Monday, October 1, 2018

For The Love of Writing. Obsession, Balance, and Time - A Conversation With Gabriel Blake.

This guest post has been a long time coming so, at the outset, I have to begin by apologizing to the author Gabriel Blake for my tardiness. 

Now that's been said, I am really pleased to introduce you to an outstanding British writer and genuine human being. I met Gabriel recently and was introduced to his gripping psychological thriller "The Mother Of All Things", which has quickly gone to the top of my best reads so far this year. 

Author Gabriel Blake (image credit Gabriel Blake).

Gabriel has been wonderfully supportive, both of me and a community of independent authors all around the web, sharing advice, hints and tips and generally helping others out with the minutiae of author marketing. He's actually one of the key reasons that social media remains something worth engaging with.

Before we get to the man himself, let me give you a quick look at the book that sprang forth from this brilliant mind.

(image credit: Gabriel Blake).

It was supposed to be a new beginning for Elaine Davis. Returning to her childhood home in North Yorkshire, she hopes to move on from a devastating past and rebuild her life with the help of her mother and children. Sometimes though, new beginnings in familiar surroundings can come with the stirrings of memories long forgotten. As Elaine’s mind begins to unravel, discoveries of deceit and betrayal reveal themselves and circumstances spiral beyond her control. Elaine must fight to hold on to her sanity; unless of course, she has already lost it?

When I reviewed "The Mother Of All Things" back in July this year, I praised it as an absorbing, disturbing and kinetic thriller that balances a tight rope between a conventional whodunnit and a Gothic horror. Blake commands this tome with a skillful hand wherein you're never quite sure what state of existence the real world lies. 

Elaine Bennett, Blake's tortured protagonist, is a fascinating character as the events in the story unfold and the deepening psychological disturbances she endures hint at a whole other subplot keep the reader engaged. Blake executes his mystery competently, and there's a satisfying interactivity to it that had me going back to check and double check a couple of plot points to see if I was putting things together. That, to me, was fun and it kept me invested. The action is taut, confronting to be sure but it kept me on the edge of my seat and had me looking over my shoulder once or twice in the darkness of my own living room. 

The Mother Of All Things is a worthy thriller off which Gabriel Blake should be justly proud.

So let me now hand you over to Gabriel as he explores the things that are common to us writers. 

First of all, I’d like to thank Dean Mayes for being so kind as to invite me to write a guest post on his website. I’d also like to wish him every success with his new novel The Artisan Heart, which I am looking forward to reading.

Obsession, Balance, and Time play a huge part in our lives. It has had a detrimental effect on my life. I didn't realise this until fairly recently when it was rightly brought to my attention. 
Looking back through my life, I have had this terrible habit of being all or nothing with no in-between. It’s not an easy habit to break and it can also become unhealthy. In the latter years of my job in property maintenance, I would leave the house before 5am and sometimes not return home until 10pm or later. All because I wanted to get an empty flat repaired, cleaned, and redecorated in one day. I’d go the entire day without a break and food was out of the question. Eating would take up too much precious time, time when more work could be done. Time was my enemy!

(image credit: Gabriel Blake).

I don’t know why I forced and pushed myself to do this. It would later be pointed out to me that this was a form of self-harm. I was punishing myself and they were right. It is something I have always done.

We don’t know the exact moment when our lives develop particular behavioural patterns. Unwanted traits that sneak up on us and become part of who we are. Among many imperfections is obsession, which can co-exist with addiction. Mingled together, the pair can be challenging to rectify. Obsessions can be either productive, unproductive, or destructive.

Unproductive obsessions stem from our anxieties, putting a block on the productive side of our lives. We let our worries, fears and doubts hold us back from the obsessions we would prefer to have. Wouldn't it be better to have obsessions about our interests and passions, those that fuel our creative side? 

(image credit: Ian Emes.)

I finally found the time in my life to write my first novel and do something that had always interested me. In writing, I found passion, fire, and a helping hand to fight off depression and anxiety. I’d like nothing more than to write all day and night if it helps me escape what I like to call the quiet noise inside my head.

This is where balance comes into play. We can’t simply switch off every other aspect of life. We may have a family, partners to consider, or household matters that have to be dealt with. As much as we wish they could, everyday issues, problems, interruptions can’t be ignored. Finding the balance and control of your productive obsession is the only way to prevent it from becoming a destructive obsession, which in turn will take you back down the unproductive road to where you began.

