Birds and Trees

October 31, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Posted in Gardens, Nature | 2 Comments
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You may wonder what kind of birds those are at the top of my blog page. You may also be wondering what country of the world they, and I, live in.

Rainbow lorikeets

Well, the birds are Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus), and the photo was taken on my verandah a few months ago. The birds are on our feeder, eating the seeds that we occasionally stock the feed-tray with. We don’t do it too often because they need to be able to forage for themselves.

At present – spring and summer – the lorikeets feed on nectar from the native plants around the district. The main blossoms they feed on now, mid spring, are bottlebrush trees (various varieties of Callistemon), and we have about half a dozen in our yard. Thus, we get to see lots of Rainbow Lorikeets.

And where in the world are we? We are in Australia; in the state of New South Wales; near the east coast, about forty-five km south of Newcastle and a hundred km north of the state capital, Sydney. We are on the western side of the largest coastal lake in the country, beautiful Lake Macquarie.

Eastern rosella

We love trees and birds, and so we make every effort to provide a habitat that is friendly to both. That means mostly native species of trees and bushes that will attract native birds. The lorikeets are not the only brightly coloured birds we have around here. We also have the much shyer Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius), a small parrot with a bright red head and breast and colourful wings and tail.

There are many song birds too, the main ones being the magpie (Cracticus tibicen) and the butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus), with their beautiful warbling songs. 

Kookaburra

It is the kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) that tells us, by its raucous laughing call, that the sun is about to rise in the early morning, and it also farewells the sun each evening.

These are just a sample of the great variety of birdlife that abounds in our area. We love our trees and our birds, and will continue planting those trees and shrubs that bring the birdlife into our yard – for their benefit and for ours.

© Linda Visman

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Falling Leaves

October 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Gardens, Nature | 3 Comments
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Bright colours, Victoria

Autumn in the northern latitudes is a time for colour – reds and oranges and browns in all shades and textures. In small parts of Australia, the same applies. For instance, the sub-alpine town of Bright, in Victoria, is well known for its beautiful autumn colours. But there, the trees are mostly northern hemisphere ones, not Australian.

Because Australian native trees, such as eucalypts, do not shed all their leaves when autumn comes, most people do not believe they shed their leaves at all. But they do; they just don’t do it after summer is over. They do it when summer is coming.

Eucalypt leaves

We have a lot of eucalypts on our little piece of land. It is now (the end of October) the second half of spring here, and I have just raked their leaves from our lawns for the second time in four days. There is no shortage of them as you can see from the photo.

The trees lose leaves all year too, though not in such numbers. These leaves are dense and hard, not thin and brittle like those of deciduous trees, and they can take years to break down.

Most of the time I don’t bother raking them, but chop them up with the mulching mower. This helps to build up what is a naturally poor and thin layer of soil. But in spring, I collect them – not to throw them out or burn them though.

 

Goanna with leaves

We have a mostly native garden, and the spaces between the trees, shrubs and other plants remains bare. With summer heat, moisture evaporates quickly, so I use a layer of mulch to cover the ground. I used to use wood chips, but the cost is too high for our budget. Eucalypt leaves provide a great substitute. That is why I collect them when they are plentiful.

I cannot understand the mentality of people who chop down a beautiful, (perhaps hundred-year-old or more) tree, just because it drops leaves on their paths or lawns.

In a few more weeks, the spotted gums will shed their bark. Then, I will collect that and use it for mulch too.

Picture 1: Bright, Victoria

Picture 2: Eucalypt leaves on my lawn

Picture 3: Eucalypt mulch on garden. Plants (R to L) Cycad; banksia; kangaroo paw, plus my pet goanna.

© Linda Visman 29th October 2011

Book Promotion Downsides

October 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Promotion, Psychology, Writing | Leave a comment
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Creativity-Logic conflict

I wish there were not so much time and energy involved in promoting my book. I am not someone who enjoys this type of activity and would rather get back to what I want to do.

I use up the energy I should be using for my writing in trying to get noticed, both locally and on-line. Having to do that distracts me from my writing too. Instead of allowing my creative left brain to come to the fore, my practical right brain has to dominate. Ideas bog down, words have to be forced out, and frustration overcomes me.

Then, frustration leads to a loss of drive and apathy takes over – if apathy can actually DO anything. I suppose it is rather I allow myself to fall into apathy. Then nothing gets done; not the writing and not the promotion activities.

