Giving up on a book

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why, but I feel a little dirty when I give up on a book. Recently I finally picked up my second hand copy of Dune and tried to read it. I got about a third of the way through and then couldn’t bring myself to keep going. This is supposed to be one of the masterpieces, one of the must reads of the genre. Yet I was bored. Don’t get me wrong, I can see its merit, and understand why it is a classic. but I decided that I only have one lifetime to get through my unimaginably high reading pile.

A few weeks later I still feel like I cheated on my high school exams. Why? It’s not like Frank Herbert is going to be at my next office party, leading to that whole awkward, “Oh yeah, still haven’t quite finished your book.” conversation. Well if he did show up it would be a sure sign of the Zombie apocalypse anyhow.

I know that this is a common theme with some of the classics out there. Writing changes over time and oft you can read a book from a few decades ago and feel like a drill is slowly twisting into your eyeballs. This is an inevitable thing (Not the drilling…the changing writing styles). I always use Shakespeare as an example. Most people have to study his works to really appreciate them. I myself never studied a lot of it and get lost in his works. However he will always be a master of the art.

At times I have powered through a book I did not want to read and regretted it at the end. So what is the best thing to do? Keep reading and hope that at some point the light bulb turns on and you see what it is that you have been missing this whole time. Or move on to the next book and pat yourself on the back for giving it a try.

What books have other people struggled to get through?

Have you seen that Movie? It totally sucked!

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan

Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many movies or TV episodes have let you down? It seems to be an ongoing trend at the moment. I am constantly hearing from friends, or reading online that people are disappointed with something they have watched. It has grown to such a state that I am beginning to wonder if it is a result of the ‘critical’ society that the internet has spawned in the last decade. It is cool to rag on a movie these days, Or to talk about how terrible a TV show is. I’ve even had conversations with people about a movie to have them complain about how bad it was, later to found out they haven’t even watched it. They simply jumped on the rolling band wagon started by an internet troll in a basement somewhere.

The crumbling state of society aside for a moment, I was having a long discussion about this with some individuals who agree that expectations are the killing factor. And expectations keep rising. Movies from the past, which have become cultural hits, are now being remade or receiving sequels, prequels and re-imaginings, at an alarming rate. (Original thought is a thing of the past you know!) As a result we are flocking to the theatres (People still do this yes?) or the internet, in order to see the next instalment.

The Hobbit is a great current example. The Lord of the Rings was accepted by most to be a fantastic adaptation and top quality set of films. However the Hobbit has seen a significant amount of criticism, especially by nerd fandom. When I spoke with individuals who complained about the Hobbit I asked them to explain their dislike. They did so and, but for some valid points, much of it seemed to me to brew down to, “but the LOTR’s was so much better in the way it did…” I then asked them, what if the LOTR’s movies were never made? What if you couldn’t compare this movie to them?

Star wars is another great example. We could argue for a long, long time about what they did wrong with the star wars prequels, but I often ask people to think about how they would feel about the three prequels if they had never seen the original saga? Jar Jar binks aside, would you give them a better rating? Would you be less critical of Hayden Christiansen’s acting? (Mark Hamill’s was just as bad really.)

Surely one of the best things about art is the fact that it is subjective and that people like to critique it. I just feel that it has become more socially ‘Cool’ to badmouth something than to say, I loved it! It is also easy to say that something sucked when you weren’t the one who made it. If you gave 99% of the people who complain about a movie the same training, budget and capacity to remake it, they would likely make something utterly unwatchable. And I feel for the people making these shows. At the end of the day one harsh word will have a greater influence on them than ten good ones.

I wonder what it would be like if, rather than foster a culture of disapproval, the internet bred a culture of talking about what we liked about these films. It would be a strange world indeed.  

 

A cause to celebrate

50 followers!! Thanks to all those who have found the time to read my work. In the short time the site has been up I have had plenty of great feedback. I hope I continue to entertain you. To celebrate my blog has undergone a makeover in preparation for the publication of my first full novel Dawn of the Valiant. I will keep you informed.

