Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!!

It's nice to scroll through your Facebook timeline on a day like today and see the smiling faces of Mother's the world over as they receive their flowers and presents from their grateful kids. There is also a little blow to the belly for those whose Mother's were taken altogether too soon, which is where myself and my sister find ourselves. In those moments it's easy to feel a little bit of anger and jealousy for all of those other kids, but i quickly realize that's not fair.

My sisters and I had a childhood that could best be described as ordinary, but it was made all the more memorable by a Mother who was extraordinary. Yes, there was the occasional, albeit deserved, smack across the arse with a slipper that had a sole seemingly made of iron. There were also moments of sheer embarrassment when, with all the windows wide open, Mum would clean the house and belt out tunes in accompaniment to her "Singalong-a-Max" tape by Max Bygraves. To say that she was a horrible singer was understating the fact, but you had to give her credit for trying. Yes, there were those times, but for the most part there was laughter.

She was perhaps the world's greatest unconscious comedian, letting slip a string of faux pas that would leave us all on the ground in stitches. This list could go on forever, but some of the best were:
  • Taking about an arrest made on here street and describing how the police took the criminal away in cufflinks
  • Talking about the twins that a woman at her work had, and when asked if they were identical, responding, No, they are Filipino
  • Telling me and my girlfriend at the time that she was taking us to see the movie "Breakdown" and that she was arguments. I then tell her to make sure she doesn't ask for tickets to "Breakdance," to which she replies, "I'm not bloody stupid, John."...30 seconds later..."3 adults for Breakdance please."
  • Deciding that going down a slide flat on her back would be a good idea, only to go flying off the end and cracking her head at the sounds horrible, but you really had to be there. That, incidentally, was a Mother's Day trip that myself and my sisters took her on. 
  • Getting blootered drunk and hopping around in the backyard singing "Skippy The Bush Kangaroo" 
There are many more, to the point where we all started to believe that they were intentional. It would have made perfect sense, as she was a woman that loved to laugh and who loved and lived life to the fullest.  And that laugh of her's was one that was infectious, especially when the baby seal barking kicked in and the false teeth started rattling.

My Mum was a lot of things to a lot of different people, and they all loved her because she made them all feel loved. The mere mention of a baby being born meant that the knitting needles would go into high speed as she designed a whole new wardrobe for said little one. That she stayed around long enough to put those knitting needles to use for her grandkids was just one more thing we could all be happy about.

So, yes, there is a little bit of anger and jealousy today, as there is every year at this time. But more than anything else, there are incredible memories that, when you close your eyes and think about them, make you feel as though she is sitting right beside you. I am not a man of faith, but I know she is with me every day, and that she guides me in every decision I make, because it was she, more than anyone else, that made me into the man I am today. My sisters will tell you the same thing if you asked them. How the influence our Mum had on them shaped them into the amazing women that they both are....they both have the strong, proud exterior, but they have the same hearts, cast from the same carat of gold that was present in our mum's.

So to all of you who have Mother's still with you today, or who are Mother;s, I say...Happy Mother's Day. To my own mum i say....I miss you every day, but you are always in my heart.

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Questions Answered

 I wrote a post yesterday about the questions I am frequently asked about writing. Much to my delight, I have had one of my favorite writers, Mr. Drew Brown, pose another couple of great questions. Let's get to them:

1) Do you have set routines to your writing? Like a particular time of day, or do you have silence or music in the background. What goes on around you as you write?

I really have no writing routine at all, mostly because of the work my wife does. She is a regional chef and is usually on the road and away from home Monday to Friday. I keep all kinds of odd hours during that time, which means I might be writing a wonderful piece about ass boil lancing at 3 in the morning, with nothing but the scent of brewing coffee to keep me company.
I will have the TV on if there is a show on that I follow, which are very few, or of there is a big soccer game on. Other than that, there is usually music going on in the background. Oddly enough, I am able to listen and hum or sing along while I write. Not sure how I do it, but it's yet another of those things that I don't question. Now, when I write fiction, I often use music to fit the mood of what I am writing. Dark, violent scenes are usually accompanied by an industrial music background, whereas emotionally charged scenes have something a little more fitting.
I have the opening of a story called "The Hanging Tree" ready to leave my head and hit paper, and when I put it up here, I will also attach the music I used to help me write the very emotional opening scene. I have some personal moments that I can pull from for that, but I end up feeling as though I am picking at a nasty scab if I go that route.
2) In your fiction, do you ever censor yourself? Are there topics/issues you are unwilling to commit to paper?
No. There have been some things that I have definitely questioned, usually involving children, in my stories, but if I censor myself, the emotional jolt of shock that I felt when the idea came to mind will then be removed from the story, making it a little too vanilla for my own personal tastes. I am not easily offended in real life, and I think that somewhat translates to my writing. I have yet to dream up something appalling enough that I would be afraid to commit to paper.

My thanks to Drew for asking those questions, and I encourage you all to check out his amazing zombie novel "Last Hope." I guarantee it is unlike any zombie tale you have heard before.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions - Writer's Edition

The beautiful weather is slowly returning to my part of the world, which means I am taking some time to crawl out of my coffee stained hidey hole in order to catch some fresh air. That also means engaging in conversations with people, usually at the pub, where the question of what I do for a living almost always comes up. I am still pretty sheepish with my "writer" answer, if only because it somehow seems a little pretentious coming from my lips. What usually follows is a series of question that I try to answer as though I have never heard them before. I really don't mind, though, because for the most part people really do seem genuinely interested. Here are the questions, as well as the answers I usually give:

What do you write about? - The answer here is pretty much everything. I make money by writing articles for blogs and websites. I never know what I am going to get asked for next, which actually makes it all a little interesting. Now, if I had my choice, I'd much sooner write short horror fiction, but until someone starts coughing up some real dough for my work, that part of my "career" will have to remain a hobby.