Time! I have always had a problem with time in general. How long something will take and setting myself unrealistic targets. Then my anxiety kicks in and I become a complete mess. I’m sure I’m not the only one who obsesses over time; at least I hope I’m not. This is one of my obsessive compulsions I’m trying hard to control. While writing my debut novel, I put myself under so much pressure, and for what! I had no agent or publisher to keep happy. 

There was no deadline. I lost count of how many release dates I announced. This is something I’m aiming not to repeat. 

My message here is simple:

For the love of writing or whatever your creative interest may be, never underestimate the power of obsession, balance, and time.

Purchase "The Mother Of All Things" here.

Visit Gabriel Blake here.

Tweet with Gabriel Blake here.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Dean Reads from The Artisan Heart Live via Facebook.

So, I thought I'd attempt something a little different this week and do a live reading from my brand new novel "The Artisan Heart" over at Facebook Live and follow it up by answering reader questions. I think it went pretty well and I'm pleased to be able to make the video available here. 

I've read just the first two chapters for this one but I'm keen to read more - if you are. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

"The Artisan Heart" by Dean Mayes is available now where ever good books are sold. Click through here to browse purchasing options, including signed copies from the author himself.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Delayed Devastation & The Abandonment Of #MeToo.

21 years ago, when I was a junior RN at the beginning of my career, I was sexually assaulted by in my workplace. 

The assault involved two individuals, who were senior to me. They herded me into a confined space, and proceeded to taunt me, touch me inappropriately, I was penetrated  digitally. I did not invite their advances, nor did I give permission. I was manipulated, forced into enduring their attack. 

The incident occured out of hours. There were no witnesses to the incident other than myself and the two individuals involved. I was given no ability to escape the the situation. I was shocked and devastated. 

When I attempted to report the incident, I could not have anticipated the reaction I received. A meeting was arranged with with senior people. I was given no opportunity to arrange a support person to attend with me. Once in the room, I detailed the incident. 

I was told that these were very serious allegations. I was asked if I recalled the incident accurately (the meeting occured within a few days of it having occurred.) I was informed that my abusers denied any involvement in what had occurred. Further, I was advised there were very serious consequences of making allegations of this gravity. 

I was then told that the incident never happened and that if I pursued my claims that I would not work as a Nurse anywhere in the future. I was then put on a "probation period" in which my performance would be observed at monitored.

How does a 23 year old, junior male nurse, deal with this? 

In the aftermath, I was devastated. I felt isolated, marginalised and I suffered under the weight of intense scrutiny for which I had no support, no counselling and no recourse.

I suffered bouts of depression, anxiety, guilt and shame that was so intense, I was pushed to the edge.

Yes, I was suicidal and yes, there were three occasions where I attempted to take my own life.  

I know what happened was real. I was, essentially, raped in my workplace. 

Seeing that I had no power to do anything about the experience, I closed down and compartmentalized the experience and the ordeal, burying them so deep in my psyche so that I could (somehow) function. I developed a way of coping - but I never dealt with the damage wraught on me.

With the emergence of the #metoo movement last year, my exposure to the countless stories of abuse and survival being shared, I unlocked the chest that held my own experience of abuse and I  looked at it anew for the first time in 20 years.

Revisiting the experience, my reaction to it and the subsequent emotional devastation I experienced as a result of being ignored and threatened, I was confronted by 20 long years of unresolved emotional baggage that had affected me. 

It took me a long time to acknowledge the reality of what had occurred. Seeing similar experiences being shared, I was encouraged by what I thought was a positive movement that would treat my ordeal with empathy and compassion. 

I shared my experience. 

The reaction? 

The reaction was a swift and as devastating as the intial reaction I received to my account of sexual abuse.

Suspicion. Disbelief. Minimisation - all coming from within this movement that was supposed to empower voices and embrace survivors. I felt as though I had been raped all over again. 

See - I don't fit the narrative. I fall outside of the accepted identity of a sexual abuse survivor. 

I was a male victim of sexual violence, perpetrated by women. Like the administrators who interrogated me in the aftermath of my abuse, many within the #metoo movement doubted that such violence could happen to a male by a female. I'd remembered it wrong. My recollections must be doubtful. This couldn't have happened to you - a man. It was made clear to me that, at this time, this fight is not about you. You can't be a part of our narrative because - as one particularly militant tweeter articulated it - "You have a dick."

