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We’re moving… please re-follow

Dear followers,

I’ve decided to move to a self hosted site, combining my blog and website into one entity.

This means that if you are a follower, you will need to re-follow my new blog site!

You can still access it through the same address:  chalkymaclaan.wordpress.com or you can get to it via: www.chalkymaclaan.com

Thanks for following me!

Chalky

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A New Internetty Thingy

Hello Dear Reader,

I’m back and I’ve been a very busy boy… No, I’m not telling you this to make excuses for neglecting my blog, but to tell you that I have been working on something all internetty and cool.

I mentioned in my last post that I had an idea that combined three of my passions: travel, my kids and writing. Well, that idea is very close to becoming a reality. In a month or two, I will be launching my new website called Dadelaide. It is an online resource which will hopefully inspire families to explore Adelaide (and, later on, other places too). I will write reviews of family activities in Adelaide from the perspective of a dad with three little ones in tow. There are a plethora of sites offering ‘what’s on’ listings, but not many that provide travel-guide-like reviews of more permanent family activities.

Dadelaide Screenshot

A screenshot of the Dadelaide home page.

Every Saturday, my wife works and I have the three children for the whole day by myself. I REALLY don’t like hanging around the house; everyone gets cabin fever and starts going a little potty. So, I take the kids on an adventure where we try to do something new and interesting each week. I love to post pictures of our adventures on instagram (dadelaidelm) and Facebook. I kept receiving comments from friends, amazed at how I knew of so many different places to take the kids. I have always taken it for granted that people just knew about all of the great things do to around our city, but it seems that I was wrong. There is a need for this type of information and that is what I hope to provide on Dadelaide.

O-Bahn

Watching the O-Bahn from Dunstan Adventure Playground

I want my site to be easy and quick to use, be down-to-earth and to provide the kind of information that parents want; for example, about pram accessibility, parents’ rooms, etc.

When I first had the idea for Dadelaide, I searched around for a WordPress-like web application that would meet my needs. However, with the complex requirements of my site, I could find nothing suitable. So, I decided to make the site myself.

Abandoned Gypsum Mine

Checking out an abandoned gypsum mine on the Yorke Peninsula

This posed a bit of a problem, because my web design skills were about 15 years out of date. I knew basic HTML and very basic CSS (the most basic web design codes) but did not know anything about making dynamic sites with PHP or databases. So, I decided to do some online learning with Lynda.com. In the one precious spare hour per day that I have, I worked my way through hours of courses on up to date HTML and CSS coding as well as responsive web design, PHP, MYSQL and many other things that if I went on listing them, your brain would bleed!

Finally, after two months of watching tutorials and practising, I started to put the framework of my site together. Another two and a half months later and I have now completed building 95% of the site. After this is done, I need to spend some time adding some content and… away we go!

When I started this blog, I wanted to stop wasting my precious ‘me time’ (gee, I hate that phrase!) and instead spend it being productive and creative. While I haven’t actually been ‘bliction‘ blogging much for the last half a year, I have been inspired to be self-disciplined (it’s a new concept for me) and have got my creative juices flowing (another slightly disturbing phrase) and learned some new skills along the way.

Hopefully, we’ll see each other a little more often from now on.

Chalky.

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Social (Media) Caterpillar

In the two weeks of holidays from my day job, I have taken the opportunity to become ‘au fait’ with the world of social media. I rediscovered my Twitter account, restarted my lapsed Facebook page and reconsidered the need for a LinkedIn account (what exactly is LinkedIn for, except to bombard you with emails?)

I have made a concerted effort to make regular postings and have been rewarded with follows, retweets, favourites and a few lovely conversations. It is somewhat surprising to me that anyone would find what I have to say interesting, so this experience has been quite an affirming one. I was even able to have a brief exchange with one of my favourite authors – David Morrell. As a fairly introverted person, being ‘social’ doesn’t sound that appealing; however, I can say that I am quite enjoying connecting with people from all over the world.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank my followers on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook for your support. You are helping this social (media) caterpillar turn into a butterfly.

For those of you who like that kind of thing, and as compensation for a short blog post, here’s an inspirational photo I took of a butterfly…

image

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Apologies

At the end of this, my first week of the Man on a Wharf challenge, I find I am already going to have to modify the task.

Last night, I finished writing my first story. I have spent my week nights writing madly, but in the meantime somewhat neglecting my occupational and parental duties and getting a little stressed in the process.

On another, but related topic, yesterday, I had the privilege of listening to two of Australia’s top children’s writers, Mem Fox and Andy Griffiths, speak at the Adelaide Writer’s Week. One of the things they highlighted as very important is the drafting process. Mem Fox is a picture book writer and she detailed how over the course of twenty or so drafts, she recently cut down a 490 word book to 360 words. That’s 27% of the story that she eliminated! Incidentally, that is exactly how much I need to remove from my first story before publishing it online.

