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Twitter_logo_whirlpoolAsk any professional, full-time author what the biggest drains on their writing time are (or would be if they let it) and social media will inevitably come in the top 5, if not sit at #1. Many professional writers and authors I’ve met force themselves to get off social media or even off the internet completely during their writing time in order to actually get something done. Now I’m not a full-time author, but I can tell you social media is pretty high on my list of time vacuums and I really don’t GET a lot of time to write!

But my relationship with social media and in particular Twitter is one coloured with romance – a romance specifically to do with getting my novel finished. You see there was a time when Twitter saved my novel from never being written and me from never writing again…

Some two years ago, I had a novel languishing, untouched for many months, at the bottom of a very deep pit of zeroes and ones (I have not done “paper” since around 1997). I had gone through long stints of serious writing and I had what I felt were probably enough words to craft maybe a single book, but none of it felt finished. It was like a never-ending saga without climax or closure, just a series of what I felt were pretty awesome scenes.howe_mark

It was around this time that my friend Grizzlee & I were dipping our respective toes into Twitter to try and engage with football (that’s Australian Rules
football
& specifically the AFL to us) fans for our new Podcast One Troll Short (now defunct)…(oh well). We started following people we found interesting who were inevitably football fans & personalities, AFL clubs or porn stars (because of course).

As it turned out, one particular cam girl Grizzlee followed (now I’m dropping him in it) posted a great deal about her general life and her friends and tweeps which I found far more engaging than many of the other adult industry folk who only posted advertising & pictures of their anatomy, so I followed her too. While I can’t even remember the name of this person (sorry), I followed her and found she had a number of conversations with an author friend of hers. This interested me immediately because I considered myself a writer (if not an actual author) and I started following the author friend (who I again can’t remember the name of).

Over time I gathered the courage to engage in a few of the threads between this author and her other author tweeps. Two particular author tweeps of this person were PROLIFIC on Twitter and they started to actually respond to me (unlike unknown original author person). Both of these folks posted hilarious tweets, links, and videos and are two of the friendliest, loveliest people I’ve met on social media. Their names are Leigh Ann Kopans & Megan Whitmer. They’re published authors now and don’t spend NEARLY as much time on Twitter as they used to (I MISS YOU!!), but back then, they were finishing manuscripts and doing an AMAZING job of building an author platform.

Megan was so engaged that she started a movement of writers sprint-writing their manuscripts of a Friday night (which ended up being a Saturday morning here in Australia). She called it #WriteClub (@FriNightWrites) and it was incredible. I joined Write Club for a few Saturday mornings until finally some more magnificent tweeps (Renee Wynne, Rochelle Sharpe & Emily Mead) started running the Write Club sprints on a Friday Night in Australia. I spent many a Friday night sprinting, tweeting & enjoying the writery company and, though I never got involved in organising it (because I had commitments most Friday nights and Saturday mornings), Write Club is truly what got me writing again.

As the months went by and my tribe of author tweeps grew and changed (essentially taking over my Twitter account), I also began to learn things about writing, about being an author, about the publishing industry and about how to do this damn thing FOR REAL.

One of the most important things I learned early on was that a full, completed first draft of a novel should be between 70,000 and 80,000 words. When I learned this, I went back and checked how many words I’d written on my own novel: oh only around 350,000 words.

3_booksWHAT!?!

FUCK – I have 3 novels here!!

That’s right. 3 whole novels already drafted, just not cut & edited. So of course, I picked a point at which I wanted to slice the story and deliver a single finished novel and started editing. And, of course, writing to an ending (something else I learned).

So now, here I am days from finishing my 2nd draft (yes, it’s taken me this long, shut up) and I just wanted to give up a thank you to all of the magnificent author tweeps I’ve met along the way, interacted with, learned from and hopefully taught a few things to (I have some skills, just not necessarily in publishing) and while I still find myself drawn away from my manuscript by Twitter and other social media, I always feel a sense of warmth toward it because social media is very much what saved me from losing writing altogether.

Every day, I interact with other writers and authors from all sorts of places and this is what I feel is the magic of Twitter and social media. The ability to connect with not just a few, but HUNDREDS of like-minded people around the world and draw inspiration, wisdom, courage and benefit from their experience to enhance your work, your life or your passion and to share your own experiences to potentially help others do the same.

