What’s the Point…of Anything?

Due to “life” at the moment, I find myself (again) wondering what the meaning of life is all about. Everyone has a different concept and whilst there may be ways to “prove” and/or “disprove” certain theories, I believe no one truly knows the answer.

One person bravely told me that I had chosen to return to a living body and experience the life I am now living. Whenever I think of that statement I cringe. Why would I willingly put myself in the situations I’ve had to endure? Was it being suggested that I found myself sitting on a white cloud one day, looking down at the world, and thinking to myself how great it would be to live a life of constant struggle? Or maybe, wouldn’t it be a great experience to loss a child to suicide? Or, I wonder what it would feel like to be knocked down…over and over and over again?

Aside from the fact that this theory sounds completely stupid to me, what would be the point of chosing a life like this, especially if I didn’t know what I was meant to be learning from the experience. Why would I do that to myself? As I said before, it would be crazy!

I don’t know how we came into being, or what the purpose of us being here is. Maybe there’s not a purpose. I don’t know why some people are handed everything on a silver platter, while other people struggle to make ends meet for their entire life (no matter how hard and long they work). What I do know is that the first part of our life goes on forever and then, in a blink of an eye, the years ahead of us are very few compared to the years behind us. And, the things we accomplished in those years are nothing compared to the dreams we once had.

I sat with my closest friend on the weekend. We were in a public place, surrounded by many people. We sat watching the people go about their business and my friend turned to me and said the exact thing I had been thinking, “we are nothing in this world and if we were to disappear forever, no one would really care”. Of course, that is not entirely true. Some people would care – our parents, our children, our few friends – they would care, but in the scheme of things it isn’t much when a person has only a handful of people who would truly grieve for them.

My mother told me once that she couldn’t afford to give up life. I thought that was a strange thing to say and was shocked at her answer when I asked her what she meant by a statement like that. She told me that she didn’t want the embarrassment of having less than a dozen people at her funeral, so she couldn’t afford to let go until she had lots and lots of friends. That conversation occurred many years ago, my mother is now in her 70’s and her friend list isn’t much different to then. Now I can relate to what she’s saying and, I must admit (as morbid as it sounds), we’ve laughed over the thoughts we have when we think of our own funerals.

But I don’t mean to sound morbid. Maybe it’s the mood I’m in now that another blow has hit me fair in the chest. What can I say? I wish I knew why humans lived, but would knowing change anything – make things better, easier? I don’t think so. Today, my son asked me what the point of anything is. I couldn’t give him an answer, except to say that we should try to look for happiness in whatever we do. It didn’t seem much of an answer and I knew that it didn’t help him in his time of need, but what else could I say. I feel as disillusioned as he does, but as his mother I had to hide that fact and look for something bright in the future.

The sun might warm our bodies, but the brightness it gives off doesn’t always light our way. I believe wondering about life, reasons and purposes is useless in the long term. It doesn’t get us anywhere. It doesn’t give us anything. We would be better off finding a glimmer of hope today so that this afternoon and tomorrow will be worthwhile.

Scribe’s Message Board to Close Down

Scribe’s Message Board was originally created at the end of 2001, at another location to where it is now. There were three regular members (including myself) and a couple of dozen people who came and went over the better part of the first year. Back then, I knew virtually nothing about the craft of writing, let alone the publishing industry. The two other regular members were two people using the names of Jamie Lauren and Noname. Both these people inspired me like I could never believe possible and I will always be grateful to both of them.

For no other reason than the board provider suddenly taking it upon himself to place large, ugly advertising at the top of each board (so large, in fact, that a visitor wouldn’t have known a message board was below the ads)…I decided to move the board. After a long, gruelling search I found Akheva, which was only in its infancy having been open to the public for only four weeks. On 8 February 2003 the new Scribe’s Message Board came into existence. Later, the owner of Akheva changed its name to Runboard.

Scribe’s has been one of the longest running boards at Runboard. We have seen over 650 members come through the door and over 73,000 posts in the last six and a half years. I think that’s a huge achievement alone. Yet, I believe Scribe’s has done a lot more than that.

