Author Archives: Amos M. Carpenter

Earth Hour? What difference can I make?

Who’s heard of something called Earth Hour? Oh yeah, it’s one of those treehugger events that’s in the news once a year, and then everybody goes back to their old habits and forgets about it.

Right?

Well… no. Like this moron person in New Zealand, you completely missed the point. Ever heard of symbolism? (Sorry, I don’t usually disparage people. Officially. But those who put down and rant against a global event due to willful ignorance, and because they think they’re already doing the right thing, well, they kinda deserve it. They deserve a counter-rant.)

Earth Hour

Earth Hour. More than a once-a-year-fad.

It started as an event in Sydney in 2007, where they turned the lights off for an hour, including on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge, to raise awareness about climate change and that individual people can do their bit to help save slow down the destruction of our planet. Since then, it has spread and become a global phenomenon.

Will it make any difference in terms of the globe’s energy use, or its climate, if you turn off your lights for 60 minutes (out of over half a million minutes in a year)?

No. Pretty close to zip, zilch, zero, nada, nuffin’.

So what’s the point in joining?

Well, what if just one kid, because of you having your lights out, asks just one question: “Why are we doing this?”

What if, years later, that one kid remembers Earth Hour as a yearly thing, and it doesn’t fade from her memory every year after the event is over?

And that’s really what it’s about. Raising awareness. Getting people to quit yapping for just one hour about all their oh-so-bothersome first-world problems. Get them to remember that, the way we’re going, our planet’s use-by date is fast approaching. Change the world, so that one day, instead of people rolling their eyes at those who speak up and suggest we all do something, the kids of today who’ll be making the decisions by then will roll their eyes at those few (hopefully very few) who are still too lazy to get off their butts to do something about the world we live in and think it’s Someone Else’s Problem.

And if, after this hour, you should end up making no difference to yourself, the earth’s energy problems, the climate, and end up affecting not a single child in any way… how exactly can one hour with some lights off hurt you?

(Yes, you may still watch TV if you want. No, don’t bother switching off your fridge. Pay attention, dammit!)

Read what it’s all about, and what an amazing difference the WWF-sponsored event has made last year, at http://earthhour.org. Donate, if you want, and if you can afford to. Just don’t bury your head in the sand. If you really don’t believe any of this can make any difference (have you watched the video?!?), at least don’t rain on everyone else’s parade.

Okay, okay, I’m getting off my little soapbox now.

Earth Hour Poster

Change Climage Change.

My Earth Hour in Perth, Western Australia, starts in an hour and a half, at 8:30 pm local time. I’ll be turning my lights off. How about you?

Letter to my awesome daughter

My wonderful daughter is now 17 (man, that makes me feel old!) and in her final year of high school. She recently went on her Year 12 retreat, and the school asked every student’s parents to secretly write them a letter, which they would all receive one evening while they were away. They’d be given time to read it in private and to respond with a letter of their own. I cherish every word of what she wrote back to me, but while I wouldn’t dream of publishing her words, I’d like to share what I wrote to her.


My Darling Baby Girl,

If I said that I’ve loved and adored you ever since the moment I helped deliver you out of the safety and warmth of your mother’s womb, and caught you, and placed you in Mum’s arms, and cut the cord, and welcomed you into this world… then that wouldn’t be true. Because, well, I already loved everything I knew about you even before you were born. We had some great conversations while Mum was still pregnant with you (even though I did most of the talking and your contributions consisted mostly of kicking and punching and doing somersaults). I played you my favourite music by holding headphones against Mum’s belly, which of course is the sole reason you have such excellent taste in music even today.

Then, you were finally born, and so… perfect. You were there to comfort me with your bright, curious gaze – never once crying, just studying the strange being whose voice you already knew – when Mum needed an operation right after you were delivered and I was so worried that you might be an only child. It all turned out well, but I was so thankful you were there with me.

You had me wrapped around your tiny finger from the very start.