I find myself in this roller-coaster ride of enthusiasm-activity / apathy-inaction much too frequently. Being a sufferer from depression is no fun when there are so many things you want to do. The things that I don’t want to do drive me onto a downward slope that I hope won’t go too deep before I can pull out of it.

It is actually my writing that has helped to get me back on the level many times over the years. Before I began writing stories, poems and novels, I kept a journal. In there, I poured out my feelings, and often worked out how to climb from the pit. Those pits were deep, very deep at times.

I am grateful that the lows are nowhere near what they used to be, and that I can come out of them quite quickly. I use positive action to overcome the apathy, and I have a husband who is very supportive in this, getting me to act when all I feel is negativity.

I still keep a journal, and it still helps. However, the focus is on what I am doing in my writing life now instead of mainly on feelings. I actually wrote this entry in my journal before making it into a blog entry.

I just wish I didn’t have to do all the distracting, energy-sapping work that goes into producing and promoting what was an idea, but is now a physical entity: my book.

Blocks to Action

October 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
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I first enquired about the process of getting Ben’s Challenge converted to an e-book at the beginning of September; it is now almost the end of October. Why have I left it so long to do something? Why have I been procrastinating?

Well, it is probably for the same reasons that I procrastinate with my writing: there are too many other things to do; I am too easily distracted; I don’t have the self-discipline to focus on this one thing and get it underway. And why is all that so, I wonder.

Well, I sat in my car by the lake this morning and thought about it. I came up with the answer – an answer I have known about for a long time, but have failed to address. The answer is Fear.

That’s right, fear. I am afraid of starting the process of making my novel into an e-book. I am afraid of getting into my writing, particularly into the follow-up to Ben’s Challenge. So, what is it I am afraid of? And why is that fear paralysing me?

I have the answer to those questions too, and the answer is the same for both. I am afraid of not doing something perfectly. I am afraid of starting something because I may make a mistake. So, I keep putting it off; after all, if I don’t do it, then I can’t make a mistake, can I?

Oh, yes sister, I sure can! And it is a much bigger mistake than doing something imperfectly; much bigger than doing something wrong in a process that is probably foolproof anyway.

The mistake? Not doing something that I need to do, want to do; something that will be fulfilling and will, hopefully, also give pleasure to others.

After all, at the end of life, it is not the things we did that we will regret the most, but those things we did not do.

So, today – in fact, just half an hour before writing this, I began the process with CreateSpace of converting Ben’s Challenge to an e-book that can be read on Kindle.

And it feels good.

© Linda Visman

Help! How do I ….?

October 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Promotion, Writing | 2 Comments
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I have been wondering how to make my wordpress blog into something more than ‘just a blog’.

I am a writer. I write articles for our local writing group magazine. My short stories and poems have been published in several anthologies and periodicals. I have self-published my novel, “Ben’s Challenge” (with a link on this page).

I need to get out there – wherever ‘out there’ is, in order to make my work better known and available to prospective readers. But how do I do that, beyond Facebook, this blog (which has few readers) and my old-fashioned website that doesn’t even allow pictures to be displayed on my main page? And, how do I do it without spending all my time on it? After all, I want to continue writing my next book.

I am not a techno whiz, though I use computers for many things. I have only just learned how to use widgets, and was very proud of myself when Iworked out how to put up my novel’s front cover, as well as a click link to Amazon, on this page.

However, I don’t understand what a lot of the options are, or what they are supposed to do, and I don’t have much time to get in and play around with them. Besides, I am also afraid of this stuff, and I don’t want to destroy what I already have. There is nobody around who I can call on either; especially, there is nobody who can show me what to do in a way that I will understand, and then be able to carry on doing what I need to do.

So, what do others out there do when you are stuck? How do you learn ‘stuff’ to help you promote your writing – or any other product? And how do you do it when your income is small and you cannot afford to call on experts? I hope someone can help me.

Review of Ben’s Challenge

October 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Making History, Reading, Writing, Writing and Life | 3 Comments
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I mentioned that I had received two reviews of my novel, Ben’s Challenge. Here is the second one – and I am pleased that Marian was so honest in her assessment of the book:

Review of Ben’s Challenge by Linda Visman

I want at the outset to declare two things. I am a 50’s baby and I know the author. This provides me with a bit of a challenge.  I grew up on diet of meat and three veg, respect for the Queen, a quiet uncomfortable awe for the name Robert Menzies, church and Sunday school, 10 shillings in a card from grandma at birthdays, the rote learning of the names of the rivers of northern New South Wales, an uncomfortable struggle with the notion that girls couldn’t behave like boys, but a freedom to run and play with friends without adult supervision.  You behaved yourself because mum would invariably find out and then you’d be in for it.  Like many before me, I’m starting to feel that the past, even with its dark stories of abuse and betrayal, is tending to look a bit more simple and authentic than the present.