I have been a part of discussions that have covered every possible issue of the writing and publishing world. I have seen many newcomers to writing grow through those discussions, this includes myself. I have made online writing friends who will remain friends well into the future. And I have seen writers become published authors.

I’ve been very proud of what has been achieved, what has been learned and taught, of the friendships formed. Of course, none of this was purely my doing. I set the scene, but it was the participating members (past and present) who made all of it happen. I sincerely thank each and every one of them. And I give special thanks to all the board members who put their hands up and became moderators too. At times, their job was all consuming and their efforts did not go unnoticed by me.

Nothing is permanent.
– Buddha

After almost eight years, it is time to shut down Scribe’s. For those of you who have known me for a while, this will not come as a surprise. I am all posted out and I now feel the board has, unfortunately, become a liability to me. Over recent months, activity has come almost to a stand still. No one seems eager to participate in challenges any more. And the regulars are left with little to say now that new members are far and few between.

It’s time for me and the other board members to move on to greener pastures so I am officially announcing the closure of the board. The last day will be Monday 31 August 2009. I wish everyone the very best for the future and I hope that our paths will cross at some time, somewhere. Until then, I give heartfelt thanks for everything you have done to make Scribe’s a success.

Stepping Stones of Writing

Long ago, I remember saying that my approach to writing is like having stepping stones across a river in front of me. If I remained patient and persevered, I would find a safe crossing to the other side. In this case, the reward would be publication.

I don’t know how long ago I said that, but I still find myself balancing precariously in the middle of the river. The way ahead is turbulent. The way back is calm and peaceful. Sometimes, I think about turning back (and I have been known to take steps in that direction). As the years go by I find myself wondering “why?”. Not why am I writing, but why do I persist in trying to reach the other side when it would be a damn sight easier to go back and relax in the sun, and do nothing. Why do I bother striving for something that feels impossible to achieve? Why beat myself around the head with this writing stuff? Why put myself through the rejections and negative comments? Why?

And then…I talk to someone who inspires me, or I find characters and plots forcing their way into my brain, or I find myself jotting down notes and ideas for a possible story idea. Why? Why do I keep doing that? Going back is easy. Going forward is always hard. Why do I take those few steps backward and then turn and move forward again with a vengence that almost seems evil?

Honestly, sometimes I want to give up and I have done exactly that, but there’s something stronger always calling to me. It beckons me to follow it and I go willingly. The river is the obstacle and the stepping stones are the way across, but sometimes I can’t jump the distance and I get tired of balancing, waiting, hoping that a life line will come my way.

Yes, I could go back. I have threatened it. I have tried to do it. It would be easy to give in. But giving in isn’t in my nature. I want to go forward in my writing, in my life. Time is running out, but I’m still determined to reach that next stepping stone…and the one after that.

The people who know me in “real” life see me in a light that I don’t see myself. They see me as a person who finishes what she starts. I see myself as a starter… There is a huge difference. Who is right? Do they know me better than I know myself? Or, do they see something in me that hasn’t fully shown itself or is in some way vague to me. I don’t know the answer to this one.

I do know, however, that I am drawn to writing like I’m drawn to nothing else. That must account for something and, I believe, it will be the factor that continues to help me keep my balance in the river.

Strengthening My Writing

I must strengthen my writing and I believe I can start doing that by:

Killing the passive voice!

In life I am passive. In writing I am passive. I see the problem and must deal with it…if I want to succeed.

Easier said than done!

Here are some links to help me on my way:

Some Easy Ways to Strengthen Your Writing: Ways to Avoid “To Be” and Passive Constructions

What is passive voice?

Passive Voice and Passive Writing

Varying sentence lengths.

I believe I am already doing this, but I’ve put it on the list as a reminder.

Strengthen Your Writing: Vary Sentence Structure

Using stronger words.

My vocabulary isn’t wonderful and the only way to improve on that is to read, read, read. With my long commute to work each day, I am managing to do just that and I hope my writing will improve as a result. I don’t think it’s a good idea to rely on a thesaurus, but sometimes I do need one to help me find just the right word…or a better word than the one I’ve got firmly planted in my mind.

Using Strong Verbs and Nouns

How to Develop Strong Verbal Skills

I do believe in the KISS Principle, so I’m not saying that ordinary words should be replaced with ridiculously complicated words as that defeats the purpose. I’m saying I have to use the simplest, but best, word available.

