Archive for June, 2016


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

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