Archive for October, 2008

The Mystery of Blog Stats

October 28, 2008

Well, it is a mystery, aintit?

Any blogger worth the name checks the stats every now and then. Mine are really odd. The most popular post on this blog is … Nah, can’t tell you.

I’ve got a post titled ‘Sex’. It’s there to skew the stats. Rather mild all up, just some jokes for the fifteen year old male mind, but when that post hit cyberspace the site hits almost doubled overnight. I wondered how high it would go. To the top, that’s where it went.

There’s another post titled ‘Stravinsky Teen Sex Romp’. A funny story of how I got to spray-tan my brother’s university dance company to make them look like nymphs for a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Guess what, the ‘S-Word’ gets a mention and so it’s up there in the stats in second place.

But now a blog has crept from the past to take out top spot. Funny thing, it’s got nothing at all to do with sex. Nothing at all. Strangest thing, people actually go searching for it, I can see their tracks in the stats.

And the top post’s title? … No, still can’t tell you. Blame Mr Heisenberg.

(You might have to Google.)

The Contract, The Cheque, The Date

October 28, 2008

Two out of three ain’t bad.

The contracts for the Clem book are all signed up and shared around. My copy is still sitting on my desk. I don’t have a place in the filing cabinet for ‘Publishing Contracts’, and can’t remember what happened to the contract for the first book.

And the first cheque arrived. Nice one. It ends with three zeroes, or five if I keep counting after the dot. Maybe I should say, “My latest royalty advance ends in five zeroes.” Nah. That’ll only invite requests for a loan until payday.

And number 3, we are talking about a release date. Nothing decided yet. Sometime through 2009.

Here’s a link.

The cover will change, this is merely a working sheet to inspire me. OK, it was a distraction dating from when the work of editing was getting me down. The publisher will get a designer to come up with something better.

The book is on the conveyor belt while I sit around drinking champagne. What a great life this is.

Declared War on the Peaceful Doves

October 25, 2008

.. they did.

I blogged about the peaceful doves a while ago. There were two nesting pairs in two trees over out back fence. We’ve grown to like them as they came into our yard to feed, generally with one standing watch on the roof.

They have now gone. The doves and the trees.

We looked out of the window and both trees were gone, hacked off about a foot above the ground. The doves flew around the place for a day or two, sat on the verandah railing and looked into the empty space for a while, and now they have also gone. We can only guess what happened to the chicks.

There are now four refugee doves in the neighbourhood. There are other trees. And it is normal for a feeding pair to breed again quickly following the loss of a nest.

But we miss them still

The Next Little Boy Story

October 22, 2008

The next little boy story. But this boy would not want to have had anybody think of him as little. His name was Tony, I guess it still is.

Professional people work within strong boundaries of confidentiality. We expect that, and it’s my own expectation and practice. This time I’m going to make an exception. This story is true, and the name I use is true. But the story is also from many years ago and there is nothing here to embarrass or compromise anyone. Perhaps the time will come when Tony, or somebody who knows him, will find this story and get in touch.

There are people who touch our lives for a moment, but something powerful in that moment sticks to us and becomes part of us. This encounter with Tony was one of those times.

Tony lived in a wheelchair. Back in 1981/82 he was in hospital, Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne again, for a review of his condition and its treatment. I was the Chaplain on his ward. It was natural that we met.

I was sitting talking to a boy about ten. He was in for routine surgery, as were many children through the school holidays. He was nervous, and waiting for his grandfather to visit him. Up rolled Tony in his chair, fourteen years old and more than a bit pissed off with life, especially his life. He held up a pack of cards.

“Poker? Chaplain?” The voice was cynical, but a smile played on his lips.

“Sure thing, Tony” I said. “Who else?”

“Him, and him,” said Tony, pointing to the boy I was talking with and the boy in the next bed.

“What’ll we use for chips?” I asked.

“This.” Tony picked up the clippers from the boy’s bed. And he picked up the cane basket the boy had been making with the play-therapist. It was one of those baskets with a masonite base, cane struts rising through the holes, and cane woven through them. The boy had it half finished.

