and coaches and county commissioners and they fill the pulpits, courthouses and other positions of authority. They’ve lived with an unearned sense of propriety and an inflated sense of self-importance; they know better than you how you should live your life and they have the means and power to make you either fall in line or pay the consequences. 

I don’t want my kids to be that kind of person. 

And so, as much as it hurts (it does, by the way, it hurts), I will not continue to provide parenting-style support to them once they become adults. Now, that means that while they are developing I do the work necessary such that when they arrive at adulthood they’re not clueless or surprised that life isn’t fair, that they are responsible for their own actions and have a real ability to positively impact their own future. They will understand that nothing is about to be handed to them and that the learning curve is still steep before them. Patience and reason and grace and dignity and respect will be the tent poles of their lives. 

And that’s a tremendous responsibility for me. Every day I awaken and hope I have what it takes to keep that fire burning, and every day I do something that doesn’t necessarily propel me in that direction. 

But I keep on keepin’ on, fighting the good fight and counting the days, hoping I get all the foundation blocks in place before I set these birds free into the confusing world. After that, it’s up to them.

Because I love them, unconditionally and imperfectly.

And that’s not a tough job at all.

I have to say here that I agree 100% with Wendell's tough-minded stance. Well said indeed. You can find Wendell's books at AMAZON, or follow his blog on GOODREADS.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

F is for Fiction - three very different works

I've a varied selection today - a High Fantasy novel, a romance novella and a short story.

Following on in this month's focus of showcasing other authors, today's offering is of three widely differing works. All good of their kind. I've always been a firm believer in reading widely, and I don't believe any writer can achieve his maximum potential without reading thousands of books in every genre. So give all of these a try.

Calamity June, by Ella Medler

This delightful romance about a married couple is like a breath of fresh air. In what is almost a Shakespearian comedy of errors, a woman flees her loving husband in the belief that he no longer loves her and has taken solace in the arms of another. The story deals with his quest to get her back. It's charming, it's funny in spots and incidentally the reader will learn quite a bit about the art of disguise. A wonderful weekend read.  - even if you don't usually read romance, give Calamity June a go - it's an entertaining read and there is no filth.

In The Company of the Dead, by Ciara Ballintyne

In the grand old tradition of High Fantasy, this dark and doleful tale cannot fail to please lovers of Tolkien, Jordan and Mallory. It harks back to the Good Old Days of fantasy, when heroes were heroes and were concerned more with honour and the eternal than with sex and witty one-liners. 

Caught in a tragic juxtaposition, a hero and heroine tread out their doom, although at the end of the book, a slight ray of hope pierces the gloom. I could hardly put it down. Even if you don't normally read fantasy, give it a try! It's exciting, with great characters and plenty of action.

The Trick, by Chris Johnson

A traditional story with a decidedly non-traditional ending. A great short read with no downside.

Monday, 17 October 2016

E is for Echoes of a more Elegant Era, and also for Epic Fails

Echoes of a More Elegant Era

In Don't Worry, It'll Grow Back, we see one man's effort to retain the elegance of olden days. Like the scent of slightly faded roses, the aromas of the traditional barber shop permeate its pages; one can practically smell the shaving soap and the cologne, and the occasional whiff of a Havana cigar. We learn why, and how, Mr Thorne started his retrospective venture, what went well, what didn't go so well, and we have from this a glimpse into a mind whose ordering may seem odd to this mercantile age. Values other than money have filled the author's sails on his journey through life, and the world is the richer for it. 

Epic Fails 

This collection is a very pleasant way to while away a Sunday afternoon. I didn't love all of the stories equally well; I disliked Of Mycenaean Men and The Loneliness Drug, but the wonderful Agents of Fortune made up for everything. Rhine's strength as a writer lies more in the concrete than the abstract, I feel, and when the leavening touch of humour is left out, as in The Loneliness Drug, or overdone, as in Of Mycenaean Men, the story falters. Overall, though, I enjoyed the collection very much.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

D is for Dogs - Review of Jack the Homework Eater

D is for Dogs, and what better than a nice kids' book about dogs? This one gets my enthusiastic recommendation for primary-age children.

After a bad experience with his parents' Rottweiler, little Alex is frightened of dogs, and when, after the old dog dies, his parents bring home a British Bulldog, he is both terrified and hostile. The dog, Jack, however, soon wins Alex's heart with his loyalty, friendliness and above all his usefulness. Soon the lonely, friendless Alex is the most popular boy in the school, all because of his dog Jack.
Apart from being an entertaining story, this book is worthy of notice for being a really fine piece of didactic writing. There is never any preaching, yet the reader is clearly shown the wrongness of dumping dogs, the benefits of befriending them and above all the value of the human/dog partnership. It's ideal for anyone with a child who is frightened of dogs or even unused to them.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

C is for Craft - Resources for the Novice Writer

Everything You Want To Know About Writing and Much, Much More: The Whole Kit and Kaboodle, by Sally Odgers

I'm exhausted just from typing in that title! Like the title, the book is very, very long and has everything. It took me days to read it. But of course, a book like this is not designed to be read straight through as if it were a novel. I only did so because I was going to review it.

Everything (I'm going to refer to the book here as 'Everything' because I just can't keep typing in that title) can be used in several ways. It is an astonishing reference, but the material is organised and laid out, with frequent exercises, so that it can also be used as a do-it-yourself course on the craft of writing. I say do-it-yourself, but it would work equally well as a text for a secondary or tertiary level course in creative writing. It's well written, too. Explanations are accessible without being patronising, and the tone is cheerful and breezy, making the book a sufficiently entertaining read that there is no sense of ploughing through a textbook.