So I’d just like to say thank you to my writery tweeps (those are both totally words) for their time and for their inspiration.

thank_you

SO THANK YOU SO MUCH (in alphabetical order because of course):

Adam Dreece

Angelina Williamson

Ann Bisky (wherever you are)

Antonius Hogebrandt

Brianna Shrum

Carey Torgenson

Cassandra Page

Courtney Cantrell

C. P McClennan

David (Evil Overlord)

Elyse Salpeter

Emily Mead

Erin McRay

Evan Carter

Gail Simone

Hayley Humphrey

Jason Cantrell

J.C. Lillis

Jennie Davenport

Julie Hutchings

Kate Fitzpatrick

Kate Sholty

Kathy Palm

Keira Drake

Kiz(zy Wiggle)

Kristine Wyllys

Leigh Ann Kopans

Maria Lewis

Megan Paasch

Megan Whitmer

Mike Cullen

Melbourne on my Mind

Niko Staten

Rachel Heyfield

Renee Wynne

Rochelle Sharpe

S.E. Carson

Sharon Livingstone

Soknou King

Sonya Craig

Tiffie van Bordeveld

Victor Dean Hampstead

If I missed anyone or if I’ve spelled your name incorrectly I’m sorry – I want to thank every publishing industry person I’ve interacted with, but alas there are too many (and I was a bit lax with the proofreading). Just know that you are appreciated.

— IEK

goggle-eyed_fishWhen I was around 12, my parents decided to take me to an allergy specialist. I had spent as long as I could remember dealing with eczema on my skin, spending spring times with my nose running like the Amazon in flood and regretting every encounter with cats or fresh cut grasses as my eyeballs swelled up like bad jelly moulds.

If I’m being honest I have to admit I occasionally rubbed my very itchy eyes deliberately because I knew they’d swell to a horror-movie size & I’d get to go home from school. I’d grown so used to it that I preferred having my eyes feel like I had actual grass growing in them to afternoon maths.

Yep, that is totally the Himalayas on my arm. Thanks, Photoshop.

Yep, that is totally the Himalayas on my arm. Thanks, Photoshop.

Anyway, the allergy specialist dripped a dozen or so blobs of liquid on my skin from tiny phials labelled “cat”, “dog”, “grasses”, “pollens” and the like. He then proceeded to pierce my skin through the blobs with a lancet. He told me that any of the dots of skin which swelled up meant I was allergic to that thing.

Well 5 minutes later didn’t my arm look like the Himalayas? Yes, I was apparently allergic to EVERYTHING. “Cat looks like the worst one though” the very amused specialist had said, staring wide-eyed at Cat-Everest.

And yes – cat is very much the worst one. I know a lot of my tweeps are cat lovers and good on you, but I have never been able to be in the same house as a cat without going semi-blind while sneezing uncontrollably. So it’s here that I admit I’m not fond of cats.

The visit to the allergy specialist was useful in that it taught me I had to avoid certain things: cats (easy – we had none), cut grasses (HAHA! NO MORE MOWING!!) and dust (wut??).

I discovered antihistamines, avoided cats (and mowing) and learned not to scratch anything which itched ever.

It was around this time that I began to notice that certain salads I ate made my mouth tingle & itch. I figured it was just a normal reaction to some sort of food, (maybe capsicum?) & thought nothing more of it.
For my whole life so far, though, I had experienced regular, excruciating stomach pain accompanied by regular, equally excruciating, visits to the toilet. The pain got so bad some days that I would briefly pass out & once I even remember hallucinating.

I thought this was just “my weak stomach” (as it was generally known) and got on with life.

I read about irritable bowel syndrome and I recognised my symptoms immediately in the descriptions of IBS, but I didn’t try to find a cure because though the pain was extreme, it was not constant. It came and went without warning and when it went, I was perfectly fine.

One day, sitting at work when I was 25 (yes – 25), I was eating a salad and reading something amusing on the Internet which made me snort-laugh. I choked a little bit on my salad, but coughed it out OK. But then I felt this sensation in my throat around my airway – the same tingly, itchy feeling I’d often felt in my mouth from salad.

Then my airway started to close up. I immediately sculled a bottle of water, then ran downstairs to the chemist we thankfully had in our building, bought some strong antihistamines and took
them.