Tony clipped the tops of the uprights, one after the other, an inch at a time, until it become apparent that the boy had, indeed, finished the basket. The boy’s eyes nearly dropped out as he watched. We shared the clippings among us and between Tony and myself we taught the other two boys how to play poker.

That is when the grandfather walked in. What a delicious and scandalous moment for him to find his little grandson playing poker under the tuition of the chaplain. Most kids just asked me to put their Rubiks cube back in original condition. I had the book. Everyone knew.

Tony objected strongly to much of his life. He objected strongly to the demands that his treatment made upon him. He was surrounded by medical people telling him to do this, to do that. They had his best interests at heart, but they did not connect with this fourteen year old boy still coming to terms with his life. So I joined his side.

I look back with a bit of pleasure at a conversation with the ward sister. She took me to task about my attitude towards his treatment regime. She wanted my support. She didn’t think I was doing my job.

I did not enjoy the reprimand when it happened. But I soon learned to look back at that moment with pleasure and pride. Tony’s life was difficult. He had things to deal with that most kids never have to face. I was proud to be on his side.

Still am.

Tony would now be forty, perhaps a year or two older. I still think of him and worry a bit about him. Maybe one day he will be googling around and find this story and remember.

Hope he gets in touch.

Now For A Bit of Balance

October 21, 2008

Little boys. And stories of them.

I don’t want to leave my last blog sitting there like a blob, something without shape and ill defined, as if it is the final thing to be said about life. So here’s something to balance the life of it all.

Another little boy long ago. Six or seven years old. This time it’s my son.

I was tucking him into bed one night, gave him a goodnight kiss. He was a bit sleepy but sparked up and said, “Daddy, who do you love the most, Mummy or me?”

I knew this was a pass or fail question. And I knew it was not time for an explanation of how people love different people in different ways with no lessening of the love. I had a millionth of a second to get it right. It wasn’t hard.

“I love you more than anybody in the whole world,” I said.

A smile ran across his face, a smile so broad that his cheeks could not contain it. And in ten seconds he was fast asleep. I sat there looking at him for a long while.

I have tears yet for that little boy, for that moment in our lives. He is now almost thirty, still lovable and young at heart. That same little boy is not far from the surface.

What a wonderful world we live in.

That Life and Death Thing

October 21, 2008

I’ve been thinking about my friend Rob, the one who died last week. And that means I’ve also been thinking a bit about death, and life.

Rob was a priest of the Anglican Church of Australia, as am I. He worked in parishes for his whole ministry, I have worked in chaplaincies for much of mine. There was a time when I was doing some chaplaincy training in a hospital. It was a children’s hospital, one of Australia’s finest. The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Things did now always go well. After all, it was a place of life and death. There was a little boy, about seven or eight years old. He had a brain tumour that started at the base of his brain and was working its way down his spinal column. Perhaps these days things are different, but in 1981 it was inoperable.

The boy was going to die. He was going to die the night I was called to his bedside. His parents could not face it, that final breath, and had disappeared. It was December and Christmas was looming. Nobody knew where they were and I was called to sit with the boy.

I held his hand. Almost lifeless. Both of us. His skin was grey, the colour of the water in the school paint jar. He didn’t move, didn’t open his eyes, didn’t acknowlege my presence, he only breathed, and that seemed so shallow as to be incapable of supporting life. And that is what it proved to be.

I have tears yet for that little boy.

It is twenty seven years since, and I still wonder how his parents are getting on. I never met them but for a moment I took their place, the place of comfort I hope, being mother and father to a tiny stranger.

My friend Rob had much life yet to live. That is our declaration. But what of this little boy and the many others like him who die before their time?

There’s a phrase that goes through my mind – “Our only legacy is the love we leave behind.” An older person has so much more opportunity to plant that legacy and see it growing before his death. But the little boy?

Perhaps it’s time I thought a bit more about that phrase. Perhaps it’s the love we have received that becomes our legacy, as much as the love we have given. There was a moment, a few hours at the end of a boy’s life, that I was able to give some comforting love in the place of those he loved.

Whatever his family might have of him in their memories, he still lives in mine.

Rob Dies

October 18, 2008

Rob is a long time friend. We go back twenty five years, and our families have often gone on camping holidays together. Six weeks ago we learned he was ill and the prognosis was not good. Today the news came of his death.

