So here’s a brief history of why I became a writer, with some offshoots, weird tangents where my mind wandered a little, but I get back to a point, I think.
Author of Do You Dare, available on Amazon.
I was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1973. We moved to country Victoria, Swan Hill to be exact, in an attempt to improve my mothers health. It didn’t work and she passed away when I was 7 years old. Old enough to have some memories of her death, young enough to not really remember her. My sister was 3 years old, she doesn’t remember any of it. I have often pondered which one was harder to deal with growing up. I still couldn’t say. It’s like the age old question, which is worse? To have loved and lost, or to never have loved at all.
Each has its pros and cons. To suffer a heartache can be devastating. To come through that heartache, and be left with perhaps fond memories, and lessons learnt about yourself and others. To have never loved, to be spared the heartache, but also never experience the depths of human emotion, the passion, desire, true happiness (so we think at the time, the honeymoon period) To never learn that falling in love is easy, and we should do it as often as we are allowed. To never learn that there are many different levels of love, from friendship, to partner, to one of many soulmates, to pets, and our children a love that you think you understand, until you are standing there with this little life you created that is so dependant on you, for everything. As they grow, they love you, unconditionally, and you feel like your heart will just burst. Until society steps in, lol. Social Media. Hormones.
Reminds me of a saying,
When you have a boy you have one prick to worry about. When you have a girl, you have a million pricks to worry about. ~ unknown
Off topic, anyway, which is worse? Who is to say? I know me personally, I have loved and lost countless times, and will continue to throw my battle scarred heart out there.
So, soon after my dad remarried and we gained a stepmum and a stepsister. My Dad, doing the best he could with the tools available to him in 1980, decided that my sister and I would call her Mum. This devastated me, my sister fell in line easily. I refused to call her Mum and as a result was severely punished several times before I figured away around it. I wouldn’t actually call her anything. I’d never ask her a question, never ask her for anything directly. I would be polite and use please and thank you’s. It worked.
My Dad wasn’t a bad man, he was in fact a great man. One I’ve constantly tried to model myself after, as early as 17 years of age. By 19, I had realised that looking up to anyone in our world was pointless. Celebrities, sporting heroes. I had those I liked. Arnold Schwarzenegger, not for his acting but his actual life story to get there. Jason Dunstall, and Australian Football Full Forward Legend. But I did not go to the point of idolising these figures, because we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. We don’t know WHO these people are, only what they show us, and it’s true with everyone. My Dad, I knew, warts and all. He wasn’t just a good man, he was a great man. Yes, he had flaws, as we all do. I’ve seen him at his absolute angriest, but not his worst. I’ve seen him at his worst, and he still did the right thing and stood tall. I’ve seen him beaten by this world, on his deathbed, and still strong, proud and loving. He is the ultimate role model for me.
I was lucky to have such a great father, for he started me reading at a very young age. And this is the world I escaped to when my Evil Stepmother entered my story. I read everything, and anything I could get my hands on. By 9 years old, I was reading young adult fantasy novels, and everything in-between. My stepmother complained about my reading, my dad always let it go. She’d say, the house would be burning and James wouldn’t realise until his book caught on fire, if then. My Dad would get annoyed when he’d call me for me 3 times and have to burst into my room and snatch the book away from me. “I’ve been calling you for half an hour boy, your dinner is now cold and you’ll still eat every damn thing on that plate.
My stepmother introduced religion to our family. Which I am glad for, as there was something else that I could read about. I read about the bible, I did the bible groups and studies. I understood it all and was a good little christian boy (no such thing really, but I was, close) My dad got baptised when I was turning 15, and I thought, well, if Dad is doing it, I might as well. I said the right words, with enough conviction for our Preacher/Pastor? to be convinced and I was baptised before my 15 birthday. And I didn’t feel a damn thing.
I’d already had a weird like/hate relationship with “God” because, well, why did he take my mum? What could he possibly have been thinking, to give a woman an illness that, having children would drastically shorten her life, so she had two and died by the time she was 28. Bringing in the evil stepmother, religion, moving across the country at 11 away from all my friends (hahaha, I read books remember?). So when I was baptised and I felt nothing. An old guy dunked me in our above ground swimming pool at our rental house one Sunday afternoon. I felt like the worlds biggest prank had been pulled on me. That was a turning point in my understanding of religion and the human race. I turned from religion that day and before I was 18, formerly renounced all religions.
Was it rebellion against the stepmother, no. Nor against my dad for marrying her. I’d already been doing that, and it came to a head just before I left home.
To be fair, my stepmother was young when she joined our family. 19 years old, with a 1 year old aboriginal daughter. Shame on her family had forced her parents to send her across the country to be a live in housewife/babysitter so dad could continue to drive trucks, make decent money and not worry about his two kids. So it was a lot for a 19 year old, suddenly having 3 kids, 1 of which was only 11 years younger. The Dad 12 years older. So to be fair, she had it tough. And we’ve resolved our issues many years ago. I forgave her, without talking to her about it, because I grew to understand. A few years later we had a conversation where she apologised for being such a bitch to me. I said it’s okay Mum, I’ve already forgiven you for it. I’m sorry for my part, in being a difficult little shit. lol.
