Today I was browsing in a bookstore when a guy nearby did the most romantic thing I’ve witnessed in quite some time.
He took out his phone, made a call and said, “Hi sweet, I’m just at the bookstore… do you need anything?”
I was overcome with “all the feelings” and I’m sure I had a goofy smile all over my face, despite the realisation that my dream man was a complete stranger and in a relationship with someone for whom he is willing to buy books.
And they say romance is dead. What I saw and heard today proves otherwise.
Last week, as my friends and I were sitting in a shopping centre food court, I watched a young boy carefully picki his nose, eating the booger, and follow it with a chicken nugget. He did this at least three times,
At a table nearby, another young boy watched too, with disbelief and horror written all across his face.
The scene amused me, and I filed a mental note about it. Did the second boy never pick his nose, I wondered, or was he just appalled by the thought of eating it?
As I was driving home, a story came to me.
It seems fitting that it is a macabre story, given that it is October and Halloween will soon be upon us.
However, when I went looking for a copyright free image of a kid with their finger up their nose, I couldn’t find a single one. You would think that with the world-wide resources of the internet at our fingertips, things like that wouldn’t be so hard to find. There were stock images available, but I generally refuse to use those because, like all Indie authors, I’m on a budget and that seems like a luxury to me.
One Facebook post later, my cousin came to the rescue. Her young son was only too happy to stick his finger up his nose for the camera, and now he’s my little hero. He loves creepy stories, so I’ve promised to write one for him. I just have to wait for a little more strange inspiration to come my way.
I hope you enjoy The Final Blow.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to pick your nose?”
Sam sighed. All he wanted to do was dislodge those crusty bits that stabbed the inside of his nostrils every time she made him blow into a tissue, and remained there stubbornly regardless of his efforts with the tissue. Those things hurt, and they didn’t let go on their own.The best way to remove them was gently, with his favourite finger, and then flick them into the bin.
She should just be thankful he never wanted to eat it. He didn’t understand how other kids could. Just the other day when they had gone out for lunch he had watched another boy in the restaurant eating his booger off his finger before picking up a chicken nugget and eating that. He shuddered at the thought.
I have always credited The Addams Family and The Munsters with feeding, if not inspiring, my early love of the Gothic and the macabre, but I never really thought about how much Scooby Doo fit that same genre in so many ways until I read this great article on CrimeReads.
I was certainly watching those things on TV before I was reading anything Gothic. I think my first Gothic read was Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ when I was maybe 9 or 10.
Scooby Doo was always one of the cartoons I enjoyed, and I still say “Rut Roh!” in my Scooby voice when I have a feeling things are about to go badly.
I guess it’s fair to say that some of the TV I watched definitely did normalise the Gothic for me during my childhood, and opened me up to the darker side of storytelling.
I hope you find this article as interesting and enlightening as I did.
I really appreciate the small, simple things in life that let me know I’m appreciated: a smile, a hug, an encouraging text message or a silly SnapChat. It changes my day knowing that someone cares enough about me to share those things with me.
I was reminded again by Karen Nimmo’s blog post on Nerdome how important that is. In this world where some people will sell you just as quickly as looking at you, or push you under the bus if it means they’ll achieve their goals faster, there are some people who have no positive interactions with other people all day.
My smile might be the only one they see. My words of encouragement might be the only ones they hear. My random act of kindness might be the only light in a dark day.
Because I know what dark days are like, I understand the privilege — and the responsibility — of being able to change that for someone else.
It doesn’t have to cost anything at all. It isn’t an obligation.
It does require us to take our focus off ourselves for a few seconds and give something intangible, yet priceless, to another person.
I hope that my words here, and those of Karen Nimmo, encourage you to seek to make a difference in someone else’s day today. You never know – you might just make your own at the same time.
hink of the last time someone did something nice for you.
Not something big; just a small act of kindness — bought you a coffee or a treat, did a household chore for you before you’ve asked, asked how your weekend was (and genuinely listened to the answer).