Every step you made, every breath you tade… er, took, I loved every moment of watching you grow up. You see, it wasn’t just that you were so cute (and, oh my goodness, were you ever cute!), but also that you allowed me to experience the entire world through the eyes of a young child again. All the glorious beauty of God’s creation, and I’d become so accustomed to everything that I didn’t really appreciate it anymore… until you showed it to me again. What a gift! In return, I wanted to share everything that I liked with you. If I saw a movie that was really moving, or funny, or exciting, I thought, “Ooh, I’m going to watch this one with Debbie when she’s <X> years old!” If I read a book that was really good, I thought, “Oh boy, I hope she’ll become an avid reader and devour books by the truckload.” (And lo and behold, it came to be thus.)

Well, all right – I can’t take all the credit for everything. Nearly everything, though. Yeah, of course Mum was always there to spoil you as well, so… almost nearly everything, then. (Now stop being so nitpicky and let me enjoy this!) And spoil you we did, but, right from the start, one of my goals was to help you be the best you you could possibly be. One of the most important traits I taught you was to be critical. I’d tell you things, even before you could properly reply more than yes or no (but, wow, you understood so much already!), and then ask a question that challenged what I’d just told you. Somehow, you just didn’t let me fool you.

So many milestones* along the way. Having a little brother, then another. Experiencing the wonders of having pets, and of having them pass away. Kindy, pre-school, primary school, secondary school, changing school, making new friends. Becoming a teenager, lying to your parents, reconciling. The first boyfriend (whom I somehow didn’t even kill… no guarantees about the next one, though), your first break-up. Braces. Your first job. Becoming a mature young woman (you were always way more mature than most others your age).

(*Disclaimer: Events may not necessarily be in chronological order. Events in rear-view mirror may seem more or less significant than they really were, depending. On stuff.)

And now, and now… you’re still and will always be Daddy’s little girl, but you’re also a wonderful young woman, so full of confidence – and rightly so – in her ability to handle whatever the world throws at her. Seventeen now, #ohmigoshohmigosh #howdidtimeflysofast?!? You’re old enough to watch horror movies with us, old enough to laugh at all my dirty jokes that I had to bottle up for years before you would’ve understood them (even if you cringe at some of them, you love it!), old enough to write your own stories (which are getting better so fast it’s scary), old enough to have your L-plates and later this year your P-plates. Soon you’ll be old enough to vote!

Your journey in your final year in secondary school will end a chapter in your life that will seem smaller and smaller as you move on and open new chapters over time, but you should always be proud of all that you’ve achieved and accomplished and become during this impressionable time. I know I am and will always be proud of you. Your sharp mind is a weapon, use it to beat life into submission. You can be anything you want to be, because you’ve been handed these most important attributes by Mum and me: awesome brains, the heart of an artist and a poet, a killer sense of humour, and a smile that can melt any heart. There shouldn’t be any situation where the things we’ve handed down are not enough, but if there ever is… I’ll be there for you.

Love always and forever,

– Daddy

 

Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we’ve handed down

And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we’ve handed down

You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Some feature of your father’s
That you’d gladly sell or trade

And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed

By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we’ve handed down

– Mark Cohn, “The Things We’ve Handed Down”

Happy Anniversary to me… ♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

One year ago to the day, on 28 February 2014, I wrote my first blog post, Introductions are in order.

So… Happy Anniversary to my blog! Yay! :-)

Happy Anniversary

‘Cause baby you’re a fiiiirework… (Though I don’t actually think that makes much sense, but anyway. Image from wikimedia commons.)

Over this past year, I published 90 blog posts; most of them about writing or writing-related, some about miscellaneous things such as my pets, a few rants, rather fewer technologyrelated ones than I’d planned, one about my favourite game, Guild Wars 2, and once I may even have gotten a little political, though I reserve the right to deny that if asked directly.

(Actually, looking back through a whole bunch of my post topics, I just realised I should probably clean up and re-tag/re-categorise them before someone notices… sshh!)

The busiest time was probably in April, when I participated in the A-Z Challenge, which I spent more time on than I’d anticipated but it ended up being a good blog-baptism-by-fire, I think. One of the highlights was probably meeting Nicholas C. Rossis through blogging and getting an older short story published in his anthology.