Sally Odgers has been writing for a long time - her career spans six decades - and although one can see from reading Everything that she knows what she's talking about, her vast oevre shows where this knowledge came from. There is none of the facile prating that one too often sees in 'how to' books. It's all sound, solid knowledge, garnered over a lifetime in the business.

The striking thing to me about this book is the sheer scope of it. It covers, I think, everything the beginning writer will need to learn - from grammar and style to the unwritten rules of dealing with traditional publishers. It is a fantastic tool, and in all 700-odd pages I did not find a single statement with which I disagreed. It's really sound, and if one were going to buy just one book about the craft, I do not believe one could do better than this one. At $59 for the paperback it may seem expensive, but then one can't compare textbook prices to fiction prices. Some of my law textbooks were over $200, and you couldn't just get away with only one book. I consider it an absolute bargain at the price. I will be recommending it to my editing clients from now on, and in this it will be replacing Stephen King's sound, but annoying, book, On Writing

As well as writing, Sally is, like me, an editor, and her firm offers a very comprehensive range of services, including tutoring and promotion. Check out her website HERE.

How I Are Becomed a Very Much Gooder Author, by Sevastian Winters

Winters' book is very different. It doesn't cover the field, nor does it purport to. It is a collection of lessons the author has learned, often at great cost, over the course of his writing career. It's well worth the read, just from the point of view of avoiding those 'here be dragons' moments, and Winters' charming, self-deprecating style makes it a pleasant and entertaining experience for the reader. I didn't quite agree with everything in it - Winters' definition of omniscient point-of-view is, in my opinion, not quite right - but then I don't have to agree with everything a writer says to appreciate his work. There are some very fine observations on self-editing, and on 'going there', which make it well worth the read. You can get it HERE. The cover seems to have been changed to show the author as one Harry Widdifield, although Winters' name still appears in the front matter, so I hope this is not a pirated version. I have not been able to discover any other versions for sale.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

B is for Books - poetry and romance from Juliette Douglas and Biju Vasudevan

Perfume, Powder and Lead, by Juliette Douglas

Juliette Douglas has missed her calling. She ought to be in Hollywood, writing scripts for the movies. All the way through this book, I could not help envisaging it as a film; it could be the Blazing Saddles of the 21st century. It has all the elements for a really fine comic film - the slapstick situation, the coarse humour, people disguised as someone they're not. In the Wild West, three prostitutes dress up as nuns in order to rob a bank. Just that one line tells you what you're getting, and the book doesn't disappoint.

Douglas is what we might call a Wild West specialist. She is noted for the Freckled Venom series, and characters from that popular series also make an appearance in Perfume, Powder and Lead. She lives on a farm with a number of rescued animals. Check out her other books HERE.

A Baby, A Man and Some Times and Other Random Thoughts, by Biju Vasudevan

Vasudevan has given us philosophy, horror, adventure and eroticism, and now in this small collection he gives us poetry. 

It's a charming collection, with flashes of wit among some lovely imagery, and Vasudevan's passionate nature shines through every poem. I most loved Of A Lousy Boss; it's hilarious, and so effectively presents the unspoken frustration that every worker feels at some time in his life.

On the downside, the author is not a native English speaker and at times falls foul of the language. Occasional howlers, such as the unfortunate 'expectorations' instead of 'expectations' highlight the difficulty, and perhaps the unwisdom, of writing poetry in a language other than one's own. I should have liked to see these poems written in Mr Vasudevan's own language and then translated.

Biju Vasudevan, as well as being a writer, is an engineer and freelance musician. Check out his other books HERE.

Friday, 7 October 2016

A is for Authors - introducing Eric Bergreen and Grace Hudson

I like these alphabet thingies. I'm starting a new one, although I don't promise to do it every day. But here goes.

This cycle won't be concentrating so much on writing techniques as the last. That's primarily because I'm having a little holiday, and not writing anything at present.

Today, a word about two authors I've been reading lately - Eric Bergreen and Grace Hudson.

Eric Bergreen

This series will be a delight to anyone who loved King's IT. Each book has different characters, and the unity is provided by the setting, which remains the same throughout. The protagonists are children of various ages, ranging from quite young in the first book to fifteen in Charter Grove. 

Despite the youth of the characters, these are by no means children's books. The material dealt with is dark, and the ways in which the children solve their problems almost more dark. Notwithstanding this, the books manage to give an overall impression of wholesomeness; the boys are all, we feel, essentially good, even when driven by force of circumstances to terrible deeds. 

Fellow writers may, like me, find the constant homophone errors in these books an irritant; a good copy editor, one feels, would be a wise investment for future editions or further books in the series. Nevertheless, the story is in each case good enough, and engaging enough, to keep one reading right to the end.

Grace Hudson

This emerging author shows great promise. Of her two published works, one (FERTS) is a darkly dystopic science fiction story of a truly horrible society, and one woman's emergence from brainwashed conditioning into a functional personality. 

Open Doors, published earlier this year, is a light-hearted urban fantasy set in our own city of Melbourne. The authentic Melburnian flavour of the characters is delightfully portrayed, and there were times when I shrieked with laughter. It's a wonderfully entertaining read, and I hope to see more in this vein. 

It is a rare pleasure to read something that's actually Australian; our smaller population means that our literary output, as a country, is minuscule compared to those of Britain and America, and when someone really talented comes on the scene it is truly cause for celebration. About like Collingwood winning a Grand Final.