In the course of the fight, there will be victims. Males are collateral damage in this - Male victims and Male accused (whether they are innocent or guilty). 

I'm considering all this, at a time when there is incredible scrutiny being brought to bear on the nominee for the Supreme Court in the United States, Brett Cavanaugh.

You might be surprised, given all I have detailed here, that I have questions about the claims and counter claims swirling around Christine Blasey-Ford and Kavanaugh. In no way do these questions  discount the possibility that Blasey-Ford is telling the truth. It is simply a dispassionate observation that Blasey-Ford has not presented compelling evidence that establishes fact. Like me, she may never be able to.

At this time, Brett Kavanaugh is an *alleged* perpetrator or sexual assault - *alleged*. A formal FBI investigation would, in my view, be the most appropriate way of establishing fact. That should happen and, until such time as that investigation is completed, Kavanaugh's nomination should be withdrawn.

Further, this whole spectacle should be completely removed from the public gaze - for the sake of Christine Blasey-Ford as much as anyone.

There is a further concern I have, which relates to the conduct of the various actors behind both Blasey-Ford and Kavanaugh. I believe there are competing agendas at play that have less to do with the truth of Blasey-Ford's ordeal or the guilt or innocence of Kavanaugh or the truth of the claims against him. Part of this is being driven by nefarious elements within the #metoo movement and its blind ambition to bring down an entire gender, regardless of the truth. They will chew up Christine Blasey-Ford and spit her out as much as they will Kavanaugh. 

Can the truth ever be established now? 

I have come to accept that I will never gain absolution for my own ordeal. I can only recount my experience, to the best of my recollection (and my recollection is acute) and move forward...if one can ever hope to move forward from something like this.

Truth is a victim. 

In the case of Christine Blasey-Ford and Brett Kavanagh, there are her allegations - grave and serious and warranting forensic investigation, his defense, which - in our system of justice - he is entitled to, and the Truth that lies somewhere in between. The way these hearings are being concucted are troubling, because none of this matters to those driving Christine Blasey-Ford into the pressure cooker of the public gaze. Nor does it matter to those who seek to secure Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. 

Both agendas will divide and conquer in the pursuit of something other than the truth - and they will leave victims in their wake - both accused and accusers.

If you don't fit the proscribed narrative of either, the accepted identity, you are problematic, expendable.

And that is the truth.


Monday, September 24, 2018

The Myth Of Cultural Appropriation.

This week, a piece by Australian journalist David Marr appeared on The Guardian Australia website "Why I refused to judge the Horne Prize."

In it, Marr announced that he was stepping down as a judge on the panel for the Horne Prize for Literature, an annual prize here in Australia. 

The panel of the Horne Prize had introduced a clause into their application process, in which the following entities would not be considered.

 "Essays by non-Indigenous writers about the experiences of First Nations Australians. Essays about the LGBTQI community written by people without direct experience of this community. Any other writing that purports to represent the experiences of those in any minority community of which the writer is not a member."

(image credit: Christopher Ireland).

Marr rightly argued that this was an alarming development - one that would have dangerous repercussions.

“I’ve been a big critic of such restrictions. Men can write about women, gays about straights, blacks about whites. You judge, as always, by quality. That’s likely to be higher when there’s direct experience. But you can’t disqualify for lack of it. And if we’re not going to accept whites writing about Indigenous experience, how can we have whites judging Indigenous writing?” ~ David Marr, The Guardian, 24th September 2018.

As you can imagine, the reaction to Marr's article was swift, particularly on Twitter where  many, including myself, pointed out the danger of excluding entrants on the basis of whether they belong to a particular group or not. It amounts to a restriction of creative expression and of free speech.

In the reaction to Marr's resignation, arguments on various social networks clustered around cultural appropriation. When I cited my own example of having observed and written about a culture different to my own - in my 2012 novel "Gifts of the Peramangk" accusations of cultural appropriation and stealing were leveled at me along with a couple of threats, which I chose to ignore. These came, without any attempt to consider the work or appraise its content. 

How can one be accused of cultural appropriation, if they have embarked on a creative project with a commitment to ethical cultural representation?

I would argue they can't. 

Cultural appropriation has become a term used by certain sections of the community to stifle free speech and creative expression and attack anyone who would dare step outside of their acceptable group identity to learn about or consider another culture.

When I began writing "Gifts Of The Peramangk", I was aware of the significance of the task I was taking on.