I’ve met and followed some great fellow bloggers, am honoured to be followed by some in turn (though some of my followers are those silly I’ll-follow-you-even-though-I’ll-never-read-your-blog-and-hope-you-follow-me-in-return type people for whom I have very little respect; if I’m following your blog, it’s because I’m interested in what you have to say and try to keep up with reading it when time allows), and am now getting a decent, though by no means high, amount of regular traffic.

From the beginning, I’ve made it clear (I think) that my blog isn’t my primary concern, but I wanted to have a go at it so that I know what I’m getting into if and when I later set this up as a promotional platform for my writing. I’ve learned heaps about blogging (and writing), followed some good advice, and ignored plenty of other good advice because my blogging currently isn’t about getting many followers or maximising traffic to my blog. It’s more like a mixture between my personal soapbox and the quiet corner where I can go to get things off my chest by writing about them. My regular readers are relatively few, but I’m ok with that, because I feel I know them quite well and treasure them all the more for that.

One-year anniversary

My blog is one year old today!

As I continue on my journey of trying to get my book published the traditional way (a goal which I may never reach, or I may at some point have to reassess and consider self-publishing), I will most likely carry on in a similar vein. Family (my wife and three kids) has to come first, work has to be up there because it pays the bills (and with three kids in private high school this year, those bills are astronomical), writing, researching and editing gets most of the time left over (except when I indulge in playing GW2), and blogging… well, when I have time. But 90 posts in a year isn’t that terrible, is it? (Ok, maybe it is – I really don’t know.)

Thanks to anyone and everyone who’s ever managed to read through one of my 90 blog posts! I’m even more thankful for anyone who’s ever liked and commented on any of them (hint-hint!). :-)

Cheers,

AMC

Recommendation: Hire a Mercenary Proofreader (and Editor)

Things have been crazy busy at my end of the world, but I wanted to take some time to give a well-deserved shout-out to a fellow blogger whose meticulous proofreading/editing services I’ve recently had the chance to experience.

I’ve been following the blog of Thomas Weaver for quite some time now (well, just about since I started blogging myself), and have consistently enjoyed his Grammar Rants, amongst other posts. I’d like to believe that we’re similar in some respects (perfectionists, sticklers for detail, and grammar na… er, ninjas), but I can’t claim to have any seriously honed editing skills (though I did rant myself about things an editor should’ve picked up in a book written by my favourite author that I just couldn’t overlook). So, since I remembered from first browsing his site a long time ago that he was also an editor who offered a free sample of his proofreading/editing skills for up to 5000 words – and because I knew I would soon be submitting my first chapter, which therefore had to be extra polished –  I thought I’d see whether he’d be able to find any little errors I may have overlooked in my own writing. I was pretty convinced that there wouldn’t be more than a few, and that those would have been ones that crept in with recent edits to said first chapter.

Boy, was I naïve.

 

The Red Pen

Who doesn’t love editing? Oh, put your hands down… *sigh*. (Image from wikimedia commons.)

Thomas not only found a few errors that had crept in, he also managed to remind me of how inconsistent I’d become with my commas and semicolons (in more places than I’d like to admit publicly), and of my bad habit with adding a fourth dot to an ellipsis when it’s at the end of a sentence, which isn’t correct.

I did have the audacity to disagree with some of his suggested edits, and, in our interesting email conversation about several aspects of editing and grammar, rather than being a “my way or the highway” kind of guy, he was happy to agree with some of my reasoning and answer my questions about some of the finer points of… stuff.

Oh, and, as a bonus, he came up with this gem regarding ellipses that cracked me up:

Then thou must write three dots upon the page. Three shall be the number of the dots, and the number of the dots shall be three. Four dots shall thou not write, neither shall thou write two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the three dots, three being the number of the dots, be written…

It helps to know the Monty Python original to appreciate it:

So, clearly, if you’re in need of professional proofreading and/or editing, I can whole-heartedly recommend Thomas’ services. Not only will you get first-class service, you’ll also be communicating with a guy who is very approachable, who knows way more than just his commas and semicolons, and who has a great sense of humour.

