War OR Peace

Readers and writers each have their preferred genre and their own way of experiencing the world and two people with opposing personalities seldom take the same viewpoint. Consequently, readers and writers must be somewhat compatible to get a message across and to appreciate a book. Of course, the beauty of fiction is that by using different characters, the writer can represent more than one point of view.

Like in real life, so subliminal interactions between characters and interpersonal relationships tend to be very complex and multi-layered in my books, and I do not use stereotypes or ‘a bad guy’, but rather a multitude of well-intended people getting into conflict.

Like all my books, In the Real World is likely to anger or frustrate some people, especially those who tend to take their moral values from their environment, and who might not see the relationships presented or the behaviour of certain characters as appropriate. Others might accept the story, even if they do not agree with all the characters.

 

cover-RealWorld

Originally written in 2005 and first published in 2008 – second edit 2012 – the book is not meant for young readers only, despite the protagonists being 16 years old. It is written for any person above that age; any person who can think about ethical values, about parenting and about war, and it is not in any way simplistic.

Nor is it a ‘nice’ book with heroes and big win; it is not a fantasy story where the only danger comes from some evil overlord. This story is set in “the real world” and the conflicts are between people’s beliefs and the accepted norms that keep them apart. Through the eyes of the two protagonists, the reader is shown many other characters – grandparents, parents, teachers and students – of whom some agree and others disagree with these norms.

War is the main topic, but the story is not set in a time of war; it is set today, in an Australian high school. It begins during a family reunion on Anzac Day – the Australian memorial day – when a group of cousins are having a boy-girl prank ‘war’ that gets totally out of hand. It is the emotions that are evoked during that exchange that are responsible for all the actions that follow and it is those actions and emotions that reflect conflict on an international scale in the real world, and in the history lessons and family stories that relate what happens with the kids to the events of the two world wars.

Apart from that, there are complex and very real interpersonal relationships evolving between characters, some of which touch the line of what is considered decent in our western society. For example, the question of how friendly teachers and students are allowed to be with each other and whether parents should stand behind their kids or behind the school when conflict arises.

The book does not glance over those moral boundaries, but addresses them, with the characters being very aware, and, like the readers, some are more accepting of those than others. But the reader does not have to worry about In the Real World, for all interactions are between personalities and there is no implicit or explicit sex between students or between students and teachers, and no scenes that are not suitable for young adult readers. In short, showing the emotions of war in a time of peace, the issue is human nature and our ability to solve conflicts.

The book is currently on sale. The eBook is available from meBooks (both Epub and Kindle) and printed copies can be bought via The Copy Press or my website.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

The Happiness Inquisition

Before I publish a book, I usually do a Google search for the working title, to make sure mine is as original as possible. In the case of my novella, then titled The War on Parents, I came across an already existing non-fiction work with that exact title. The novella, only 20,000 words, contains a story within the story; a fairy tale one of the characters tells, and which was then called The Land of No Tears. I decided to change both the title of the novella and that of the fairy tale inside it to The Happiness Inquisition and it is according to that title that the cover illustration was designed – an image that has evoked quite different reactions over the years. But to understand the illustration and the title, one must understand the context and message of the book.

Happiness Inquisition - cover.jpg

It was 2009 when a New Zealand politician, following the example of big brother USA, decided to win herself some votes by pushing a bill that was to make smacking illegal. Before and after New Zealand, most western countries obediently did the same.

Having lived in the USA and aware of the psychological danger of such a one-sided law, I joined the protest, which included writing The Happiness Inquisition, to relate the emotional consequences of such a law to the readers and voters.

The protest, however, was predominantly led by people and groups with Christian values and within no time, those promoting the bill turned it into a science versus religion debate, while the real issue was ignored. Needless to say, apart from a few politicians, who were already against the bill, my book did not get much attention. Of all the publications and newspapers I did send a copy to, only one reviewer understood the message:

Nōnen Títi has written and published this book in light of the upcoming referendum on the “anti-smacking” law. It’s a relatively short narrative that could be read in under an hour, showing the disastrous effects of one anonymous telephone call.

It is set in a neighbourhood where everybody is afraid of the police and of each other, of being “dobbed in” and of having their children taken from them. While the story is written in third person, we see events through the eyes of several characters and each person’s perception of the incident that started the action.

This story is bleak. There is no happy ending although characters do come to realise that perceptions may have been wrong and conclusions jumped to that were not altogether correct.