My throat settled down thankfully, but I had realised something: I had just had a VERY mild anaphylactic reaction to something in my salad. My brother is allergic to nuts and so I have always known what anaphylaxis was and how it affected (and potentially killed) those with severe allergies. Mostly it was because their throat swelled up, blocking their airways and they suffocate.

When I returned to my desk and looked at my salad I saw that there was no particular ingredient missing more than any other, but I did like this salad because it had no dressing – it was SUPER plain.

I resolved to buy that same salad the following day and eat each ingredient one-at-a-time, finishing all of one before starting on the next.

Capsicum was my prime candidate, so I ate that first. I sat, waiting for a reaction, but there was nothing. No tingling, no itch. I moved on through lettuce, cucumber, tomato and finally I had only carrots left. I was a bit crestfallen because it couldn’t possibly be carrots. I mean who the hell is allergic to carrots? Plus I’d eaten carrots all my life! I used to eat them raw as a snack!

As soon as I placed the first chunk of carrot in my mouth, I felt the tingling and spat it out.
Bloody CARROTS!?!

Who the hell is allergic to carrots?

I’ve eaten carrots all my life!

ALL MY LIFE.

From that moment, I started to avoid carrots. If a food had carrot in it, I chose something else. If I was served something with surprise carrots (I have now realised that FUCKING EVERYTHING has carrots in it), I just try to remove as much as possible before eating it.

And guess what – I have had almost no stomach pain since. It has been COMPLETELY revolutionary to my life. I can eat almost anything (except carrots) and feel fine. My “weak stomach” has become an “iron gut”.

A few months after I stopped eating carrots and was feeling SO GOOD, I ate at a friends’ house where they served a pie with chicken and vegetables – LOTS of carrot (they didn’t know). To be polite I ate it. Oh boy did I regret that decision. The next two days were AWFUL.

Since then I have tried to avoid carrot in everything and I have felt so much better that it’s difficult to believe I have an allergy.

I have no idea what it is about carrots that I’m allergic to. Other orange vegetables like pumpkin and sweet potato are fine. I have tried the purple carrots and they are NOT fine.

Having been through this and learned about my own allergy, I felt it would be good to share it with the world in case someone else had a similar allergy to some food or other and my story could help them.

I hope SO much that none of you have the sort of stomach pain I went through, but if you do – try to think of something that tingles or itches your mouth, you may just find a mild allergy that changes your life.

— IEK

pride_heartI tried to stay clear of social media yesterday (Monday in Australia). Early on Monday morning, the world had crept up on me and punched me in the face. Not the first time I’d been punched in the face, but the first time I’d had no idea it was coming (I’ve been in a few fights, let’s just say).

Yesterday morning my Dad called and he was terribly upset. A relative who I had known since birth and with who’s family I had spent a lot of good times as a child had died. It was a shock. His family are some of our closest relatives, despite the distance between us. I’d known he had been experiencing heart trouble, but I guess things like that are never real until all of a sudden they are. I was immediately and very deeply saddened.

Later in the morning, I read about the massacre in Orlando.

50 people.

One dipshit and an assault rifle.

Again.

It was too much, so I stepped away. I needed to process.

Once I’d had a chance to at least get a sense of my own grief and was able to think about the Orlando shooting, my immediate reaction could be summed up in one image:

pride_fist

Because fuck that dipshit, fuck his assault rifle and fuck the people who would support him and encourage his viewpoint. Fuck people who think that lesbian, gay, bi, trans, intersex or any other group discriminated against because of their gender, gender identity or preference should be treated as anything other than equal to every other person. The time for love was done and the time to fight was now. I was going to change my avi to this fist and start fighting for the rights of LGBTI people – people like my friends, like the victims in Orlando. People like me.

But I wanted to stay away longer. I wanted to stay out of the storm which was happening on social media and spend the time just with my family. So I did and in that time, I realised that I was just buying into the same mentality which had created this dipshit – the same mentality which creates and drives a lot of these dipshits with guns: that the world is against you and you have to fight it. You have to fight, hurt and kill if you want to be heard, you have to fight, hurt and kill if you want to be taken seriously.

Well it’s not true.

It’s a lie.