Thanks All!!

How to Be a Better Writer: Advice from the Pros

A fantastic list of quotes to keep your pen to paper!

Socially Accepted Madness

There are no laws for the novel.  There never have been, nor can there ever be.

Doris Lessing

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

Stephen King

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.

Ray Bradbury

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.

Ernest Hemingway

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

Robert Frost

You can fix anything but a blank page.

Nora Roberts

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.

C.J. Cherryh

Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.

Anne McCaffrey

I advise writing…

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The names have been changed but the story is true

English: Spire of the abbey on Mont Saint-Mich...

English: Spire of the abbey on Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy France (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Put on your best rural French accent. “Would you like to com to my plaze an listen to som Musik?” Lucy looks over at me, her wide smile and nodding head telling me she has never in her entire life heard a better idea. Has she lost her mind? She can’t be serious! It could be the four cocktails talking, or it could be the Hoegaarden that she has clasped in her hand. Regardless, my eyes go wide and I try to subtly shake my head side to side, whilst keeping the fake smile glued to my face.

It’s 4 o’clock in the morning. I can’t even remember the name of the French town we are in, and I literally couldn’t tell you where in France we are. The laneway is dead quiet and empty, but for the five of us. And to top it off, nobody on this planet even knows we are here.

“Com on, we don live far away. We can walk zer.” He assures us. I glance over to his suspicious looking friend (who hasn’t said a word all night), who’s inebriated glazed over eyes are staring right at me. Penny is sitting on the curb, holding her head in her hand, so drunk that she doesn’t really know what’s going on. I look up and down the lane, no one in sight. That’s it, I’m totally going to get stabbed.

Let’s backtrack for a second. Its 2006, I’ve been traveling Europe after the world cup in Germany and have met the twins (Lucy and Penny) in Paris. We have been friends for a few years and are having a great time. After seeing much of the highlights of the French capital, and having scoured Euro Disney for an entire day, we get the idea to hop on a train and go to Normandy. Mont Saint Michel is calling!

So we booked our tickets, packed our bags and hurried to the train station to catch the midday express. Waiting on platform 6, we started to wonder why there were no other passengers. Finally midday passes and we realise we are on the wrong platform! It’s too late, we have missed the only train that would take us the whole way. Our next best option, hop on the 3pm and stay overnight halfway there, and then catch the next train in the morning. So we do and find ourselves in Coutances, Normandy. We get off at the station and look up at the rural town with raised eyebrows.

This was before Google maps was at everyone’s fingertips, so we actually have no idea where we are.  We walk up through the town and find that other than the quaint cottages, Coutances has nothing to offer other than several massive churches; cathedrals almost. “Seems like more churches than people,” comments Penny.

We find a pub which will offer us a room with three beds. The innkeepers looks at the twins and then at me, as we ask for a room for three. He smiles a sleazy smile and nods his head. “It’s not like that,” we assure him. “Sure,” he replies, though his grin suggests otherwise. Can’t blame his line of thought, it is France after all. After dinner we realise that we have nothing to do so we walk the streets until we find a small bar.

The owner welcomes us in and, in what seems like a few blinks, we have managed to drink several of his delicious cocktails. All of a sudden he is calling out to us to tell us he is closing up. We look outside, its pitch black. I check my watch. It’s 3’o clock! Those were some good cocktails.

There is only one other patron in the bar, a friend of the owner who seems more inebriated than us. We step outside into the cobblestone lane and find it dead. Dead empty and dead quiet. The bar owner locks his door. Which way was the hotel? We pause for a moment then begin to walk down the street. Then a call comes from the end of the lane. Two figures yell something in French. Lucy calls back in French. “What are you doing?” I ask, flabbergasted.