OH!! You write stories, where do you get your ideas? - Most of my ideas start out as dreams or from something that I see or hear when I am out and about. A single little overheard snippet of conversation can get the gears grinding, as does an image that may seem ordinary at first, but which somehow turns into something else in my head. I have long since stopped trying to figure put why my mind does that, as it always has, without offering me any sort of explanation for this seemingly odd behavior.

How do you write? - It is here that I usually start to lose people a little, probably because they like the Hollywood image of a struggling writer hunched over a typewriter, cigarettes piled off to one side and wads of crumpled paper on the other. The truth is, I don't start typing until the story is fully formed in my head. It usually starts out with a series of conversations between the characters, whose words seem to throw paint on the canvas behind them. Oddly enough, most of what I write is very free from character dialogue, but it's their words which paint the scene. Once the story is done, I type. There are very few moments where my hands leave the keyboard, and I am somehow able to fill in little details that weren't in my minds rough. Again, I don't question this process, I simply follow it.

Have you ever been published? - Yes. My first couple of submissions were met with rejection letters that almost made me quit altogether. I then received one from an editor that loved what I had written, but who felt the story wasn't quite suitable for his magazine. I was referred to another publication, where the story was published. That was so long ago that I have even forgotten the name of the magazine, but it's still the best $25 I ever made. I don't send stuff out anymore, choosing instead to either self-publish or just throw some stuff up on my other blog, Pretty Little Dead Things.

Who are your influences? Easy one - Clive Barker. I am in awe of how he can make the grotesque sound so stunningly beautiful.

Who is your biggest fan? - I only have one, I'm afraid to say, but even if there were millions, it would still be my wife Penny. She will not simply blow smoke up my ass and tell me how wonderful I am, choosing instead to point out the things she didn't like or understand in a story. I love that, and I love her.

That's about it. I am sure there are more, but by the time those arrive I am usually well into the beer and simply can;t remember them. If you guys have any questions, please feel free to fire away. You can buy me a beer later.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Guest Post From Cole Millen

I'm sure most of you regular readers are well aware that my wife is a Regional Chef who spends much of her time on the road. One of the biggest challenges she faces is being able to eat healthily while stuck behind the wheel. The temptations of fast food are almost overwhelming, but she does her best to avoid them.
This is a subject that is of great interest to me, and hopefully you too, which is why I was delighted to receive this fabulous guest post from Cole Millen. Please read his tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle whilst traveling, and be sure to head on over to his blog where there are even more great tips.

 How to Look Great Before and After Your Vacation
It's a sad story. You work hard for months so you look great on your trip only to go on vacation and return home feeling plump and heavy again. Fortunately, it's not hard to eat healthy while still enjoying yourself on vacation. Simply follow these easy tips and you can maintain your lean look during your retreat.
Stay Healthy On Your Flight
You can save calories and money by bringing along your own packed healthy snacks and foods. Select some easily transportable items like dried fruit and nuts. You can also eat a healthy meal before leaving your home to avoid having to eat while traveling all together. If you do need to eat during your travels, select healthy options like baked or grilled chicken, fresh fruit and salads with healthy or no dressing.
Find a Health Friendly Hotel and Area to Stay
You can easily find a health friendly hotel and surrounding area by doing a little Internet research. Check out online review sites for hotels that have gotten high ratings for being healthy. I recently found a great site that listed reviews for hotels in Las Vegas regarding their amenities and services along with the restaurants in the nearby area. This allowed me to find a great hotel that would allow me to maintain my healthy lifestyle, while also being able to pick out which restaurants I could eat both nutritiously and deliciously. You can also search hotels on a travel website to quickly find one that offers nearby walking trails and indoor gyms. Some hotels even now offer treadmills and other gym equipment in each room. If your hotel has room service or an on-site restaurant, you can usually find the menu online to see if there are healthy options available.
If your hotel offers a minibar, refuse the key to prevent yourself from succumbing to any cravings. Once you arrive at your hotel, you can find a nearby grocery store to stock up on healthy snacks so you don't end up snacking on candy bars and other high calorie treats during your stay. You can bring your own convenience meals and prepare them in your room to save both money and calories. When ordering room service, look for fresh fruits and vegetables, and request that dishes be prepared without extra calorie ingredients like cheeses and sauces.
Eating Out
Try to find a healthy restaurant. Typically, restaurants that have seafood and fresh salad bars offer healthy meal options. Avoid all you can eat buffets so you don't overeat. You can have a healthy snack before leaving for the restaurant so you won't be tempted to eat a lot of high calorie appetizers like bread sticks and rolls. You can also check out a restaurant's website online to see their menu and confirm that they have healthy options. Avoid dishes that are basted, breaded, buttered, or come with heavy sauces. Look for foods that are baked, grilled, light, high fiber, and fresh.
Following these simple tips will help to keep you on track during your vacation so you won't get a nasty surprise when you step onto the scale after your return home.