There be good reviews, and there be bad, as the pirates would say. A critical review from someone who didn’t like your work is still a good review – carefully considered criticism can be extremely useful. I learn from some of the criticisms levelled at my own work. People must be allowed to have opinions, including whether they like, or dislike, a novel. The nasty reviews from people, who think abuse is some kind of intelligent criticism, are wasting everybody’s time. They reveal more about the reviewer’s character (or lack of) than the book itself.
I’m deep into my next book, using the five P’s to make sure my writing is improving, so it was a nice surprise to receive an email from my publisher advising me that an Amazon top 500 reviewer had read and reviewed A Wicked Kind of Dark (published by Odyssey Books 2013). Pop Bop has a way with words – I enjoyed reading the review for this reason alone. It was also nice to know that someone with such great command of the English language enjoyed reading my book.
So … A big thanks to Pop Bop and all those people who take the time to read and write carefully considered reviews. We authors appreciate it.
Jonathan K Benton
I watched About Time on Valentine’s day. Rachel McAdam’s is the Queen of romantic comedy. It’s not as good as Love Actually, although I liked the time travel thing. The movie got me thinking. It’s logical to assume love is a chemical reaction, a biological process that science can take all the credit for. Biblically ‘God is love’. If you’re not convinced there’s a divine being, perhaps you’re inclined to believe there’s a chubby little cherub flying around with a bow and arrow. Some people think love is a deep, spiritual connection between two people. I lean towards the latter. Although I love science – I want to own a Bunsen burner because it sounds cool and I like alliteration – I want to believe that the feeling I get when I truly love someone, or something, is more than a bunch of chemicals. Nobody can change my mind on this one – I won’t even allow my brain to question my firm (and so what if it’s fanciful) belief that love is one of the few things in our universe that is truly infinite.
Jonathan K Benton
I am a perfectionist, in terms of my writing. Most authors probably are. This doesn’t mean we think our writing is perfect. It means we’ll never be content with the finished product. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the craft.
I’m halfway through my second manuscript. Fate – or perhaps chance – has introduced me to a brilliant young woman. She is helping me craft my next draft (very Dr Suess – ‘craft the draft’). Based on the work we’ve been doing, I now think it’s essential to have someone to bounce ideas off through the drafting process. Joelene is somewhat of a connoisseur of young adult literature. She asks the hard questions of my work, like: Why does Laika (a principal character in my next book) behave like this when she’s in that situation? Why does Jack (the main protagonist) say this when previously he’s said that? Is there a reason this character has no friends? What’s your motive for creatures in this world doing that? Why does the main antagonist choose this weapon, when surely that weapon is far more menacing? If I cannot answer Joelene’s questions, I need to revise the text. Each word is chosen for maximum impact. Every action has to have a reason, every scene a purpose. This is why I love writing.
Descriptive writing is one of my strengths – Queensland’s largest paper, The Courier Mail, agrees with me in their fantastic review of A Wicked Kind of Dark (click here to read the full review). I love creating beautiful images and unique phrases. If you want to read a book ‘dripping with descriptive language’ look no further than here. Joelene is ensuring that my weaknesses become strengths in my next novel. Her vast knowledge of the YA market is proving invaluable.
Writing is a deeply personal thing. It is your voice that distinguishes you – nobody else’s. However, I’m discovering the very real benefits of bouncing ideas off someone well-versed in the genre I write. The text is singing. I wish I’d met Joelene earlier!
Ckick here for another useful article I found for authors about to take those first few steps:
Jonathan K Benton.
I’m sorry if you thought this blog was about book titles. It’s about names for my second child, estimated time of arrival this week. Wanda and I have thought long and hard on this topic. Wanda loves surprises, so we don’t know if Bubs is a boy or a girl. I don’t like surprises, but nevermind me.
Wanda initially suggested Keanu. I cannot disassociate the name from the actor. I feared my better half was about to propose other names, like Brad (as in Pitt), Vin (as in Diesel) and Chris (as in Hemsworth). I prefer names like Ashen-Shugar (Feist’s Dragon Lord), Aragorn, Thor and Batman – Batman might result in bullying unless Bubs mastered jujitsu and saved Brisbane from an evil lord before starting preschool.
After confirmed conception, the initial flurry of names slowed into a more thoughtful measured approach. We agreed that we would not name Bubs after a fruit, although our firstborn still calls our unborn child Peach. Vegetables were also out of the question, as were names like Cassiopeia and Andromeda. Constellations (even if they originated in Greek mythology) were to remain in the sky. Quentin is a name that both Wanda and I love. Quentin Benton doesn’t work though. Wanda likes Charlotte, I like Luthien – my desire to name my child after some magnificent character of fiction would never work. We didn’t want to be accused of choosing a name inspired by a popular 2013 movie either. This eliminated Katniss (Everdeen), Clarke (Kent), Jay (Gatsby), Clary (Fray) and Gollum (Gollum).