There are probably other areas that I could strengthen my writing, but I can’t think what they might be. Anyone have any suggestions?

Book Review: The Sky Warden and the Sun

The Sky Warden and the Sun

The Sky Warden and the Sun by Sean Williams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sky Warden and the Sun by Sean Williams is the second book of The Change. The first book is called The Stone Mage and the Sea.

This book sees Sal and Shilly continue their adventure. Their guardians have been killed and they have been left to flee capture by the sky wardens, one in particular. In the first book, the children were just that…children. In the second book, we can see their forced growth as they struggle with decisions that adults would have trouble making.

Again, the story isn’t fast paced, but the characters, setting and plot are not lacking. I was again impressed by the sense of realism. I feel as if I know the two main characters extremely well. In fact, I found myself caring about what was happening to them, which meant that I was eager to read on and I admired the author’s writing ability because of it.

The other thing that impressed me with this book, which could be considered the “middle” of the story, was that it didn’t sag in any way – often the middle of a story does, I find. Every scene was there for a reason and what seemed like “fluff” turned out to be important information or was definitely connected in some way. I also noticed references to parts of the first book that made everything fall clearly into place as well. These might sound like silly things to comment on, but together they make for a much smoother reading experience.

The series was published in 2002/2003, so I have had a lot of trouble getting hold of the third and final book in the trilogy – The Storm Weaver and the Sand. For a few days I thought I was going to be disappointed and miss out on how Sal and Shilly’s story ended, but I’m glad to say that I managed to get my hands on a copy of the book and it is presently making its way to me through the post.

This book is highly recommended and I am patiently waiting to read the final book.

Minor Website Changes

I’ve spent some time over the last 24 hours doing some house cleaning (ie website maintenance). I thought about updating the theme, but couldn’t find a template that I liked better than the one I’m using so I’ll stick with this one for now.

Anyway, if you look closely, you’ll see that I have:

1. Moved Recent Comments and My Bookshelf to the left hand sidebar.
2. Inserted a new plugin called Popular Posts (ie Today’s Top Posts) in the left hand sidebar.
3. Removed some links from the blogrolls to sites I never visit any more.
4. Inserted another new plugin called Subscribe to Comments so that visitors can be notified when someone replies to the same post they have commented on.
5. Removed and renewed numerous broken links (and I’ve still got over 50 broken links to wade through; I’m using a Link Checker plugin for that).
6. Tidied up my folders behind the scenes.
7. Removed the Amazon widget from the left hand sidebar (for now).
8. Started adding a comprehensive links page to the History section of the website, which will be an on going job over coming weeks/months. I’ll probably do the same thing for the Writing section too.
9. Added the Gravatar plugin, which allows a personalised avatar to show when anyone comments (if you have registered your email address, of course).
10. I’ll probably find more to do, but it hasn’t happened yet…so the list is “to be continued”.

Now, in an effort to keep up with the times, are there plugins that you know of that I might be interested in? Feel free to tell me about them.

Edit: Today, 9 August 2009, I have deleted the webring page altogether, I’ve done some more fiddling with the left hand sidebar and I’m still working on those broken links. Also added a new pages to the History section called Links: All Things Medieval.

Edit: Today, 10 August 2009, all broken links have been fixed or removed and a minor problem in the right hand sidebar (only in IE8) has also been fixed.

Author Interview: Kate Forsyth

This month I have the pleasure of interviewing Kate Forsyth, author of several books, including The Puzzle Ring.

Welcome, Kate. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

I wrote my first novel when I was only 7, and have been writing ever since. I don’t remember ever deciding I wanted to be a writer – it feels as if I was born with the desperate desire – but there must have been a point in which I realised people were paid to spend their days reading, writing, and daydreaming, and knew that it was the job for me.

It sounds brilliant, but I doubt it’s as easy as you make it sound. 😀 Tell us about your latest publication?