It takes a while for this kind of news to sink in. Rob was a kindly man with a personality that was soft on others. He engaged well and he affirmed everyone who came within his reach. Many people have been touched over the years by that engagement and affirmation. Such a person does not die away from our hearts easily.

He leaves a wife and three adult children. The youngest child, in his twenties, has Down Syndrome. He and Rob had a very special relationship and I am very sad for this particular son.

I gave the news to my wife and we shared the shock.

“He was our age,” she said.

“I guess we are getting to the age where people our age get sick and die,” I replied.

He was one year older than my wife and me. It’s still too young. There’s this thing about three score years and ten and he was many years within that horizon. And life expectancy is rising for our generation.

Sadly, life expectancy is not rising for the generation below us. The lifestyle of indulgence that surrounds young adults these days robs them of their years. The generation that includes Rob’s children will probably die at an even younger age than he.

Sadness today, and sadness tomorrow.

Farewell old friend. You have left much love behind, there is no greater legacy.

Clem Is Coming

October 15, 2008

Clem is the teenage narrator of the young adult novel that I have just contracted to a publisher.

Late one sleepless night when I was on holidays, January 2006, Clem walked into my mind and told me his story. OK, it wasn’t quite that simple. But the experience of the book building itself in my head while I lay there in the dark was not my normal expectation.

I got up in the morning, wrote a two page outline, and started typing. That old laptop ran hot for five days and I had 55,000 words and the story finished itself in a most unexpected manner. I had to get through the feeling that it was perfect as it was, that took a few months, then came the work of knocking the whole thing into shape.

A friend is an editor with teenage kids. She read it and pointed out some storyline inconsistencies. She also let me know how teenagers think these days, something that I have left behind. It was good to see the book improve as I followed her notes.

Another friend edits a national journal of childrens and young adult literature. I sent a copy. He liked it, reading it was a good experience, he thought it was worth publishing. He thought it needed work. He noted that it will have to find its way in some very hot competition in the YA world. I took his suggestions and the text cleared a little more.

At a writer’s festival mid 2007 I met an extraordinary woman named Hazel Edwards. Hazel is one of Australia’s most prolific authors for young people. Over 150 works published. Her first book is still in print after 29 years and is found on shelves everywhere.

Hazel read the manuscript overnight, filled it with notes, and we spent an hour talking the next day while I took more pages of notes. I did everything Hazel suggested and could see the wisdom of her comments as the book matured. Hazel mentored me in this work over the next couple of months, what a wonderful blessing from a very sharply focused teacher.

I started querying publishers. I entered a writers competition. There were a few rejections from publishers and I took each one as the stepping stone to the next query. Then along came the present invitation to send the manuscript. Then the offer of a contract.

I will continue the story in a future blog. Until then, Clem says “Hello world”.

The Next Limo

October 10, 2008

I thought it was all over. The waiting, that is. Turned out it wasn’t.

Getting the word from a publisher that he wants to publish my book was a real buzz. Waiting for that response was totally distracting. My mind would not do anything of consequence in the waiting time.

But then something else happened. He told me the contract was on its way. Oh, no. The next round in the waiting match. It took several days for the big fat envelope to arrive. Guess what my mind did between the sending and the receiving. Nothing. That’s what it did. Nothing.

Well, I’m now reading my way through sixteen pages of technical jargon and legal wordery. What fun that is.

It is just as well my mind has turned itself on again.

Your Limo is Here, Sir

October 3, 2008

Sept 22nd and I blogged about waiting for something to happen.You can scroll down to the Waiting for the Limo post and check it out.

Sometimes things happen and interrupt normal life. Even silly things can do it, such as winning that James Bond contest and having the limo enter our mundane lives. And in those times everything else seems to sit around and wait with you as your brain goes into neutral. The Limo post was about one of those times.

The subject of that Limo post has happened. The publisher has emailed me. He wants to publish the book.

Yeehar! Break out the Bollinger.

Now the waiting is over perhaps I can get back to normal life.

Nah, let’s finish the Bollinger first. And I think there’s some more of that Moet & Chandon …