Recall for a minute how that made you feel. Good, right? It’s not so much the act that creates the warmth; it’s that they were thinking of you, that they found the time and means to appreciate you, to ease your load or make you smile.
The world can be a dog-eat-dog place; often, we find ourselves competing to get what we want and need. But trampling over others for our own agendas doesn’t make us feel good. Quite the opposite, actually.
One of the best ways to boost happiness is to do something for someone else. Their…
For Shakespeare Sunday this week, I want to share with you the wonderful work of cartoonist Mya Gosling at Good Tickle Brain.
Mya takes the vast works of Shakespeare and condenses them into cartoons that even those with very little knowledge of Shakespeare can read, understand and appreciate.
For Shakespeare nerds like me, it presents a lot of fun and great “oh yeah!” moments. For those new to the plays or wondering what on earth the characters are saying and doing, Mya’s cartoons make the complex much more straightforward.
This website contains a wealth of play summaries, character spotlights, analysis and audience insights. I frequently share Good Tickle Brain with my students because it really does help to make whatever play we are studying more accessible and relatable for them.
Even if you haven’t seen or read the play Titus Andronicus — and let’s face it, most people haven’t— make sure you watch the video titled ’Titus Andronicus: All The Deaths’. The way she draws all the characters and then depicts how they died in the play is brilliant!
Also incredibly insightful is the non-Shakespeare section titled ‘Keep Calm and Muslim On’, which is Mya’s exploration of the way in which Muslims and non-Muslims get along together in American society, which I find highly relevant to Australia too. I always enjoy seeing the simple but profound ways in which Mya breaks down the barriers and embraces the differences while still showing how similar we really all are.
It’s a great website that holds lots of fabulous little surprises. I really hope that you’ll take a look, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.
‘Les Miserables’ is among my favourite books of all time, and it is also one of my favourite musicals.
I saw a fabulous production of ‘Les Mis’ last night at the theatre in Warrnambool.
My major achievement for the evening was not singing along out loud— which took more self-discipline than you might ever realise.
I was moved to tears by the emotion and beauty of the performances, but also— as always— by the power of the lyrics.
There are many moments and several songs in the show that I love, but my absolute favourite lines are sung by Fantine:
“But the tigers come at night With their voices soft as thunder…”
‘I Dreamed a Dream’
Those words are so profound.I find them powerful because I know that whatever it is that a person struggles with – pain, grief, depression, anxiety, worry… those tigers visit more often at night, and stay for longer, than they ever do during daylight hours.
One of the reasons I began taking my writing more seriously a number of years ago was because I found it an excellent way of dealing with my night tigers and answering their voices with my own.
That’s why many of my poems deal with themes of mental health, pain, depression, grief, and resilience. Its also why I insist that writing is the most effective therapy I have ever had. It hasn’t cured me or solved my problems, but it has certainly helped to heal me and enable me to deal with the challenges I face in life in a much healthier way.
Those tigers still come at night, but they have discovered that I, too, can roar.
Pinterest is great for inspiration, curating themed collections and procrastinating by getting distracted with eye candy.
It is a platform on which the users create collections of images called boards. These are usually themed, although how organised and themed they are is entirely up to each individual user.
I love being able to put together a collection of images on any theme I wish. The evidence of this is the fact that I have a bazillion Pinterest boards for everything from books worth reading, my book reviews and blog posts and social media for Indie authors to costume and set ideas for musical theatre productions and swoonworthy libraries. I’ve collected hundreds of great looking recipes that I might never make, and probably twenty that I have. I can be as nerdy about things as I like- in fact, that is positively encouraged! It really is all very enjoyable.
Pinterest is a great way to highlight my own content and link it back to my blogs or website. When I write a blog post relevant to Indie authors in one way or another, I can add it to one of my boards on Pinterest where it is easily found and accessed by others. The link back to my blog post is an integral part of the pinned image, so that a click on that image takes a viewer straight to my blog. This link is easily achieved by sharing to Pinterest directly from each WordPress blogpost, or by adding the link manually to a custom image.