‘The Puzzle Ring’ is a novel about a girl who discovers her family was cursed long ago by one of the Sidhe (a Scottish fairy). She sets out to break the curse but discovers that to do so she must go back in time to the tumultuous last days of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still walked the land. It is a thrilling adventure story, filled with all sorts of fascinating information about Scottish history and fairy lore.

the-puzzle-ring

I’ve already put it on my “to-read” list as it sound like a book I would enjoy. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a YA fantasy novel called ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ about a wildkin girl who sets out to free her cousin from prison, with the reluctant help of two starkin boys. Her cousin has the Gift of Telling which means she can foretell the future, but also has the gift of altering the world with her words. She can wish, she can curse, and she can change the future. It’s the sequel to an earlier book of mine, ‘The Starthorn Tree’.

Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

Not directly. I write stories about curses and perilous quests and battles and fairy queens. However, I do believe that every writer builds stories out of their own lives and their own imaginations. We take everything we’ve ever heard or seen or read about or wondered about or been excited by or disgusted by, and we turn it into something else. It’s an alchemical process.

I agree totally. Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

Yes, I always know the ending before I start. I don’t always know HOW I’ll achieve the ending, but I cannot start writing until I have a clear narrative arc laid out in my mind.

I believe writers could easily be swept away with their story and let “life” slip away without meaning for it to happen, so I’m interested to know how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It can be difficult, but I try very hard to! I do this by only writing when my children are at school or asleep, or when they are so busy and happy they don’t mind what I do.

What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Read a lot, write a lot, and rewrite a lot. It’s actually very easy.

And a question that will allow us to see the person behind the writer, what do you do when you are not writing?

I am very busy with my family – I have 3 children aged under 11 – so that involves all the usual mum things of shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing and folding – urk! It’s a sign of my true love for my family that I do it. For my own pleasure, I read books, I garden, I walk by the beach with my dog, I go the movies and out dancing with friends.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

All writers get blocked sometimes, but know to go and work on something else and let the subconscious mind work on it at will. I like to think about the problem before I go to sleep, and I usually wake up with the solution.

What are your writing goals for the future?

To keep writing till I die.

It has been a pleasure “chatting” with you, Kate. Thank you for your time and good luck with your future writing ventures.

To find out more about Kate’s books, please visit her website: http://www.kateforsyth.com.au/

Difference between Protagonist, Antagonist and Contagonist

During the week, when I normally have little to no internet access, I found myself with a few minutes to spare and someone else’s computer to use. My website was offline (refer to My Domain Name Expired!) and I was feeling rather…cut off from the writing world. I guess this was the reason I typed a random writing related question into the search engine. Anyway, I found myself on a blog that was talking about the protagonist and contagonist in her work in progress.

Contagonist!? Never heard of it. How could that be so after all these years of writing and research? I was a little baffled, but the blog I was reading gave the impression that these two character types were almost the same…but not quite.

My few minutes came to an end, but I had questions rolling around in my mind that needed answers, so I quickly sent a question to a writer’s group I belong to: What is the difference between a protagonist and contagonist?

I was pleased to see, by the replies that came back, that I was not the only person who has never heard of the second one. But someone kindly shared a link that gives excellent examples and I discovered that what I thought to be correct was, in fact, wrong.

All writers should know what a protagonist is. It’s usually the main character of the story (but not always) who is having the problem. We usually pair the protagonist with the antagonist – the person who will do anything in their power to stop the main character solving the problem.

So where does the contagonist fit in? That’s what I wanted to know. It seems that the contagonist is a character who tries to sway the protagonist off course. From what I can gather, the antagonist and contagonist are not usually “in it” together and whilst the antagonist will stop at nothing to get his/her own way, the contagonist is more likely to be someone having a particularly hard day. For me, the only way that I can make sense of having two types of characters that are against the protagonist is to make the contagonist a bit of a mystery where the reader is concerned. Whose side is this person on? Is this person really evil or just having problems of their own? I think the contagonist should be a character who can be swayed over to eventually leave the protagonist alone or to even help them, in the end, once offered a solution to their own troubles.

So now the protagonist has to deal with three things: 1) the problem, 2) the antagonist, and 3) the contagonist. Life is never easy…especially when you’re the main character of a book.

If you want to know more about these terms, go to the relevant post at Writer Unboxed: Antagonist & Contagonist. It gives some great examples.