I’ve known Linda Visman since the early 80s and though it’s been a friendship marked by distance and other lives it is still a friendship built on affection and respect.  Usually, in the selfish consumption of fiction, the author per se is not considered. It is plot, character and good descriptive dialogue that keeps the interest. To not like a book when you have no affinity with the author is neither here nor there. When you do know them and they have written about a time that is etched into an affectionate part of memory, the simple process of reading becomes complicated. 

To be honest, I was afraid I wouldn’t like Ben’s Challenge. I was prepared to be disappointed by the writing, prepared for the possibility of poor dialogue, unconvincing characters, forced plot.  It was in fact a good read, and within two chapters I could let go of my doubts, relax and trust Linda Visman’s handle on the craft of good uncomplicated writing and simply fall into the story: its characters, its descriptive nature and of course the many things that consume the mind, body and summer days of Ben Kellerman. 

Bens Challenge is a number of things: a good mystery story, simply but effectively told, a journey into the language and mores of an Australia that is fast disappearing, a relevant and current examination of the emotions of children who, having faced the loss of a parent, now experience the uncomfortable realisation that mum or dad, the memory of whom is an emotional touchstone, can and probably will be replaced.

There were a few elements of the writing that caused a slight hesitation. In the initial stages I wasn’t sure as to whether the book was too heavily centred on the language and memory vignettes of the times- we all too well knew of teachers, usually men if you went to public school, nuns if you went to catholic school, who caned too hard and too often, but the ‘mystery aspect’ of the story soon became the focus of the story and Linda Visman builds it convincingly.

For me, it provided a wonderful excuse to take to the couch and just keep reading one wintry wet afternoon.  The resolution of the mystery surrounding the bike and the tone of his brother’s confession was a bit stylistically unsatisfactory and the story also ended a tad abruptly.

Ben had been challenged and had undergone a journey in which he had faced physical and emotional duress. He emerges at the end of the novel a stronger and more perceptive boy as a result and for me the closing of the book would have been enhanced with a more reflective focus.  But, as I have said, these are slight aspects of what is essentially an excellent book for children and for a ‘50’s baby’ to read and enjoy.

I have lent the book to an inquisitive 8 year old, who gets jokes and loves i-pads and digital technology. He also loves reading. His dad, also a child of the 50’s, is reading it with him at night. It will be interesting to see how Liam engages with Ben and his story, and how his dad responds to a setting which is very much a reflection of his own childhood. I’ll let you know.

Marian Grant

*** You can purchase a copy of the book in print form from Amazon by clicking on the book cover at the top of the page ***

Ben’s Challenge is popular with all ages

October 7, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
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There’s nothing nicer than hearing praise for a novel you have written – for the story, the setting, the characters, the writing itself. I am really happy to be receiving great comments from readers of all ages on Ben’s Challenge. I never expected to even write a novel, let alone have it prove so popular.

I wrote Ben’s Challenge for children and young adults, hoping they would enjoy a good story, and learn a little about the period and the area in which my own 10-11-year-old self lived (1957-9 rural Australia).

It is the story of a 13-year-old boy, Ben Kellerman, whose father is killed in a hit-and-run incident. Six months later, the police have been unable to discover who was driving the car that hit him. When Ben’s beloved bicycle is destroyed and the police cannot find that culprit either, Ben loses it.

He decides that he will find out the answers to both questions. He becomes close friends with Joe Musical, a Polish migrant, and together, the boys set out to investigate the mystery of Karl Kellerman’s death.

Some people prefer they desist in their efforts, but they carry on. Adventures, heart-ache, discoveries and some answers follow. Ben learns how to cope with bigotry, how to trust his mate and his adult friend, and how to be the male ‘adult’ of the family. But he begins to wonder if he and Joe can ever find the truth, when the police have been unable to.

Many readers have proved to be rather older than the age I had expected. They are the parents, grandparents, and even great-grandparents of the age group I’d aimed for. Every one of these older readers has responded very positively to the novel. Now, I would really love to have some proper feedback from younger readers – more than the “I like it” variety that is all I have had so far.