I knew from the outset that I would likely be criticized for being a non-indigenous Australian writer writing an indigenous Australian story. I would be accused of cultural appropriation, of misrepresenting the people I was seeking to portray. 

I began the project with a desire to seek knowledge. I put aside the bare bones story idea I had and instead committed myself to pure research. I had a basic knowledge of the fraught history of Australia's Aboriginal people, through the White Australia Policy and the resultant Stolen Generations. I had a basic understanding of the three Aboriginal nations that populated the Adelaide region. But I wanted to learn - not only to write a better story, but to write an ethical story, one that represented the people I was portraying *without appropriating* their culture. 

This journey of learning took a year. I researched, talked with experts, partnered with Peramangk people who guided me. When I sat down to write the story, I continued to seek guidance and critique. 

It was a long, methodical process. I experienced long periods of self doubt and worry over whether I could finish the story. Ironically, at no stage was I discouraged by those who I'd worked with. Their encouragement of me and belief in the story compelled me to continue the project to its conclusion. 

Any accusations of cultural appropriation, ironically, came from my own side.

As a writer, I have committed myself to the observation and documentation of the world around me. And while I predominantly write fiction - even then - the writing process requires a considerable amount of research. 

In writing "Gifts of the Peramangk" I set out to learn as much as I could about a culture, so that I could acknowledge and respect that culture in a story with themes that are universal. Adversity, Hope, Endurance, Triumph. The story, admired by readers all around the world, was my effort at bridging a cultural divide. 

This is not cultural appropriation. It is cultural representation. 

Any efforts to stifle that, makes us all the poorer. 


Post Script - Following David Marr's reisgnation, the panel of the Horne Prize walked back their changes to the rules around submission.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

My 'Unbelievable?' Journey.

How's this for a dichotomy? 

The older I get, the less I feel I know about the world.

Though I might say that I have accumulated considerable knowledge over the course of my life, simply as a function of *being alive*, I know I haven't even scratched the surface of all that there is to know in this life.

In the past couple of years, I have experienced profound challenges -  aligned to the medical difficulties I have faced with my throat.

The threat to my to health - my life - has compelled me to confront some harsh truths about myself. Chiefly among them is that I don't have it all worked out. In fact, I know very little. I've moved through my life superficially in many ways. I don't  feel that I have lived a deep life. There is so much I feel has passed me by. There are questions I have never considered. My recent experience has prodded me to re-evaluate just who I am and what this life of mine is all about. In the midst of facing my own mortality, I arrived at this realisation and it scared me.

(image credit: Mikko Lagerstedt).

Where am I heading here?

With a sense of urgency (perhaps driven by the confrontation with my mortality),  I began to seek out voices, points of view and arguments that I previously would have felt inadequate in trying to understand. I would have probably dismissed or derided them because they would have seemed so clearly in opposition to everything I previously thought I believed in my atrophied world view. 

Through interlocutors like Alice Fraser, Claire Lehmann, Sam Harris, Dr. Deborah Soh, Steven Pinker, Jordan Peterson and the Weinstein brothers I began to crave longer form discussions that weren't afraid to tackle subjects like philosophy, discourse, progress, the state of polity, science and religion.


Though I was christened Anglican, I've given little regard to Christianity or faith. At various times throughout my life I've been antagonistic towards it - finding its various dogmas distasteful and restrictive. I've (probably) aligned myself with atheism, with all its inherent focus on that which can be evidenced and qauntified. 

But here's a thing. In the course of my own Enlightenment project - of listening to these diverse voices and considering new ways of thinking - I've found myself becoming what I recently described on Twitter as a 'curious theologian'.

That resonated with another prominent voice I'd recently discovered, (via Jordan Peterson), the Christian broadcaster and journalist Justin Brierley.

Evidently, it was enough of an observation, for him to actually reach out to me and ask if I might discuss that further, which we did over the course of a few emails. The exchange was a brief but lovely one, which led Justin to generously offer me a copy of a book he has written called 'Unbelievable? Why After Ten Years Of Talking With Atheists, I'm Still A Christian.'

Justin is the host of a weekly show on the Premier Christian Radio Network in the UK. Titled 'Unbelievable?' the show provides a forum for debate and discussion between a Christian guest and an Atheist guest, with Justin moderating. The topics are varied and routinely fascinating but it is the spirit of congenial, good faith discussion about deep philosophical and theological questions that appeals to me so much. The community of guests Justin welcomes to the studio each week are an appealing collection of deep thinkers, formidable intellectuals and engaging humans who offer so much to learn and consider. Their debates are spirited too, which makes each episode thought provoking. 