It is a wonderful thing to be inspired by others, whether it’s by “how to do something” posts, images of places you’d like to travel to, or ideas about how to take better photos of different things. This is something that Pinterest and Instagram have in common because they’re both highly visual in nature.
I also like the fact that you can have secret boards. This means that you can save collections of things like Christmas or birthday gift ideas or whatever else you want to keep private, and nobody else can see them.
One very practical, personal use for Pinterest is creating a Wish List. My best friend, my sister and I all have a Wish List board, where we place images of things we’d like to have as birthday or Christmas gifts. It makes shopping for one another so much easier, and enables us to buy the perfect gift every time. They don’t have to be expensive things – one of my friends used that board to find the pattern for a pair of knitted gloves I liked, and presented me with those very gloves in my favourite colour: black! If there is a particular book I want, or a particular bear I want to add to my collection, I can add it to that list and use it as a shopping list for myself, too!
What frustrates me, though, is that Pinterest is really not all that social.
You used to be able to like someone’s post, but you can’t do that anymore. You can save it to your own collection. You can leave a comment, but not many people do. You can send someone a pin via direct message, assuming they’re on Pinterest too. But none of it feels much like an immediate connection like it does on Facebook or Instagram. I may have 735 followers, but I never actually know if they’re there.
I suppose that’s because Pinterest is focused more on curating content than on creating connections between people. I understand the different emphasis, but I really don’t think being able to like someone’s image distracted from that.
The Verdict: Pinterest is a helpful and enjoyable media platform, but not exactly social in nature. It is best used for collecting and sharing content, not connections.
Having said that, if you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, you are more than welcome to do so. You won’t be able to ‘like’ my posts, but you may find one or three – or thirty – boards that inspire or help you somehow.
Macbeth is a play that has always fascinated people, engaging their superstitions as well as their imaginations. For this reason, its often called The Scottish Play by actors and theatre folk, as it’s believed to be unlucky to say ‘Macbeth’ in a theatre.
It’s a cracker of a story. The supernatural ‘weird sisters’ tell Macbeth he’s going to be Thane of Cawdor, and then tell him he is going to be king. In response, Macbeth does everything in his power to make it happen, only to be haunted by his victims and unable to actually enjoy his success when it does. You really do have to wonder how it would have all worked out if he’d responded with, “That’s nice!” and let things happen as they would.
Of course, you can’t just blame it all on Macbeth. His wife – whom I like to call Lady Macdeath – plays a significant part in engineering him onto the throne, mostly by bullying him into doing things he doesn’t really want to do.
The play has some fabulous macabre moments— the witches are spooky, their prophecies are uncanny, and you can bet your last dollar you don’t want to eat what they’re cooking in that cauldron. Even better is the part where Banquo’s ghost shows up for dinner shaking his “gory locks”: that is my favourite scene in the whole play.
Laced with suspense, intrigue, and dramatic irony, ‘Macbeth’ keeps the audience hooked to the very end, even though we all know by now how it’s going to work out. There’s more magic than just “Double, double, toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble” in this play.
Strangely enough, reading the text has brought me some odd comfort this weekend as I contemplate the fate of people who manipulate, lie and use others for their own nefarious purposes. I have taken dark satisfaction in seeing those who chose to do evil get what they deserved in the end. It may not be gracious, but it is quite therapeutic to think that maybe the Fates really do have things under control. Sometimes you need to take your catharsis wherever you can get it.
That, of course, is the genius of all Shakespeare’s plays. He deals in the emotions we all understand – ambition, greed, love, anger, jealousy, pride, and the experience of being at the receiving end of the bad behaviour of others. The language may have changed slightly, but human nature certainly has not.
Shakespeare doesn’t have to work hard to make the audience dislike Macbeth and his cold-hearted shrew of a wife: we get it. We have all seen people succeed by means of deceiving and manipulating others, or by stabbing someone else in the back, and we don’t like them, either.