Today, I did have an indirect response from a ten-year-old boy, via his mother. She said he is reading it and loving it. He takes the book to bed and reads some before going to sleep. I will ask her at some time in the future to get him to tell her if he liked it right through to the end, and why. And I will ask her to please let me know.

I wrote a book for children and young people, and it turns out to be popular with all age groups. That makes me feel good.

 

*** To purchase the printed book from Amazon, click on the book cover at the top of the page. It will take you to the information and sale page for Ben’s Challenge. ***

Review of “Ben’s Challenge”

October 4, 2011 at 4:21 am | Posted in Writing | 2 Comments
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It is wonderful when a reader thinks enough of a story to let the writer know  how it has affected them. Carol Rose, who I have not met,  read a  copy of the book that her friend had purchased from the local store, where I left some to be sold on consignment. Carol sent her comments via the email address she found on the inside cover.

I am pleased to publish this unsolicited review of Ben’s Challenge.

                        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is a well-crafted story that remembers the pace and values of ordinary life in 1950’s rural Australia.

It’s a good read, much of the pleasure is in being taken back to a world that I recognise. It’s a book for adults who were children in the 1940s and 1950s, rather than the kids of the fast-paced aggressive computer worlds of Carmageddon and Grand Auto Theft, of paved city streets, skateboards, tiled chlorinated swimming pools, and instant “communication”.

It’s a good reminder of how our values were forged. For example, the notion of paying your way comes out of a slower life, and a more austere, yet more egalitarian society, where even if we could pay for modest necessities on a weekly basis at the grocery store, we had to save for something we wanted. If you received credit it was likely to come out of compassion, from someone who knew you, and the circumstances of your family.

Our values came from a world where you could go overnight camping (if you were a boy!) with a jumper, a piece of canvas for groundsheet, a small sack of food, a box of matches – not the sort of “lifestyle” that the Contemporary Camping Shop would have you adopt.

It’s a book that explores the growing moral sensibility of a young person, intent on uncovering the truth about his father’s death by hit-and-run driver. It’s about loyalty and truthfulness between friends who come from quite different places.

This world is one in which children were children, but capable of taking on adult responsibility within the household; a world in which the polarity between boys and girls appeared later in life; a world in which bullies could change and soften; a world in which an older man could provide friendly guidance, support, and touch to a young boy, in which it was possible to imagine mutual trust and respect between generations. 

How refreshing a comment on the new rigidities, rapidly changing codes, and shallow betrayals of contemporary society! The 1950’s weren’t “the good old days” (there were bullies, injustice, crooks, poverty, snobbery, some speedsters…atom bomb tests, persecution of aboriginal people and  “communists” and those who wanted to escape suffocating family values…) but mostly they moved at a human pace, and this pace invited reflectiveness of a sensitive, perceptive young person. The speed at which many people move and “communicate” in 2011 leaves less room for circumspection or thoughtfulness.

This is a story that resonates with truth, and I thank L.M. Visman for giving me the opportunity to review my life, its formative influences, as lived in country Australia, specifically Cessnock and Wangi Wangi, in the 1950s.

Carol Rose

~~~~Click on the book title at top right of this page to purchase a copy from Amazon~~~~

What to do with reviews of my book?

October 3, 2011 at 11:27 am | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
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I have received two reviews for Ben’s Challenge in the last couple of days. One was unsolicited and quite unexpected; the other I had requested.

They have some similarities, the main one being the reviewers enjoyment of the book, and their view that Baby Boomers will love the nostalgia aspect of the novel.

One says modern kids should like it, and has loaned it out to one; the other says it’s not for modern kids with their high-paced techno lives, but for those who grew up in the 1940s-1960s.

Both reviewers say it is well written and thoughtful, and that the characters, issues and relationships are real and engaging.

But what do I do with the actual reviews?

Do I take out the sentences that really give a great, or at least a good view of the book and use them to promote it? Or do I publish the reviews in full (with the writers’ permission, of course)?

Do I use the best bits for my novel’s cover? Include them, for now (until a new issue is printed) as an insert with each book, to create interest in those who may buy it?

Should I publish the reviews, or excerpts from them, on my blog? On Facebook?

I am not really sure what is the right thing to do. I will have to chat with a few people and get other opinions. But I would love to show that intelligent readers do really like Ben’s Challenge.

(c) Linda Visman

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