When writing for children, it is important that the writer keeps the audience engaged by stripping down a story to its essentials. One very useful writing tip that Mem gave us was to cover the first paragraph and see if the story can still hold without it. If so, then delete it and cover the next paragraph. If it can still survive without this next paragraph, then delete that too. Continue this until you can go no further without compromising the story. This, she explained, helps to deliver the child straight into the middle of the action, without taking them through the some of the introductory nonsense or ‘throat clearing’ (as Andy called it) that we adults think we need to put at the beginning of a story.

As I have chosen to write my first story in the ‘tween boy’ genre, I would like to apply this wisdom and draft my story significantly before showing it to the world.

In addition to the above, I have thought of many writing issues about which I would like to have time to blog and won’t if I’m writing fiction every night.

Therefore, dear reader, I propose a slight change to my challenge. All rules remain the same except that I will post a new story every fortnight to give me time to fulfil life’s other duties and draft my work carefully. This will also leave me time to blog about other things in the intervening weeks.

I hope you will forgive me for this. I promise you; I am still committed to the challenge but want to remain sane in the process.

Below I have provided a little teaser photo for the first story:

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What I read:

What I read:

While you wait for my first story in the Man on a Wharf series (I promise I’ve started), I thought I’d let you know a bit about what I like to read and my literary influences.

I read quite widely for both entertainment (mainly) and literary fulfilment (occasionally). Some of my reading choices are quite embarrassing and others I am very proud of and would recommend them to others.

I also really enjoy listening to audio books and reading aloud as the beautiful nature of spoken language really becomes evident. I commute for at least two hours per day, so have plenty of time to read and listen to books.

Here are some of my favourite authors. As an Australian, I particularly recommend getting a hold of some of my Australian suggestions (Markus Zusak, Arthur Upfield, Shane Maloney, etc.).

I hope you enjoy reading books by these authors as much as I have.

Highly Recommended Influences:

  • James Lee Burke – He is one of the most poetic prose writers on the planet today. He kills the first person narrative style with his subtlety and haunted characters.
  • David Morrell – He is the master of the thriller. He weaves amazing plots; however it is his well rounded and developed characters that makes him stand out from the crowd.
  • Arthur Upfield – He brought the Australian outback to the world through the mystery pulp novel. He captures time and place expertly.
  • Raymond Chandler – One of the most witty writers of his era. His first person narrative jumps off the page from the first line.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald – Gatsby is a novel I can read over and over and still gain something new. Restrained and poetic writing.
  • Markus Zusak – The Book Thief is my favourite book in the world… Ever! Unique techniques, captivating characters, poetic language… It has it all.
  • Shane Maloney – His novels are simultaneously hilariously funny, great satire of the Australian political environment and very well written murder mysteries.
  • Lee Child – This man finds a new and mind-blowing premise for every book. A prolific and successful writer, his main character hangs around in your mind long after you’ve finished the novel.
  • Roald Dahl – Deliciously subversive children’s stories that were a staple of my literary upbringing. I love exploring his unique perspective with my school students.
  • John Steinbeck – Of Mice and Men is one of the most brilliantly crafted pieces of literature. He exercises restraint whilst using many techniques. I love teaching this book to my students.

Embarrassing Influences:

  • Clive Cussler – He spins a good yarn. I particularly like the Isaac Bell stories. The historical and transportation oriented plots of these novels tickle my fancy. Plots are Cussler’s strong point.
  • Dan Brown – Causer of much controversy, he can also spin a good yarn. I like the use of conspiracy theory to capture people’s imaginations.
  • Matthew Reilly – I admire how he is able to write a book of solid entertainment. Many people come to reading through Matthew Reilly. No literary value, but a very important writer none the less. He’s also Australian.
  • Ian Fleming – Who doesn’t like a bit of sexist, misogynistic but action packed bondiness, eh?

PS – A ‘yarn’ is a term to describe a long and rambling (and often implausible) story. In Australia, it is usually a complimentary term. We use this word a bit in Australia, but I’m not sure how widely it is used everywhere else.

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Welcome to Chalky’s Blackboard

I have wanted to start writing seriously for a while now; however, my old enemies – laziness and procrastination – have been all too willing to hamper my efforts.

So, instead of wasting my free time on pseudo creative but ultimately unsatisfying city-building computer games and other time wasting activities, I am going to attempt to write at least one piece of writing a week.

At my school, we have a new guy in charge of ‘student development’ (read behaviour management). He started off his tenure with an encouragement to the often lackadaisical student body to pursue self-discipline as it is both a biblical idea (I work in a Christian school) and one of the proven factors in being successful in one’s pursuits.

This got me thinking about my own failings in the area of self-discipline. Without some sort of external check, I very rarely get unessential but creatively satisfying things completed. My wife, who is a blogger herself, suggested that to give me some sort of accountability, I should aim to post my practice prose to a blog weekly (and perhaps [but hopefully not too] weakly).

So, here goes…

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