If you’re against the “anti-smacking” law, this may be a book that you buy to distribute to those whose sensibilities are not so clear-cut. A terrifying and eye-opening read.
Naida Mulligen (The Southland Times)

The referendum was held, and despite efforts of those promoting the bill, most voters (many being parents) did not fall for the suggestion that the serious cases of abuse that were used as examples – like children being beaten to death and being put in the washing machine – had until then been legal. Nevertheless, the law was pushed despite this voice of the people, and, although it was recently declared a failure, it is still in effect.

As predicted, its consequences were destructive for decent parents, who now have to be afraid of the police, of neighbours, of school teachers and everybody else who’d been forced to report suspicion of parental discipline to the police, while the instigating politician fled the public scene, without taking responsibility for the countless destroyed homes, the massive increase in stress levels in parents and subsequent syndromes and insecurity in children, who today have to grow up without healthy limits – State Sanctioned Emotional Neglect.

Having recently reread the book, I still believe in its message, and I hope it will have a twofold role: to help efforts to reverse this destructive law and to help support those people who feel deserted and in emotional distress because of it to understand that it is not their fault and that they are not alone.

The only thing I might change for a second edition is the mention of the cost of a doctor’s visit, because in New Zealand a consultation for children is free of charge. However, the book was intended for all western countries, since this is not just a New Zealand problem. It is a short story with a very big message, and I hope that maybe a film maker somewhere will one day help bring it to a bigger audience.

The book is available as eBook (ePub and Kindle) from meBooks and as paperback from The Copy Press or via my own website.

Thank you for reading.

Lohland needs an Uplift

 

It was 2004 when I wrote my first book. Although I had been writing stories my entire life, Lohland was the first completed novel. But I didn’t publish it until 2009, after having written and published two other books.

Lohland - cover

I recently reread the book and decided it needs a new edit. Apart from some grammatical errors I missed then, it is clearly written by an inexperienced writer. Nevertheless, apart from wanting to write a stronger start, I still like the story in general.

Of course, since 2004, certain things have changed, especially in the way people communicate. The idea of teens with mobile phones was only just emerging, for example, and following directions on Google during a trip was less common. Today’s young readers – only just over a decade later – might wonder why Kaie does not use his mobile more often, but those are changes I cannot make, since the story revolves around celestial and calendar events that are correct for 2006, and so are the factual aspects of the story: the engineering projects that specifically deal with global warming.

Written with a young adult protagonist, Lohland was created less for the sake of the story than for the sake of presenting an alternative view of social life and education. That might not be the best approach to writing a story, but at that point, I had my design ready and that was my motivation.

However, I was also already aware that what one personality type considers a utopia, may be the complete opposite for another type of person. Being only thirteen years old at the start of the story, the protagonist, Kaie, has no say in the decision to move away from his home – the location of which could be most any Australian or New Zealand town – where he and his siblings each have their own bedroom with plenty of space to play loud music, a big garden, a swimming pool and many other luxuries. He resents the idea of exchanging all that for Lohland, not only because its non-traditional lifestyle does not suit his personality, but he questions the sanity of moving to a country that lies below sea level in a time when “global warming is real”.

Lohland is a fictional city state, but set in the real environment of the “low lands” of Western Europe, in an area that has significance, both historically and climatologically. The family’s emigration back to this part of Europe is set against a visit to the highlands of Scotland, as well as against the original discovery of New Zealand during The Golden Age of the Dutch Republic – Zeeland being the Dutch province New Zealand derived its name from – and the way each country remembers the significance of these events differently.

Thus, the somewhat utopian aspect of the story comes with the organization of its fictional city state, its calendar, living communities, celebrations and education system, but the environmental aspects, the engineering projects that are described and the architectural and historical information, is non-fiction.

The book was written to give teens and young adults an alternative to the doom and gloom they have to grow up with today, and the message reflected in the story is that there is more than one way to live a rich and rewarding life, that freedom is not about the space one lives in, but about not being judged or imposed on by others, and that global warming is not the end of the world; that young people can get involved in building a new future.

Until I have the time and money to publish a new edition, I have dropped the price of the eBook. Printed copies are still available via the printer’s website and my own, but they reflect the cost of shipping from New Zealand, which lies in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and is therefore far away from everything.

Thank you for reading.

