Category Archives: The Writer’s Life

Book Launching – Arboretum

Last night I had the privilege of launching a friend’s debut science fiction novel, Arboretum. I’ve known Ian for almost twenty years, first as a lecturer, then as a minister and pastor. 

Back in 2012 he had taken some long service leave and in that time punched out a novel; one that would be the first of a trilogy. He sent me a message asking if I could have a look over it. I duly did. And sent back twelve pages of notes. Despite the honesty of the critique, he diligently went to work and sent me back another version for edits. Again, I took the Red Pen of Correction, Revision, Alteration and Punctuation (C.R.A.P. for short) and sent it back again for revisions and rewrites.

Long story very short, Arboretum was picked up by Stone Table Books (an imprint of Morning Star) and is now out into the world.

It is the second book I have my name in the Acknowledgements section (think I have a new aim here: get into as many Acknowledgements as I can) before my first novel comes out in 2019.

Ready to launch “Arboretum”.

Ian about to do a reading from “Arboretum.”

Ian (left) with Kevin (right) Kevin has been a supporter and coach for Ian for the past couple of years, getting this novel to publication amongst other non-fiction titles.

Check out the blurb:

Timothy Martin is a respected lecturer in Astronomy who has spent most of his life trying to put behind him the trauma of a childhood dominated by ‘visions’. But the visions have returned, more real than ever. Not only does he see other places, but he is now able to step into them. When he becomes fixated on the star Delta Crucis in the Southern Cross constellation, he sees a vision of a world orbiting it and impulsively takes a step – two hundred and forty-five light years into space. He did not expect to survive. Nor did he expect to land in the midst of an alien city. And he certainly did not expect to threaten the well-being of another world, one that he finds disturbingly – at peace. At stake is not only his own destiny, but that of an entire world.

Links below:

Ian Miller

Stone Table Books – Arboretum

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Three Words for the New Year

In the light of celebrating the changing of the Gregorian calendar into 2018, let’s acknowledge Greg’s dating nomenclature: Happy Greg’s Day!

But, another three words to define this changing of the calendar on the wall, the diary on the desk, the scraps of paper used as notes and the back of my hand useful for the writing of lists, is to refocus the directions, habits and purposes of what you wish to achieve.

These are my three words for 2018: Patience, Fortitude, Tenacity

They are defined by my theological outlook and perspective, and have connections to events and situations that have impacted, are impacting, and will impact me. The changing of a calendar date doesn’t mean that all the craptacular events that happened last year haven’t continued on this year; I still have to deal with them. They impact myself, my family, my creativity. 

To be honest, 2017 was a year of continuation of years of crapness that feels like someone having handed me a never-ending roll of toilet paper. It helps clean up the mess but the mess keeps on coming. I didn’t, and haven’t, dealt with some of it well and the effect compounds into multiple areas but especially my creativity. 

No new stories written. Nothing published. Ideas planted, germinated, rising about the soil and scorched by the sun. It’s been a barren few years in terms of creative output. 

So how do these words help me refocus for the coming year? It’s about forming positive habits and achievable steps, looking at the long term destination rather than short term gains or (potential) rewards. 

Patience – like that of a saint. The ability to weather the storms and circumstances, and to travel when the conditions are good. To me, it’s having a longer perspective, a focus on the horizon and not simply the step immediately in front of me.
It’s a cultivated habit, a fruit of character and personality. To keep doing the work, not seeing the reward, while others around you are blessed and keep on going with nary a care in the world. I will have my reward in this life, or the next. Not to be distracted by the success of others (applaud them, support them, champion them) because they have done the work that is required. 

Fortitude – defined as courage in pain or adversity. Basically, above all, to stand.
So much has sucked away the creative impetus and momentum over the last few years and it has taken up a significant amount of emotional and mental energy. Often it’s painful and demoralising. Especially when it’s not happening to me specifically but to close family members who you take care of. It’s hard to see someone you love in pain and there is not much you can do except hold a space for them, and yourself.
Sometimes I feel like an anchor point for those around me but I’m afraid I’ll lose my grounding. But, digging in and digging deeper. 