You can even try out his free sample offer so you have an idea of what you’ll get for hiring him. And if you do, please tell him Amos sent you – maybe I’ll get a discount when I need more of his excellent editing skills. ;-)

I just wrote a love scene…

… and it’s either insanely good, wonderfully romantic and tender and sweet… or hopelessly cheesy and pathetically inadequate. Dammit, how do I know which it is?!?

Aaarrgghh!

A couple of inspiring success stories

Just a quick one to share two success stories that are inspiring to anyone looking to break into the ranks of (traditionally) published authors.

Lynette Noni

First, Lynette Noni, who is starting to officially freak out! She wrote a bunch of lovely blog posts last year about getting a publishing deal with Pintera Press, and since then has worked hard (I’m sure) to get her book, Akarnae, polished for publication. The big date for her is the 2nd of February 2015, so just three days away… if you haven’t already, go visit her blog and send her some love and well-wishes. :-)

Akarnae, by Lynette Noni

Lynette Noni’s new book, Akarnae, is about to be published!

Good luck for the book release, Lynette! (The cover looks awesome, by the way.)

Sarah Joy Carlson

Secondly, Sarah Joy Carlson has just announced that she has signed with an agent in Ireland, which is also awesome news. In her post “Drumroll, please… I’ve signed with an agent!” she tells all about her journey of overcoming a few rejections, persisting and believing, and finally getting her dream agent for her novel, Hooligans in Shining Armour. (The blog post also contains pretty much every gif about excitement that currently exists on the Internet. :-) )

Congratulations to both of these great authors!

Happy Australia Day 2015!

To celebrate having survived the first of several days around 38°C (that’s just over 100 for those still stuck with Farenheit), I want to wish all Aussies and non-Aussies alike a Happy Australia Day :-)

For a bit of fun, here are two very contrasting funny bits. The first is about how cold it gets in Norway, the second about how hot it gets in Australia.

Norwegian weather

+15°C / 59°F
This is as warm as it gets in Norway, so we’ll start here. People in Spain wear winter-coats and gloves. The Norwegians are out in the sun, getting a tan.

+10°C / 50°F
The French are trying in vain to start their central heating. The Norwegians plant flowers in their gardens.

+5°C / 41°F
Italian cars won’t start. The Norwegians are cruising in cabriolets.

0°C / 32°F
Distilled water freezes. The water in Oslo Fjord gets a little thicker.

-5°C / 23°F
People in California almost freeze to death. The Norwegians have their final barbecue before winter.

-10°C / 14°F
The Brits start the heat in their houses. The Norwegians start using long sleeves.

-20°C / -4°F
The Aussies flee from Mallorca. The Norwegians end their Midsummer celebrations. Autumn is here.

-30°C / -22°F
People in Greece die from the cold and disappear from the face of the earth. The Norwegians start drying their laundry indoors.

-40°C / -40°F
Paris start cracking in the cold. The Norwegians stand in line at the hotdog stands.

-50°C / -58°F
Polar bears start evacuating the North Pole. The Norwegian army postpones their winter survival training awaiting real winter weather.

-70°C / -94°F
The false Santa moves south. The Norwegian army goes out on winter survival training.

-183°C / -297.4°F
Microbes in food don’t survive. The Norwegian cows complain that the farmers’ hands are cold.

-273°C / -459.4°F
ALL atom-based movement halts. The Norwegians start saying “Faen, it’s cold outside today.”

-300°C / -508°F
Hell freezes over, Norway wins the Eurovision Song Contest.