'Unbelievable?' - the book is a compelling companion piece, in which Brierley explores the origins of his radio show and the underlying ethos behind it. More than that, 'Unbelievable?' is Brierley's dissertation on why, after 10 years of interviewing Atheists and Christians, he remains firmly committed to his own Christian beliefs.

However, unlike the fire and brimstone defence of Christianity that one might expect, Unbelievable is instead an engaging series of essays in which Brierley methodically sets out his arguments for Christian faith, his own belief in God and the Resurrected Christ. He challenges the commonly held views against Christianity by Atheists - briute facts - and draws upon science, cosmology, art, literature and history to make his case that Christianity has been a pre-eminent force in the human project. 

In reading 'Unbelievable?' I continued my engagement with Brierley via Twitter to clarify and seek further insights on the arguments he has set out. I've been impressed with his willingness to respond and it's spurred me on to treat his book with an open mind.

One chapter in the book, in particular, stood out to me. Brierley explores the atheist objection against God: suffering. I went into this, thinking that I would come down on the side of the atheist argument - that no God could exist that would allow suffering. But in his opening statement, Brierley recounts an experience of having one of his own newborn children admitted to an NICU. 

This struck me as I have spent much of my Nursing career working in ICU's - including NICU. Brierley tells of having to watch his child suffer as the medical and nursing team worked to treat his child and in the process, having to inflict more suffering on the child in order to care and treat him. Happily for Justin and his wife, their child was fine. 

His account had a significant impact on me. It altered the way I appraised the notion of suffering. It would seem that it is not as one sided or a product of a indifferent God as many would argue. 

Much of what I do as an Intensive Care Nurse involves suffering - whether I am  witness to it in the disease process or surgical condition. As a Nurse, I have to accept - and even impart - a certain amount of suffering in order to alleviate that suffering in the longer term. Brierley has even encouraged me to re-evaluate suffering and what it might mean in the context of Christianity and the notion of a God. I've also given a deeper consideration the question of what is caring? 

Where does the want to care for others - to alleviate suffering? Is it merely a human trait - the product of evolution? Or could it have some sort of theistic origin?

Caring & suffering... 

I'm still trying to work this out even as I write this so I may return to it in the future. The fact that *I am* trying to work this out is something of a revelation for me.

I find it difficult to argue that Christianity has not been a significant influence in our understanding of the moral landscape. Everything we know about morality and ethics - at least in the Western context - has arisen out of Christianity. Sure, Atheists will argue that morality and ethics are their own entities, observable and practiced by Christian and non-Christians alike. But it seems reasonable to credit their foundation in Christianity. 

But where does this all leave me - an individual unsure, (arguably) unknowledgable, with a long history of doubt of that which I can't readily observe.

I can only appreciate the existence of the radio show 'Unbelievable?' and its mission to bring people together to debate significant topics in the spirit of good faith. 'Unbelievable?' is one of the richest learnimg experiences I have ever encountered and it is encouraging me to see the world and my place in it more deeply and considerately than I ever have before. 

Justin Brierley's 'Unbelievable?' is quite possibly one of the most valuable books I have ever owned. It has kick started a quest to learn and grow in my thinking and it offers a road map to take. 

Will it lead me to a wholesale embrace of Christianity? It may and it may not. I'm not sure if that is the goal for me at this point. I find myself at the beginning of something new with 'Unbelievable?' in hand as a touchstone.  

What I am sure of is that I want to undertake the journey it offers. The learning potential. Deeper and more considerate thinking. The joy of discourse and the voices of fascinating minds. These are the jewels a work like 'Unbelievable?' can gift.

Thank you Justin. 

I believe in you.

Visit 'Unbelievable?' podcast/radio show here.

Purchase 'Unbelievable?' here

Tweet with Justin Brierley here


Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Artisan Heart Is On Tour!

To coincide with the international release of The Artisan Heart on September 1st, I've partnered with a great selection of book bloggers and reviewers who have kindly agreed to feature me and my new novel. Over the course of this coming week, readers can delve deeper into the story, the characters, the setting and the inspiration that saw The Artisan Heart brought to life.

I hope you enjoy checking out each of these features in turn and discovering more about my brand new novel.

Tuesday, August 28th 2018.