Tenacity – keeping on when all you want to do is give up. And I’ve been feeling like giving up a lot lately. Had a rough gig on the weekend; it wasn’t a train wreck in terms of my drumming but for whatever reason it felt awkward and crap and at the end of the gig I wanted to break my drumsticks, sell my gear and quit playing drums. 
But that is one gig. I will have other bad gigs, I am sure. I’ve also had great gigs. Each day is a chance to refocus, start afresh and be thankful for mercy and grace. I’ll be looking at the next gig this weekend not through the lens of the past gig but at the possibility of what awesomeness it could be. Back to the practice pad.

Im summary, three words are meaningless without a plan to make them a habit so I’ll keep making notes, keep reading, keep writing. 

What would your three words for the year be?

Zentangle #32 In Between

cof

in between all the sadnesses
we must promise
to talk again

Zentangle #31 Two For One

 

Two For One

we
are only two of
flesh and blood
compare us once

Handwritten Pages #18 The Kiss

Their kiss was a reintroduction to joy; the passionate self-belief everything would be ok in a screwed up world when the screwed-uppedness manifested in a constant shit-storm that threatened to drown them and salt the earth in the aftermath.
To get there, invitations slipped in as ordinary moments as the antithesis to pain’s physical form: meals in Tupperware containers reheated in microwaves and eaten with grief and gratitude; cups of tea with phones ignored and flowers as prayers for healing.
And in the end, the scraping away and the shovelling of shit to make manure for a broken soil leading to the kiss of forgiveness and the parched desert of intimacy soaked with rain awaiting the bloom of wild flowers.

My Shopping List of Regrets

if i collected
all my shopping lists of regrets
i would take a permanent marker
erase them all
and make a black sky
to populate with stars

To Become A Whale – Book Review

“To Become A Whale” is the debut novel by Brisbane-based author, Ben Hobson.

This is the blurb from the publisher, Allen & Unwin:

To Become a Whale tells the story of 13-year-old Sam Keogh, whose mother has died. Sam has to learn how to live with his silent, hitherto absent father, who decides to make a man out of his son by taking him to work at Tangalooma, then the largest whaling station in the southern hemisphere. What follows is the devastatingly beautiful story of a gentle boy trying to make sense of the terrible reality of whaling and the cruelty and alienation of his new world, the world of men.

The novel is coming-of-age exploration of masculinity; one version of Australian masculinity that the reader is presented with. But no judgement is given. The reader determines how to understand the parameters and boundaries of 1960’s masculinity and how it measures up in the new millennium now almost two decades old.

Walt is a man respected on the flensing deck for his hard work, commitment, while his solitary nature isolates him from the company of other men. One of Walt’s crew, Phil, is a man who wants to play guitar but works the whaling station only as a job. He is another whose belief in the strictures of masculinity are limiting on the perception of himself.

The brokenness of Walt’s understanding and perception of his masculinity is as blatant as his mangled hand and framed by the nature of his work: deconstructing whale carcasses into constituent parts, unable to see the beauty of the whole through the nature of his work. Unable to understand and come to terms with the nature of his own grief. It’s this framework that he wants to impose upon his son.

Death is an ugly reality for young Sam: that of his mother, the work on the whaling station, his understanding of masculinity and his emotional self as the novel progresses. But through death comes rebirth. 

For me, the distance of the novel’s setting from current events is what allowed a range of questions to be asked about the role and nature of contemporary masculinity. It is a definition that is particularly complex yet rigidly defined in parts of Australian culture where normative masculine behaviours are exemplified through sport, violent behaviour, stoic emotional retardation. As a high school teacher, I could see this novel having a place with Year 9 and 10 boys.

The novel has drawn comparisons with Tim Winton and Favel Parrett, and those comparisons are warranted; there is not a wasted sentence. This is a nuanced novel. There is a beautiful sense of space for the reader to inhabit within the descriptive style. You feel the prose move with the tides and the heaving carcasses of the whales.

This is a remarkable debut novel and I thoroughly recommend it.