It’s a lie built on centuries of macho self-importance and the desire to be stronger and/or more heavily armed than everyone else because it’s the only way some people can feel safe.

But I feel safe. I don’t worry that someone is going to take out a gun and execute me and my family. I don’t feel like I have to have an assault rifle to be heard. I’m quite OK without an assault rifle. In fact I rather prefer life without those awful things. I feel lucky that I live in Australia where shootings still occur, but the numbers of dead are 1 or 2, not 10, 20 or 50 because it’s damn near impossible to buy an assault rifle in this country and such weapons are certainly beyond the financial and logistical means of dipshits.

I have realised that if you want to create a better world – a world where everyone can feel safe, where dipshits like this guy who killed all of these innocent people in Orlando don’t feel like they have to fight, hurt or kill to be heard, we need to start by opening our hearts, not closing them off.

I changed my social media avis to a simple Pride flag over the last couple of days to show my support for the community which has shown me such amazing support in my times of need. I haven’t started any fights online and I haven’t become involved in any (yet). I’m sure there will come a time when I need to stand up for the communities and for the basic human rights I believe in, but I have come to realise that violence and the promotion of violence is not something which can ever truly end violence.

I commend the people who have taken this stance of love over hate even as I was boiling away in my indignant rage, ready to punch on. I commend them for not letting their anger get the better of them, for directing their passion toward making the world a more loving place, not a more hateful one.

So from here on, I’m going to try to follow their example.

I’m going to try to love just a bit more and hate just a bit less.

— IEK

image (Updated following Round Round 7)

As I write this, it’s not so much anger as pain.

I was angry after the first couple of rounds of the AFL season, seeing my Tigers who were so competitive and gave us so much excitement and hope for the future just last season performing like a bottom-4 team.

I’m certain Dockers fans are feeling the same as we are. What the hell has happened? How could Richmond & Fremantle possibly go from genuine contenders (looking at the bulk of the 2015 season rather than one Finals match) to contenders for the wooden spoon in one off-season?

I think the answer lies not within the walls of Punt Road or Parry Street, but within the walls of at least eight other clubs (specifically: West Coast, Adelaide, Sydney, the Bulldogs, the Kangaroos, Geelong, Melbourne & the Giants). I name West Coast first in the list because they were the first club to implement what has become the new standard for team defence in the AFL. Gerrard Healy dubbed it the “Wagles Web” and in 2015 the technique earned them a Grand Final berth. By 2016 most other clubs had adapted their own version of Adam Simpson’s revolutionary team defence, but also developed offensive structures to compliment it for them and counter-act it against similarly structured opposition.

As a result of not advancing their technique enough, the Eagles are suffering from a bout of mediocrity, but let’s face it – they’re still better than the Tigers. The question is: why?

As I said above – the answer lies with these other clubs and their new defensive and offensive structures. The sides mentioned above have been drilled in the off-season in a new team-based defensive structure which is designed to put unprecedented pressure on opposition players whilst providing predictable team-based offensive support to themselves and their teammates. And it’s working. Just look at what the Giants did to last year’s Premiers.

You may well ask: hang on, you mentioned Melbourne in the same breath as the Kangaroos? And you’re right – there’s a big gap between the two, but that gap is more about player age, personnel and maturity. Mark my words: Melbourne’s structures could take on the best if they had a mature, high-quality list. They can thank Roos for embedding them & it looks like Goodwin is more than on-board.

Your next point may well be: but you still lost to Port. And I think that loss was a great deal to do with player development (or lack thereof) and the mindset of the team, which, after the first 4 rounds appears to be: lost.

So if all of these other teams have managed to take their defensive and offensive structures to the next level, why haven’t the Tigers? More to the point – why haven’t the Dockers? I think the answer lies in one simple thing: the coaches have made mistakes. Both Ross Lyon and Damien Hardwick have backed their 2015 game plan and relied on their players developing and stepping up to the next level to take them to the next step, but in 2016, it’s really not that simple anymore. The science of defence and offense in the AFL has never been more important. It’s why clubs like the Swans and the Crows have managed to debut unheralded rookies who come in and make a genuine impact. The Dockers and the Tigers are still stuck in an AFL style which lays out a game plan reliant on star power and up until this year, this was perfectly OK and still is to an extent if you look at the Hawks (speaking of star power).