The Burgeoning Bookshelf - The Artisan Heart Feature.

Saturday, September 1st 2018.

Books Life & Everything - The Artisan Heart Feature.

Staying In With Dean Mayes (Linda's Book Bag).

Monday, September 3rd 2018.

Talking Books Blog -"A Must Read" : Review Of The Artisan Heart.

The Sketchy Reader - The Artisan Heart Feature.

Thursday, September 6th 2018.

Live Radio Interview with ABC Adelaide's David Bevan from 10:00AM (ACST).

I hope you enjoy discovering the story behind the story of my new novel "The Artisan Heart". My thanks goes to all the bloggers and reviewers who featured the book on their website.


Discover the music of The Artisan Heart on Spotify!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Reviews & The Hating Of Goodreads.

You a writer, I understand the importance of reviews. I need them, not only as a marketing tool, but as a tool for growth as a writer. Constructive criticism has been invaluable in helping me improve my craft.

But here's the thing.

It seems to me that book reviewing has become a bloodsport, where the objective is not to review a book in good faith. Rather, it has become an exercise in grandstanding - of unloading with the snarkiest take downs, of maligning the writer with the slickest burns possible. It's been apparent on #Goodreads for a while - (Like, what the fuck is it with these *reviewers* and gifs??) It's also an emerging trend on Netgalley - (minus the gifs).

I generally turn around a title in 18 months to 2 years. I pour countless hours into it - honing character, setting, story into a cohesive whole. I work with an editor, a publisher, a marketer to refine the project & polish it into the best product it can be. I sweat over it. Experience sleepless nights. I run the gamut of all the highs and lows that a creative endeavor offers.

Then I, along with my publisher put it out there to garner advance appraisal, months before release. We hope for reviews because, as I said, they are important. They help to build an awareness for the product and, hopefully a positive buzz that will translate into readers.

Generally, I take a lot of notice of 3* reviews (even more than 5* or 4*) because these offer the most in terms of constructive criticism. I have yet to encounter a 1* or 2* review that offer anything of value.

Often, these reviews hide an underlying agenda and I've come to view them as the reviewer trying to build a brand of their own, which has very little to with the noble art of reviewing a book. 

Appraising an entire project, simply because a character "pissed you off" is not worth the keyboard strokes. Seriously! It just makes you look like an arsehole. Did you consider maybe that was the intention? And a 1* review that damns a project, simply because it's "Slow"?

Not every reading experience has to move like a freight train! Tell me why you thought it was slow. What was it about the structural elements of the story that failed to gel with you? Tell me why the character pissed you off.  Don't just drop these in my lap & walk away without fleshing out your reasoning. It does nothing!

There should be a commitment to learning the art of a review - & there is an art. If you're going to invest the time in crafting a review, at least work on making that review one that can help an author, rather than discourage them. If you can find nothing of value in a work, don't write a review at all. Keep your slick burns and your smart arsed gifs to yourself.

I am a writer. I believe I'm good at it - but I also believe I have more to learn.

Teach me.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Why It Is Important To Be Creative.

I'm back with a post as part of my writers' group August blog chain challenge and, this month, the topic put to us was a question - Why is it important to be creative?

At first glance, the question appears fairly easy to answer doesn't it. 

However, I struggled to come up with an adequate answer and, for the longest time, I couldn't figure out why. It eventually struck me that I was trying to answer the question by looking outward - as though trying to impart reasons why anyone should be creative. But, that's the wrong way to tackle it. Creativity is a very personal thing and it can take so many different forms. The relationship one has with creativity is unique. It goes then, that any consideration of its importance requires that one look inward, rather than outward. So why is creativity important to me?

My love of writing began at an early age. I've often said my Grade 3 primary school teacher, Mrs. Furnell, was the individual who unlocked my creative streak during the creative writing sessions she used to run in class. Ever since then, my desire to create, to tell stories has been insatiable. It has become as much a part of me as breathing or walking.

As a Registered Nurse, having practiced for over 20 years in many clinical areas, I have been witness to the extremes of the human condition. A lot of these experiences have been positive - like Nursing newborns who need just a little bit of help at the beginning of their lives or Nursing various bumps and scrapes children have sustained on the sporting field or in the back yard. Things that can be fixed relatively easily. Through the tears and the worry of the patient and their family, there are often smiles and laughter and comradeship. Plenty can be fixed with a Zooper Dooper icy pole.