In the end, I chose Bubs’s boy name – it is a name steeped in literary greatness without sounding like a comic book. Wanda chose Bubs’s girl name – a beautiful name indeed. I’d love to reveal these choices but it would be unfair to Bubs. He or she should hear it first.
Let me know what your favourite names are – perhaps you’ll convince me there’s a better name for Bubs.
Jonathan K Benton
A friend invited me to the C3 Church Christmas concert in Bridgeman Downs Brisbane.
C3 Bridgeman Downs is based in an impressive complex with a great café and a large air-conditioned hall. I was expecting to listen to a few hymns sung by monks in brown robes followed by a lengthy sermon from an ancient priest carrying a gold sceptre and who glared down at the masses through a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles – such was my Roman Catholic upbringing. This simply was not the case.
People sat on the floor inside the vast hall on picnic rugs and small chairs. The children gathered at the front – the concert was more for them than the older generation, evidenced in jolly Santa being pulled down the aisle by a group of fit youths wearing antler hats. I found myself clapping along with everybody else. Laughs aplenty.
A talented young band provided live music to the equally talented singers and dancers. Great choreography was on show. It was a well-organised event full of positive energy. A brief sermon by an energetic pastor highlighted the symbolism behind the star that sits atop most Xmas trees. Jesus is that star, his light leading us to him (the pastor’s words were far more eloquent than my own).
A good church creates a sense of community – I felt this sense of community at C3 Bridgeman Downs. Representatives of Ronald McDonald House and Foster Care Queensland received generous donations from the church to their respective charities.
Like most religions, The C3 Global movement encourages its members to donate money to the church. The hall and café wouldn’t be possible without these contributions. I believe in freedom of choice. If someone wants to donate money to their church, who are we to judge. To make an analogy: sports clubs wouldn’t survive if people didn’t pay their membership fees … As long as an organisation doesn’t force its members to give money through bullying and threats of divine retribution.
My thoughts – some churches take advantage of the perceived weak to increase the church’s coffers. These churches lure potential members by promising security and well-being to those who possess little of either. Then there are the churches that genuinely care for their members. First impressions, and based on the wonderful evening I experienced, I believe C3 is a genuine community-based church.
Thank you for the lovely evening, C3 Global.
Jonathan K Benton
Please note: Before joining any church I highly recommend talking to as many people as possible to make an informed decision. Prayer also helps, one would think!!!
I believe that most people are good. If the reverse is true then humanity is in a whole lot of trouble.
Being good doesn’t mean being perfect. We are all capable of behaving selfishly – perfection is mostly subjective anyway. An example of good is this: if we saw a child crying, and if it were obvious that child was lost, we would ensure the child’s safety by delivering him or her to the appropriate authorities or caregivers. I believe 95% of people would act this way, their sole motive to protect the child.
Anything can happen in the future and I’m sure it will. I think our concept of wealth will change: is changing. Various forms of evolution like technology will redefine our notion of what a reward actually is. In the distant future, money will not exist. Greed will be a thing of the past, assigned to the history books. Reward will be defined by the depth of the relationships we have with ourselves, with each other, with the Universe itself. These things are infinite – material possessions are not.
Left-Right debates in terms of politics are largely pointless. It’s a bell curve, anyway, and most people sit somewhere in the middle. There are extremes (I’m not referring to ‘extreme’ in terms of terrorism) on both sides. We must remember that the people sitting on the edges of the bell curve are just as likely to be ‘good’ people as those in the middle. Everybody is entitled to an opinion. Extremes propel us towards a balanced future; they are the narrow walls of the river canyon. Humanity is the river that will emerge from that canyon into a tranquil meandering waterway leaving the extremes behind. The river is always more powerful than the rock. There will be no such thing as left/right, liberal/labour, democratic/republican in a few hundred years as we move towards an economic system completely alien to anything we know today. The goods and services will be different, the resources foreign. Freedom of choice – and I fervently believe in an individual’s right to choose – is the way forward. It nourishes and moulds our future.
Bill Gates gave his opinion (click here) on how the world improved in 2013: the worldwide poverty rate went down and so did the rate of child mortality. These are positive developments. Little steps towards a bright new future.
Serious exponents of change don’t lecture us on getting from A to C without telling us how to deal with B. B is the roadmap, the transition period. It takes real brilliance to understand B. Most ideologues who loudly advocate change possess no realistic idea how to achieve it. They will use key words to obfuscate their lack of understanding. Search for that rare and brilliant individual who can transition.
I’m aiming to finish my next novel by September this year. It’s a heady mix of fantasy and adventure with a pinch of literary cleverness. I’m excited to be working with an entirely fresh set of characters. Australia is a great setting for any book and I love Minaea.