A Perspective of Life and Death

In the movie Twin Sisters – originally De Tweeling after a book by Tessa de Loo – quarrelling relatives separate two very young twin girls after their parents’ death, which results in both girls leading a completely different life. Ignoring the effects of the war on both of them for this discussion, one grows up with loving parents in relative wealth and with a cultural education; the other suffers all the hardships: poverty, abuse, hard work. Thus, the arbitrary choice made by the relatives influences the objective value of life for each of the girls.

Obviously, the same is true for the circumstances any other child grows up with. If life itself hangs by a threat every single day in a war-torn country or in a place where hunger and disease are prominent; if it is an everyday struggle, the contemplation of life itself may not even occur to people – too preoccupied with survival or too malnourished to think that deeply about it. In a situation  where death is a daily occurrence due to war or street violence, children may become desensitized to death and misery – and the same may apply to children raised with violent movies.

Constant fear (for one’s life), a hopeless situation and constant physical pain can cause death to appear more attractive than life and unforseen circumstances can generate a sudden change in attitude . I am thinking of the movie Frida (portraying the life of the painter Frida Kahlo) where a bus accident changes a carefree existence into one of daily physical pain to the point where Frida says that she cannot wait to get out of this life.

Of course it depends on what belief system a person has. Those growing up with religious beliefs that dictate life as the greatest good and frown upon death by choice (suicide, abortion, euthanasia) may find themselves in a moral dilemma if they experience depression or a crippling disease – as do those who grow up in a social setting where life is treated as if sacred on humane grounds, like those opposing the death penalty.  And whether a person believes in a life after death and what exactly that ‘life’ looks like will also play a role.

Nevertheless, those are all objective influences on the value of life and death. But have you ever wondered why two people growing up in the exact same circumstances can have completely different responses? Why do some people become so depressed in our affluent society that they are willing take their own life while others may live in physical or social misery, yet remain optimistic or fight to their last breath? Why do some defy the wrath of their deity by choosing suicide, while others choose imprisonment to avoid war? Why are these objective circumstances and strong moral, cultural or social beliefs not the determining factors in the perceived value of life for individual people and how they view death and disease?

I believe that different people have a different inborn subjective value that causes a completely different perspective of both life and death.

There are those who take life itself with a pinch of salt. They consider it a game or a lucky coincidence and accept that it is not forever. This is the source of slogans such as  “Don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out alive” that appear on postcards and stickers. People who live with this attitude tend to make jokes about life and death equally and some of them may even seek dangerous pursuits to ‘challenge’ death; they are generally optimistic, consider a life of caution not worth living and may choose high risk jobs. And as they see their own life as passing or a game, so they may treat that of others thus and they may laugh at disease or at fear.

There are others who take life as a matter of fact. It is something to make the most of and maybe even leave one’s legacy behind. People who live life with this attitude will not seek dangerous pursuits, because that is not a sensible thing to do and death is to be avoided (not challenged), because it would come in the way of all the things they still want to achieve. They may consider life something that deserves respect but may also believe that taking a life can be justified (either their own or that of others in the name of humane treatment, in the name of war or justice). They tend to accept disease as possibly unavoidable and take what is given them.

Then there are those that find life a struggle – possibly due to circumstances – and have a tendency to pessimism. They may say things like “if the apocalypse comes I’d rather be the first to go”. They may fear death or disease, but they may also fear a life of disease or pain. They may or may not actively choose death, but they see it as a relief of hardship, something to look forward to and may favour the idea of mercy killing.

And finally, there are those (like me) who consider life to be sacred. We each get only one and it is serious business that is not to be trifled with. To take somebody else’s life or to even make it miserable is to disrespect life itself. Death (and disease up to a degree) is the ultimate humiliation and to be avoided at all costs. Jokes made about life or death are usually considered to be of bad taste. Nobody should have the right to decide over somebody else’s life – including soldiers, governments or judges – and those that ruin the life of another purposely should pay with their own, since there is no price high enough.

None of the above is right or wrong and none is better than the others. They are simply different perspectives that result from the relationship one has with life itself. What we need to realize, however, is that we do not all have the same perspective and that each perspective deserves respect.

This concludes my little contemplation of life and death. There may be people who have other views. My own belief is that these inner values are closely related to a person’s psychological type and I would be interested to hear what your view is and (if you know it) what your Jungian or MB typename is.