There have been a lot of other experiences though - like being present at traumatic presentations in the ED, like motor vehicle accidents, violent assaults - sometimes involving weapons, drug overdoses. Or in the ICU - Nursing complex disease processes, the extension of those ED presentations, children who have acquired virulent illnesses like meningococcal sespsis or have been diagnosed with cancer. Many of these cases survive and recover. Many of them do not. There have been catastrophic outcomes. There has been death. 

These experiences imprint on you and they do affect you.

Creativity in the form of writing has been a means to decompress, to escape the accumulated muck of that side of my life and engage with an art that is completely separate. Sometimes, I have written down vestiges of those clinical experiences simply as a means of trying to make sense of them, to remove their subjective effects from my mind and see them as objective experiences, which I can address, deconstruct and move on from. Sometimes, those experiences have found their way into my writing, which has been therapeutic in itself.

It's ironic isn't it. I've credited my Nursing as being an influence on my writing for this reason, but also because of the structure Nursing requires to practice effectively. Nursing involves an adherence to inquiry, to diagnosing, problem solving and crafting solutions. These tools are invaluable to me as writer as I sculpt stories using them in much the same way. So, while I write and create as a way to separate myself from my Nursing, my Nursing inevitably creeps across the fence.

Creativity is an antidote for a restless mind. I have a mind that is constantly working. I find it difficult to switch off. The world around me is such a vivid place and I often take in everything. I work it over, consider objects, smells, tastes, experiences. I ask myself questions, analyze, ponder. The noise in my head can, sometimes be deafening and it can be distressing. 

Writing is a means for me to unpack my mind and get things out so that I can become an observer of ideas, rather than a participant in them - does that make sense? Having a creative process, a method if you will, that is structured and coherent allows me to work ideas into a pre-existing project or catalog them for a future one. I've come to regard even the most disparate ideas as valuable. They are as tangible to me as a flower or a leaf, a Star Wars figurine or a piece of fruit.

Creativity, for me, is a means of maintaining mental well being as much as it is a satisfying pursuit of story telling. 

I'm sure I could explore other reasons why it is important, for me, to be creative but I think these two top the list. They represent the two greatest influences on me as a writer and also as a person. 

So, what about you? Why is it important for you to be creative? Let me know in the comments.


Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Artisan Heart Official Spotify Soundtrack Playlist

To help establish the mood of my upcoming novel "The Artisan Heart", I'm pleased to share the official Spotify soundtrack playlist for the novel with you. 

Over the past little while, I have been curating a selection of music that inspired me while I was writing the novel and I've put together a soundtrack. Featuring the music of Swear and Shake, Josh Pyke, Paul Kelly, Greta Bradman, Stereophonics, Cold Chisel and many more, this soundtrack playlist will take you on a musical journey through the story and give you an aural experience that I hope you'll enjoy. 

Just click on the image below to open the playlist in your Spotify app.

The Artisan Heart by Dean Mayes, in-stores everywhere from September 1st, 2018.

Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife, Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette.

When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

Isabelle Sampi is a struggling artisan baker raising her hearing-impaired daughter, and has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own.

As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.





Announcement - Winner of The Artisan Heart Trailer Share Competition.

During July, I ran a competition to celebrate the release of the book trailer for my forthcoming novel "The Artisan Heart". I invited people across my social network to share, comment on and tell me what an artisan heart means to them. 

By entering, I offered up the opportunity for one lucky reader to win a fabulous prize pack! In partnership with Janesce Australia and Swear and Shake, this included;

* A signed paperback copy of "The Artisan Heart".
* A Gift Certificate from Janesce Australia to the value of $50 (valid on-line or in-store).
* A copy of Swear and Shake's 2016 studio album "The Sound Of Letting Go" (which served as the musical inspiration for the novel).

Today (finally!) I am pleased to announce the winner of that competition.

Bernni Davies-Jackson
of Adelaide, South Australia.

Bernni did a fantastic job of sharing the trailer across her network and calling attention to both it and the novel and I'm really thankful for her efforts.

Congratulations Bernni!

Thank you to everyone who participated in my competition. Keep your eyes on my website and blog in the coming weeks for a brand new opportunity to WIN with "The Artisan Heart." In the meantime, you can pre-order the novel ahead of its September 1st release via the links below. 

Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife, Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette.

When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

Isabelle Sampi is a struggling artisan baker raising her hearing-impaired daughter, and has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own.

As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.