I’ve learned to love her as my mother, she did raise me, the best she could. But mainly, because she was my dad’s wife, and he loved her. For 30 odd years, he loved her. And they had 3 more children. Giving them a family of 6 kids, me the oldest, through some very tough times. The 80’s and 90’s. My love for books continued, and I wagged so much school, not because I was the cool kid. I went to the library and read books all day, took out the max amount and continued to read books. Constantly. I’ve read the bible. And I’ve read the other bible, LotR’s. Many times. I’ve read a collection of encyclopedias we had at home when I was 15 because I was grounded and had nothing else to read.
My love for horror started around that time. My exposure started much earlier. When I was 7/8 years old, my dad and yet to be step mum, took my sister and I to the drive in. My step sister must have been with a babysitter, I don’t remember her being there. So we watched a children’s double cartoon thing. Probably only went for 20 minutes, before the end we were both fast asleep.
Except, I woke up at the start of the Adult double feature. A Stephen King double to be exact.
Salem’s lot. Followed by, The Shining.
I had nightmares nearly every damn night from those two movies, until at the age of 15 I read the books. And from then on, I was hooked. I read everything Stephen King had at the time, and read everything he brought out immediately, watch all his movies where I could. And any other movies if I could. My grandmother let me watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I was 16. The non religious one of course. Dad’s mum. I remember finishing Pet Sematary on the train into Perth, Western Australia. I was wagging school with my best mate Andrew Powell, because we were going to watch Pet Sematary the day it was released. I watched it with the book fresh in my mind, and I wasn’t disappointed.
I’ve always had a rule though, I very rarely re-read a book (a few exceptions, LotR, IT, On A Pale Horse – Piers Anthony, Anne Rice’s Vampire series) and I even more rarely re-watch a movie. (couple exceptions, Braveheart, Gladiator, 300, Sin City and some modern movies that can stand the test of time, being the past decade) This is because, 1, I have a pretty good memory. I remember my experience at the time of reading/watching. 2, we have been spoilt for the improvements of acting and special effects. If I re-watch an 80’s horror that I vividly recall terrifying me at the time, it will be ruined for me. My current filters applied to those movies, I’ll laugh at the B-grade acting, which was a-grade at the time. Think The Shining, Jack Nicholson’s performance stands tall, “HERE’S JOHNNY!!” the cinematography stands tall, the kinda whiny annoying kid at times… eh… Redrum still makes up for it. The annoying, whiny wife, with her screams and her whiny pleas to her husband. Oh, My, God. Kill me now. Overall, just over the line for a re-watch a decade ago, don’t think so now.
I wrote my first short story, that I kept, when I was 20 years old. I wrote my first two actually, one Friday night I started. Sunday night I was finished.
I kept them because, I did not re-read them. Not a paragraph in, not a page in, not when almost finished, definitely not when I was finished. First draft, bam!! Saved, closed.
I let other people read them, to well received comments and suitably freaked out looks by people who didn’t like horror/thrillers, or weren’t quite ready to peer into my mind. I entered them into a short story competition where I received certificates of merit, as probably did every other entrant, but at the time, I was quite proud, because mine were still, First drafts, unedited.
Still, I did not re-read them. Between the age of 25 and 32 roughly, I wrote 8 more short stories the same way. First draft. Bam!! I let countless people read them, I got some great comments. People saying they couldn’t wait to read more. Once, even being compared to the great Stephen King,
“I haven’t read a short story that good since the last Stephen King book I read.”
Wow. But you are easy please, I am nowhere near as good as the master. Not even on the same planet. He’s A-grade writing planet, I’m what my mates and I would call Z-grade, when we would hire a bunch of VCR videos, yes, I’m that old. Google if you are unfamiliar. Google Blockbuster. lol.
And some of those would be the absolute worst movies we’d ever seen. Z-grade. Not just straight to VCR, But straight to VCR $2 weekly hire. Hire 10 for $10 bin.
That’s how I felt, but I did appreciate the comment, still rates as one of the best comments I’ve ever received from a reader. I’ve since received some really great reviews from my peers since publishing.
But that took 15 years, and dying, for that to happen. After my 10th short story, I had enough for my compilation of short stories. I made some feeble attempts at submitting to publishers. They would have hated receiving such raw material in the 90’s. Internet had just started, but wasn’t a threat to the bookstore’s, no way, our publishing monopoly, and our severe elitist-ism to the unheard of writer. Writers groups that say, hey join us. What have you published? Oh, nothing? Well, then you aren’t a writer.
No, you are wrong. Just because the definition of a writer states that, doesn’t actually make you a writer.
Ha. I loved the internet, it slowly started to bring all that crumbling down. An internet publisher grabbed hold of one of my stories and loved it, and wanted more, this was before I’d completed the 10th. However by the time I’d completed the 10th, the internet bubble had popped and all those internet publishers disappeared. Giving the big house publishers false confidence. But destroying the confidence of one guy in the most isolated city in the world. Perth, Western Australia. Life and responsibilities took hold. Lame excuses followed, and I stopped writing altogether. I stopped reading too. I kept my short stories. Saved on a floppy disc, then saved to CD, then saved as paper copy as well as CD, I still think I’ve got the floppy. I do still have the CD’s. Then saved electronically.