It’s easy. A nice picture, a few well-chosen hashtags, and you’re done. Scrolling through your feed and liking posts is easy too.
Of course, there are ways you can make things more sophisticated. Adding your post to your story is relatively straightforward. You can add posts to highlights that show up in nicely organised groups on your profile. You can save posts into collections. You can follow favourite hashtags as well as individuals.
There’s no obligation to do any of those things, so you can really keep it as simple or make it as fancy as you like.
I really enjoy looking at other people’s creativity in pictures, so I’m right at home on Insta. I’m happy to look at their books, their cats or dogs, their holiday snaps, whatever. I love baby pictures. I enjoy memes. Some people want to post about their books all the time. Some people hardly ever post about their books. Either way, I’m cool with that. I like the fact that we all have freedom to post as we please, and we’re all able to get on and play nicely in the Insta playground.
I like the simplicity of responding to other people’s posts. Liking is easy. Commenting is easy. I do occasionally think it would be nice if there were a choice of reactions like there is on Facebook. Other days, though, I consider it in terms of “a heart is a heart is a heart” and am grateful that there isn’t more value given to one response over another.
It has been really encouraging and motivating to connect with other people with similar interests through the use of particular hashtags and “follow loops”, which are basically posts where authors or other people with common interests respond and then follow one another. I’ve found so much inspiration, and received so much encouragement and feedback, from other authors and Indie creatives on Instagram. It’s a great way to become part of a very positive and proactive creative community.
The challenge of developing my own creative identity on Instagram has been beneficial in terms of incorporating my own style and branding so that my Instagram profile is consistently “me”. I want people to be able to look at my profile and understand something of my personality and commitment to what I do. There’s a lot more to that than “buy my book” posts. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but well worth it in terms of consistency and style, and as a means of establishing some credibility.
And, of course, there are things that frustrate me. These fall into two groups: less pleasant aspects of the app itself, and my own personal peeves.
First up: the less “user friendly” elements.
Using the wrong hashtags – or more correctly, hashtags that have been abused by others, can cause your posts using those tags to be shadow banned. That’s a nerdy way of saying fewer people will see them. Don’t panic, though – there are ways to find out which tags are thus afflicted, and so avoid using them.
Scammers that look like legitimate shopfronts frequent Instagram. They’re as capable of using a pretty picture as anyone else, it seems. It pays to check out any business or site before clicking through from an Insta ad – and that’s the voice of experience talking. I got caught out once, and learned my lesson very promptly.
The challenge of gaining visibility for posts. It seems that no matter how many followers I have, there’s a natural cap on how many “likes” or views my posts seem to get. Just like Facebook – which owns Instagram – there’s an algorithm running that appears to how many of my followers see my posts. The more likes a post gets, the more visible it is to more people. Of course, they’re quite happy to encourage me to boost my posts and pay for them to show my posts to more people. Forgive my cynicism about that, won’t you?
Secondly, my “pet peeves”:
Bookshelves arranged into rainbows. I just don’t understand. I get that it’s pretty, and I like rainbows as much as anyone… but it really gives the book nerd in me enormous anxiety. Wouldn’t that mean a series of books is separated on the shelves? And how does one find anything if different genres and categories are all mixed up on the basis of the colour of their covers? This is clearly a hard no from me.
People who appear to be commenting in response to something I post, but they’re really spamming me with their own content. Ugh. That’s just rude.
People who follow in the hope that you’ll follow them back, and then unfollow you. Especially those who don’t just do it once. There are a couple of accounts with a really distinctive and instantly recognisable handle that keeps on following me, then unfollowing and following again a couple of weeks later. Frankly, I wonder why they bother, but it is amusing. Do they think people aren’t going to notice that?
The verdict: Instagram is generally a very positive and enjoyable place for me. The things I don’t like are opportunities for me to practise being a grown up and just keep scrolling past them. It’s an Insta-heart from me.