Have a great 2014
You’re beautiful – yes that’s you. Everybody.
Jonathan K Benton
I’ve had a gutful of dangerous criminals reoffending after serving pitiful sentences handed down at the discretion of sympathetic judges.
Some in the legal community argue the media is stoking these feelings of mine through sensationalist reporting that excludes the reasons why a judge hands down a particular sentence. Others in the legal community agree that the sentences are simply too light. These differences of opinion amongst legalese indicate that sentencing is, within reason, subjective: ultimately the severity of the punishment comes down to the sentencing judge’s individual values.
Judges who are more empathetic towards the victim will deliver a harsher sentence than judges who have convinced themselves that the law, itself, trumps life, and that they are the law. The root cause for light sentencing of serious crime comes down to a judge’s ego. The good magistrates do not let their appointed role numb their humanity; they don’t seek to impose their egos on society by handing down sentences that don’t reflect society’s expectations. The law is not medicine – it rarely save lives in the true sense of the meaning. Judges are not doctors. There is no room for egos. There is only the victim.
I firmly believe that sentencing for the worst crimes should only take into account the impact of the crime on the victim and their families. Murder should have a mandatory life sentence. There are more than enough examples of light sentences leading to further tragedy to warrant a complete review of the way our judiciary is run. Justice is not being served by the people responsible for delivering it.
As for the murderer: if they truly repent their crimes they would truly understand the impact of their actions, and have no desire to re-integrate with society. They would humbly accept life in prison. In fact, they would demand it. Rarely is this the case.
Jonathan K Benton
Music has always played (excuse the pun) a massive part in my life. I love how it makes me feel, what it means to me, its magic and its power. I listen to all genres, everything from the soaring rock anthems of Queen to Lorde’s 2013 hit Royals and Flumes haunting trance-like ballad Insane. Every once in while along comes a song that I need to hear. Timing has a lot to do with it. The song might have been around for years, centuries in some cases, but I stumbled upon it when I needed to hear it most. Here’s a list of ten such songs. I would love to know what songs have been there for you.
1) Moonlight Sonata: Beethoven 1801
2) Time: Pink Floyd 1973.
3) Life on Mars: David Bowie 1976
4) Back in Black: ACDC 1980
5) Romeo and Juliet: Dire Straits 1980
6) Street Spirit (Fade Out): Radiohead 1995
7) Better off Alone: Alice Deejay 1998
8) Lose Yourself: Eminem 2002
9) Resistance: Muse 2009
10) Insane feat. Moon Holiday: Flume 2013
Feel free to contact me if you want to know how these songs helped me to move on: pick a song and I will tell you what was going on in my life at this time.
Jonathan K Benton
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser summed it up perfectly when he said this: ‘If we had three or four Mandelas to scatter around the world in important countries, the world today would be a safer place, and more secure for all of us’.
Nelson Mandela was the living embodiment of everything beautiful about humanity: honour, generosity, modesty, forgiveness, honesty, brilliance, humour, passion and compassion. He possessed all of these qualities fuelled by his unconditional ability to love. He believed in a peaceful future for us all, seeded in equality. He laid the foundation. Let us honour this great man’s dream and strive for that future.
Thank you, Nelson Mandela. I have a four-year-old boy, and as soon as he is old enough to understand, I will tell him your magnificent story.
Jonathan K Benton
I read in a recent blog that if I don’t have anything to blog about I should at least write something. I’ll start with the weather. Brisbane didn’t have a winter – that’s how it felt anyway. The temperature might have dropped for a couple of weeks. It’s cold today, though, relatively speaking … It’s raining too. This blog isn’t about meteorology, however, so enough of the weather.
Next week I’m meeting a friend. She’s helping me with the dialogue in my second novel. She’s quite brilliant. It’s important to bounce ideas off fellow writers when you’re crafting a story. A fresh set of eyes helps. Join a writers’ group if you have time.
I’m starting to think about my New Years resolutions – past, present and future. I don’t have a great strike rate, and I like setting the bar high! This year I wasn’t able to master inter-dimensional time travel or spot a Death Star using my friend’s 30 inch telescope. I think I might carry these over to next year.
Speaking of next year – my son turns five in March. He’s off to ‘big school’. He performed admirably at his early childhood Christmas concert. All the kids did. Magical! I arrived home in time for the 7 o’clock news to see China, South Korea, Japan and the US rattling sabres over the air we breathe. Don’t our leaders have Christmas concerts of their own to attend?
I think I prefer Marvel to DC Comics although the last Batman movie edged out The Avengers in my opinion. I’m going to write an in-depth review of The Dark Knight Rises one day. I need to explore exactly why I found it so profound. Perhaps it’s got something to do with Gary Oldman reciting one of my favourite lines from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities near the end of the movie.
A thousand smiles and Merry Xmas
Jonathan K Benton