Still, never re-read by me. And still never edited. Then, in 2015, I was hit by a truck, while riding my motorbike in Sydney, Australia. I received over 24 different breaks and fractures. The worst being a shattered shoulder blade, a dislocated left hip and ball part of the femur snapped in half, and a shattered left knee cap, and multiple breaks to both lower legs just below the knees, and just above the ankles. Left ankle was at an almost 90 degree angle from the leg, bones protruding out of the skin. Internal injuries, punctured left lung, and a badly torn descending aorta. I believe my heart surgeon said it was “shredded”. That particular injury had a 2% survival rate. Technically, I didn’t fall in that category, as I died on the operating table. Obviously they managed to bring me back, and proceeded to ask my housemate of 2 months, what they should do if I went again.
Thankfully he said, I don’t know, why are you asking me, I hardly know the guy. Do whatever you can to bring him back I guess.
When I followed up with the heart surgeon some 5 months later, he said, after he did a double take…
“It’s really good to see you, we didn’t think you’d make it.”
When one of the top heart surgeons in Sydney, with one of the top Orthopaedic surgeons in Sydney, and I guess a lung guy? And their respective teams, didn’t think you’d make it, you know you are lucky to be alive, and are here for some reason.
So I took that to mean, three years later, get my stories edited, get the cover-art done and list it on Amazon, because low and behold, the internet had caught back up with the industry and they published your ebook and print on demand book for no upfront fees. Self publishing has been around like this for a little while now, I’d just been ignoring it all for a while.
So, finally these raw stories, were edited, and finally, I could re-read my own creations. First while going through the edits, and pretty much accepting every single thing she pointed out. Some were quite easy edits. Others were a lot of work (I was drinking a lot for the last 5 or 6.) Once edited, I then read them, and I didn’t have the impulse I used to have with every story pre-1993, (when I was 20) to destroy all evidence because what on earth was that garbage??? I was finally at a point where, I could proudly put them up for any stranger to not only read, but to pay money to do so. Even if it was when I did some massive discounts from my idea of what an author’s work is worth, regardless of a flooded market and people selling their work for mere cents, to a few bucks. Take pride in your work. Assign it the appropriate value, and when purchased, the consumer will not only appreciate reading it, they’ll respect your work.
How often have I bought someone’s book for a dollar, and sorry, still haven’t read it. Or even been given it for free, and still haven’t read it. The same as I’ve given mine for free or swaps for a review, that neither party has done.
People do not respect or appreciate that, which they haven’t had to either work hard to get, or spent a significant amount of money they’ve had to think about parting with to get. I believe that starting area is about $6.99 USD for an ebook. And $9.99 for paperback. Less than those for either, and they’ve spent what they would on a coffee and a piece of cake when catching up with the girls on the weekend, or sports package for a weekend if they’ve already used the free subscription period. I really want to watch that game, okay, I’ll spend the $10.
I am really interested in that book, okay, I’ll spend the $7 to read the e-book, and I’ll actually read it, it has a couple of good reviews. Wow, that was good, I actually want the paperback version of it as well, because I read in a review that the cover-art is really striking in print. (hint, hint, hahaha)
So, 15 years have passed, possibly more, since I’ve written anything. The last three years though, I’ve been in constant agonising pain that has the capacity to destroy the focus, for anything. 2017 it finally got manageable that I could actually sit through, an average 80 minute movie, just. Then it got worse again. 2018 I published Do You Dare. 2019, yes, right now. I have had a full hip replacement of the left hip, and 6 days later I am home, walking better than I have in years, and in far less pain than I’ve been in years.
I’m feeling the urge to start writing again. Not only that, I’ve been keeping a sort of journal of thoughts and ideas. Which of course, due to my good memory, includes the start of my fantasy series that I thought of when I was 16. All still in my head 30 years later. Now written down.
And since dying again in 2018, I better pull my finger out.
However, I’ve since learnt that, out of it all, the most important things in my life, what I am actually here for. My main purpose in life that I literally have been searching for, for 30 years, thinking it was my “career”. Is actually my two beautiful children. They are my main purpose in life, they are why I fought so hard to survive two actual deaths, in 3 years. They are why I now know I need to take much better care of myself to be here for as long as I possibly can. Yeah, a truck can hit me tomorrow. But if I am fit and healthy, I’ll have a much better chance of surviving round 2.
YOU COULDN’T EVEN KNOCK ME OUT IN ROUND 1, TRUCK! BETTER BRING YOUR A-GAME FOR ROUND 2 YA PUSSY!!
Yes, I’m aware how crazy it sounds to be screaming at an imaginary opponent. And how I really shouldn’t put things like that out into the universe. It’s kind of how it happened the first time.. that’s another story, that will be written in time.
You can read my blog for a detailed account of the first day I died, pretty sure I mention it in there.
Well, I think that’s enough for the “About Me” section. Just wait until I hit Save, and there’s a word limit of 100. lol.