The two figures approach. They are young men, close to our age. One with crew cut blonde hair and army camouflage cargo pants; the other looking like a gringo straight out of a Mexican gangster flick. I insist we have to go, but Lucy wants to talk to them. The gringo pulls out some Hoegaarden’s from his backpack and hands them to us, so we share a drink with them.

They continue to talk and Penny, struggling not to fall asleep, sits down on the curb. Lucy is enjoying herself and so are the two men. They only have one thing on their mind, I’m not that naïve. I insist again we should be going but they insist we stay and talk. How am I going to politely get away with the twins? We find out that they are the local garbage collectors. ‘Fantastic. They have the means to dispose of my body,’ I think to myself. We have not told a single person that we left Paris. No one knows where we are. We don’t even know where we are. If they want to kill us, it would be a long time before anyone would find us.

We have been talking for an hour. That is when he asks us to come back to his place to ‘listen to music’. Fast forward and I am now realising that I need to get us out of here quickly. “I really don’t think we can guys, we have a really early train to catch.”

“Don’t worry, we will get you to ze train.”

“Thanks for the offer, but we have to go!” I say directly to Lucy, grabbing her hand.

The gringo picks up his backpack and reaches in, his dark eyes not leaving my face. Oh crap! There is no way I’m going to be able to fight these two in my current drunken state. He is going to pull out a knife! He is going to stab me and toss my body into his dump truck. Then they are going to take the twins to their place and no one will ever find them again. My life is flashing before my eyes!

His hand comes out and I see the flash of metal. My heart stops, then his hand continues out of the bag and reveals another beer. “Stay for one more?” he asks.

“No thanks,” I quickly say, knees still shaking. I grab Lucy and pick Penny up from the curb and start marching as fast as possible down the lane. I don’t think we even said goodbye. I was too focused on getting back to the hotel!

Luckily we all look back now and laugh. Coutances did have more to offer than we thought.

Snatch and Grab…Why not, it’s free!

The fluoro coloured promoter shoves the bottle in your face! It’s bright, with a flashy title like ‘Koji Water” that jumps out from the ergonomic, environmentally friendly, space aged container. (Which when you look closely is just a great way to hide the fact that it only holds 50ml of liquid.)

“Would you like a free sample, its 100% organic,” the uni student, looking for some quick cash, cries out in her high pitched voice. Hell, you think to yourself, why not, it’s free. I’ll take one. I might even go back for another. Or do you walk on by?

I’ve had this debate with my better half for a while now. I think it goes back to a time long past, a simpler time, when I was a wee lad, travelling to the Melbourne Show with my mother, entering the food hall where hundreds of stalls line the floor, trying to elicit a purchase by offering a sample. “A free sample!” I think to myself. “I better make the most of this.”

I’m a sucker, I have to say. When I walk through the city and there is a stall or a bunch of promoters handing out samples of the latest ‘must have’ product, I always make sure my path veers towards them. If it’s something I can eat I will probably go back. If in going back I can take more than one sample, I definitely will. (It’s for my friend over there, that’s right, the old lady who is scowling at me as though I am about to steal her handbag.) In doing this I believe I have often embarrassed my wife.

“Oh look free sample,” I say, already grabbing her hand and heading for the girl handing out fabric softener. I feel the resistance in my wife’s steps, the look on her face which is bordering on manic. I just don’t seem to understand why she doesn’t want her clothes to be silky smooth for free!

But we aren’t all the same. There are those of us, who like me, love to take advantage of the monetary windfall that is a free packet of eggplant crisps (Fried in 100% Sunflower oil from the sundrenched shores of Swaziland). There are others who feel embarrassed to take the free goods. They have done nothing to earn that free crisp. I guess the crisps could go to better use, to people who so desperately need those delicious eggplant delights. Will I understand this frame of mind? Maybe one day I will, until then there are more crisps for me!

The good news is that we seem to have come to an understanding. I won’t force her to take a free sample if she doesn’t feel comfortable doing it. And in return I’ll drink her free sample of ‘Koji Water’.