Australian summer

You know it’s hot in Australia when:

1) The best parking spot is determined by shade, not distance.
2) Hot water comes out of both taps.
3) You learn that a seat belt buckle makes a pretty good branding iron.
4) The temperature drops below 32 degrees C and you feel chilly.
5) You know that in January and February it only takes two fingers to steer a car.
6) You discover you can get sunburnt through your windscreen.
7) You develop a fear of metal door handles.
8) You break into a sweat the instant you step outside at 7am.
9) Your biggest bicycle accident fear is: “What if I get knocked out and end up lying on the road, getting cooked?”
10) You realise that asphalt has a liquid state.
11) Farmers are feeding their chickens crushed ice to prevent them from laying hard boiled eggs.
12) The trees are whistling for dogs.
13) While walking back barefoot to your car from any event, you do a tightrope act on the white lines in the car park.
14) You catch a cold from having the aircon on full blast all night long.
15) You realise that Westfield Shopping Centres aren’t just Shopping Centres – they are temples where we worship Air Conditioning.
16) Sticking your head in the freezer and taking deep breaths is considered normal.
17) A cup full of ice is considered a great snack.
18) A black-out is life threatening because your aircon and your fans no longer work.
19) No one cares if you walk around with no shoes on.
20) You keep everything in the fridge, including potatoes, bread and clothing.
21) People have enough left over beer cans to make a boat and compete in a regatta.
22) The effort of towelling yourself off after a shower means you need another shower right away.
23) You will wait patiently until the day it starts raining to go on a run.
24) You worry your ceiling fan is spinning so fast it will fly off and kill you.
25) You laugh because this list is so accurate.

Skyworks on Australia Day in Perth, Western Australia

Perth Skyworks: half an hour of awesome fireworks, synchronised to music broadcast on radio. #LoveThisCity

Happy Australia Day, and loads of fun to all those heading down to the Perth foreshore or to King’s Park for tonight’s Skyworks (the biggest in Australia!).

Can’t… blog… in… zone

Ok, quick break from writing, just long enough to say…

… Sorry, the main part of my mind is somewhere completely different right now.

… I’m making good progress with my last couple of chapters.

… Thanks heaps, Thomas, I’ll get around to that blog post when I have a chance (that is, when it doesn’t mean breaking out of the Zone), and will reply to that email. Just… not right now. (You’ll notice lots of 3-dot ellipses, though!)

… Another great picture my wife took that sort of fits the topic:

In The Zone

My attention is probably somewhere completely different right now…

… No, it’s not the Twilight Zone. (But thanks for your concern.)

… Your blog visit is very important to us. The next available Amos will be with your comment… er, later. Probably. Gotta go!

Fearing agents’/editors’ pet peeves

I just came across Thomas Weaver’s great post on Thinking to myself – or not that raised an interesting point about sometimes having circumstances where you need to dare to break some of the “rules” that seem to be so important to literary agents and editors.

Reading the beginning of the post, where Thomas explains the redundancy of adding “to oneself” after “thought”, at first I thought to m— I mean, I just, er, thought, “Heh, silly noob mistakes.” (Then I ran off and searched my manuscript for occurrences of “to herself”, “to himself”, and “to myself”.)

But seriously in all seriousness(*), I find it scary that agents/editors seem to have all these semi-undocumented pet peeves and the poor sods who submit their hard work and may commit one or two of them (which may soon be me!), despite the fact that these faux pas are easily corrected easy to correct, may never hear back from them nor ever find out what they did wrong.

(*) See what I did there? I avoided triggering someone’s pet peeve against adverbs (against which I’ve ranted previously) by using an adverbial phrase. Same thing, really (except it’s less succinct), but strangely enough, the same people that really mind adverbs don’t seem to mind adverbial phrases. Hypocritical of them, I know, I know… but they seem to “make” the rules.

I hope that there are more “reasonable” agents and editors out there than I realise (despite the fact that I understand how they came to be that way; I’m sure some of the things they have to read are just… shockingly bad). Because I’ll be running that gauntlet soon(ish). #amwriting

Wise Old Tree

Even this Wise Old Tree doesn’t know all the pet peeves that need to be avoided. (Oh, fine, I admit it – the tree doesn’t really have anything to do with this post’s topic. I just wanted to sneak another one of my wife’s great photos into my blog. Sue me.)

Does anyone have (or know of) a list of these types of pet peeves, or unwritten rules, for authors to avoid? And please don’t point me to the Turkey City Lexicon – in my opinion, that’s just common sense mixed with “never do this!” overreactions to serial-pattern-abusers.

New year, new theme

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