This is where I point out that the Tigers were the most competitive we’ve seen them all year against the reigning Premiers. I think Clarkson has a bit of the same problem as Lyon & Hardwick, but he has a team with extraordinary talent & an unstoppable mindset. If only we could bottle that mindset…

Both Lyon & Hardwick have also failed to develop their young players. The Dockers because Ross Lyon is allergic to anyone under the age of 25 and Hardwick because whomever is in charge of player development at Punt Road should be updating their LinkedIn. Let me also say I’m not at all fond of the midfield coach’s work, but I digress and I think the massive gap between this year and last is less to do with development of individuals and more to do with the development of a mindset and a consistent structure.

Let’s take the Tigers example, I have seen in every single match the same thing: Tigers ball-winners come away from a stoppage with the pill & either dish a handball or scrub a kick forward. If the handball is given, the player receiving the ball is mobbed & quickly dispossessed by opposition players who then flick a series of what appear to be pre-planned handballs to get clear of the erratic Tiger defence, then the Tigers’ opposition is in the clear. If the Tiger kick is scrubbed forward, it’s either straight to a contested situation or straight to the opposition – no time for decision making good or bad.

At almost no time have our panicked kicks under pressure hit the right target. And the reason is right there: pressure.

At every contest we seem to be outnumbered, at every stoppage the Tigers’ opposition seems to be more settled, better able to make a good decision.

This team defensive structure we’re facing (but not using) is also setting an impossible task for our forward line and back line. Most of our forward 50 entries are made to a contest in which we’re already outnumbered. It’s a wonder we’re scoring at all. Every time the opposition get out on the run, what has become the trademark Hardwick defensive move of having players further down the field leave their opponent to pressure the ball carrier is being ripped apart by clubs who have a field structure which positively CRAVES this style of defence. Our back-six have been put under impossible pressure with opposition players able to lead for the ball uncontested because the Tiger who should have been marking them has sprinted upfield to put pressure on the ball carrier (who either kicks it over their head or flicks another pre-planned handball to a teammate who does).

Media commentators as well as the players themselves have placed blame on the Tigers players for not running hard enough, but honestly – if a team without effective structures wants to cover a team with them, they need to run twice as far. They lose anyway.

I don’t know if our existing coaching staff can make the changes which clearly need to be made to upgrade our on-field structures and game plan to adapt for the modern game, but if they can – they need to start now. I know a football team is like a cruise ship – turning it around takes time, but we need to start making the turn right now because we’re headed for the Wooden Spoon Straits.

— IEK

mads_coffeeI had a dream last night.

I had a dream and for the first time in YEARS (I would estimate), I can remember it!

It was only relatively short, but somehow I was having a rather delightful lunch with Madonna at an on-street, outdoor cafe.

I don’t remember the details of the conversation, but I do remember waking up thinking that she was delightful company and what a nice chat over lunch.

I’ve never met Madonna in person and I tend not to watch anything celebrity-related, so I really have no idea what she would be like if we had really eaten a nice lunch together. I will continue to believe that it would be lovely.

In the dream, I was eating a pear, rocket and walnut salad (with balsamic dressing). It seemed rather tasty for dream food.

Anyway…So there’s me dream-name-dropping. Look out, Dream Elizabeth Montgomery*!

— IEK

 

*I know she passed away in 1995. I just LOVED her in Bewitched (I mean who didn’t?).

I’m going to this tomorrow and I am VERY bloody excited.

gunnas2

Thanks, Co-Consul. You win at Xmas presents.

— IEK

image

So I was lucky enough to have my amazing colleagues in China take me out to see The Force Awakens today. Today was opening day for the latest Star Wars installment in China, but as many of you already know, this was my 3rd time.

Well, apparently China is receiving The Force Awakens only in 3D or Imax – no standard format.

I am SO GLAD that I was able to enjoy the film in Australia (twice) in standard format because despite me already loving this film – 3D is total shit.

I put on my 3D glasses (which clipped over my specs) & enjoyed the first interior shot of Stormtroopers – it looked cool with 3D – but then I got used to it, the image periodically split, fucking up the experience for me & nothing else in the film looked particularly interesting in 3D. Also I got a bit of a headache. Just small, but seriously – people are paying good money for a headache.

So here’s the rub: Movie studios began to pump money into 3D again in the mid-00s because A) they finally worked out how to make it with correct colour & B) 3D makes it harder for pirates to screencap the film.

BUT THEY NEED TO STOP IT.

Seriously – making movies in 3D to combat piracy is like Coca Cola making their flagship drink taste like someone shat in it to prevent people making cola.

Eventually we’ll stop drinking.

Until we can watch a 3D experience with our regular eyes, I do not want to ever attend another 3D screening of anything. And I know there are a bunch of people with me – especially those who get serious headaches from 3D like Co-Consul does.

Just like the 80s, 3D is not going to happen – stop trying to pretend it will.

— IEK

heroes_smallAs I rapidly approach the day when I will be seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the 3rd time at the cinema (yep. 3rd time), with still some distance from the first two times, I am inspired to write some kind of review/observation/rabid hate-fest/sickening love-fest of the film.

First off, let me say – I really enjoyed it. It was better than I had anticipated and I’d watched every single trailer at least four times before setting foot in a cinema for the big dance. I think in some way the hype for the film and the build-up of excitement not only for me, but for our 3 kids as the release date approached, made the experience that much more enjoyable.

Being a little worried about whether the film would be too violent for our kids, Co-Consul and I decided to go along to a night session on the 17th (RELEASE DAY!) before the kids and I went to a morning session on the 18th (ANNUAL LEAVE DAY FOR STAR WARS!). It was a good decision, as there were a few bits that should concern parents. Although there is no blood or gore, people are killed pretty frequently in the film and in at least two of these killing/murder scenes, it’s very obvious that the victims are innocent and unarmed. This may not make any difference to some (in that they abhor all violence), but to me this made all the difference and I ensured our 3 kids were primed with the understanding that 1) this is a movie & not real and 2) that nobody ever dies forever in movies or comics: it’s just one of those unwritten laws.

With that, we gathered our lightsabers, 6yo packed up her star puffs (thanks, Grandma) and we headed off to see THE NEW STAR WARS (me for the second time).

Having seen it already once, I was able to sit back from the spectacle (which is, let me assure you, VERY spectacular) and see the film with a more critical eye. My first viewing was coloured with a reminiscence that I think most of us who grew up with Star Wars, Empire and Jedi will have felt. The Force Awakens feels (as Han said in the trailer every time we watched it) like you’ve come home. There have been many criticisms of the film that it is a carbon copy of A New Hope and, while I absolutely see the point (because it’s true), I just don’t give a shit. A New Hope was brilliant and so is The Force Awakens – formula fiction at its absolute best.

My main gripe with the film…

**SPOILER ALERT NOW – stop here if you haven’t seen it. Also if you haven’t seen it – WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!
View full article »

cover_art_teaser_2As promised earlier in the week (although perhaps somewhat later than hoped), I have uploaded a sample chapter of my upcoming action science fiction novel Bifrost and you can see it…

RIGHT HERE!!!

As I have also mentioned, this is my 3rd-draft version of this chapter and there may be changes between now and publication day, but I’m pretty happy with the chapter as it stands and any changes will hopefully be minor.

So, please read and enjoy this (very early) chapter of Bifrost and keep your eye out for more news on its release date!!

And yes – of course, there’s another tiny teaser for the Bifrost cover just above in this post!

— IEK

cover_art_teaserJust this morning I received the sample from the completed cover art for Bifrost!!!! I am VERY excited about it. I’ve given you a tiny sneak peak here!

<=

Very shortly, I will have the final, full-resolution copy in my hot little computer and will commence work turning it into an actual cover (complete with a title and perhaps even my name somewhere!).

I am also in the process of engaging the services of an editor for Bifrost (again – super excited).

Now…all of my excitement aside, I have decided that because Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in December and (as previously mention) it appears that the writers and I have been drinking coffee from the same beans, I am going to publish a sample chapter or two (let’s see hot it goes) here on iekenner.com. Please understand that though these will be as polished as I can make them in the short time I have – these will not be the finished product and there may be changes here and there as we move from now until release day (an as-yet undetermined date in early 2016).

Keep your eye on this site for when the sample chapter goes up and please give me any feedback you have once you’ve read it!!

— IEK

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