Crossroad

This is a crossroad in your life,
Many you have encountered haven’t been so serious,
But this one here seems to have you in strife,
The ends of each path unknown and mysterious.

You know the two options you have to decide from,
One option you want and one you might not.
You however don’t know what’s left to come,
Which option you choose, escape you cannot.

You look to the left and see something beautiful,
Something that makes you happy and smile,
But you need to be told until it is indisputable,
That that is the path that is surely worthwhile.

You look to the right and don’t see much,
Though you know way down the track you will be content.
Maybe this is the path that is worthy of such,
The path where your future is bright and without lament.

But the choices here are not so easy you see,
Maybe present happiness is temporary
Maybe what you want now is not adequate for,
The future you have, maybe you need more.
But maybe waiting for happiness will ruin your life,
Will leave you in regret, sorrow and strife,
If you make that decision, you really wouldn’t want to,
Look at the choice you could have picked but in fear, with your permission, away it blew.

Now the confirmation you wait for is long overdue,
Something that will soon be able to tell you,
That this important choice you have to make,
Will be now and forever better for your sake.

Which will it be you wonder,
How you hate being stuck in such a blunder,
But the answer will come, and when you make the decision way down the track,
You will wonder why it was such a hard decision in the first place, and you will never look back.

What is Christianity?

Many people think Christianity is about forcing beliefs about God onto other people, hating people who support gay marriage, the cause of war… I could go on. I think the thing that is most sad is that the entire belief is frowned upon because of certain individuals. I understand that our fellow Christians are passionate about what they believe, but I think it can sometimes skew the truth about what Christianity, and who God, really is. So I decided to write this to shed some light about what Christianity, and who God, really is.

It’s not a religion – Many people think it is a religion, and yes, it is classed as one, but we don’t see it as one because it’s unlike all others. For example, many religions require you to do certain things in order to find favour in God, or in order for God to be satisfied with you. Some religions, you have to pay a certain amount of money, do a certain amount of good deeds, even kill a certain amount of people. And if you do this, God will be happy with you and will accept you. But Christianity is different. It states that we can come as we are – God accepts you whether or not you are good or bad; he shows no partiality (Romans 2:11). He accepts you even if you’re a murderer, or just if you’re plain old you. You don’t need to do anything in order for God to love you – he already does. How do we know this? Because he sent his only son, who “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22), to pay for the sins of the world. He died a gruesome death, a death he did not deserve, to save us from the penalty of all the bad things we have done, are doing, or will do.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

John 3:16

It promotes love – Many people think that it is a belief system which hates those who don’t follow it, but this is far from the truth. Yes, Christians have certain beliefs about various things, such as marriage, sexual intercourse, the way we say and do things, how we carry ourselves, what we believe and value etc., but this does not mean that we hate people who don’t believe in the things we do. For example, Christians accept homosexuals; we do not hate or despise them. But it does not mean we accept and support changing the legislation to allow homosexual marriage, because the bible says that marriage is between a man and wife. Like any others, we stand up for what we believe in, but it shouldn’t be taken as us discriminating against others, or forcing our beliefs onto others, because the bible does not say we should. Just like everyone else in the world, we are allowed to have our own opinions and beliefs. The Bible says we should accept and love everyone, and just because there are people who claim to be Christians but discriminate against people, it does not mean than the entire body of Christianity does the same. Our God loves us and died for us with all our sin and shame, and forgave us for every wrongdoing, so we should do the same for others.

 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

People blame God – Many people will argue that God isn’t real because so many bad things happen in the world… So how can He be real? The truth is, God doesn’t cause bad things to happen – we do. Humans. Humans cause wars. Humans kill each other. Humans get jealous and angry. Humans cheat, destroy and lie. Humans are greedy and selfish. Imagine if humans forgave each other, accepted one another and helped and shared with each other? There would be no war, no poverty, no death, no homelessness. It is not God who causes havoc. It is humans. God gave us a free will, which means that He gives us the choice to accept him and follow him, or not. That also means that the choices we make will inevitably have consequences. And sadly, we blame God for these consequences.

Christianity is becoming scarce and hated nowadays, and more and more people are disregarding it and the fact that God is real. Many people are quick to say that He isn’t real, but I think it’s because people don’t understand who He really is and what He’s really done – God is real, and He has saved us from the consequence of all our sins by dying on the cross in place of us. The Cross is a symbol of God’s unfailing love for us. In order to follow him, it doesn’t require us to ‘have it all together’ – we simply need to do these things:

1. Believe in God and the fact that He loves you
2. Confess your sins, and acknowledge the fact that we have all done wrong things. (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness – 1 John 1:9)
2. Acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross for you and your sins
3. Accept God into your heart and into your life
4. Pray. This is how you speak to God. Simply just talk to Him.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with our heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

An Introduction to Britain’s Interwar Poverty

Edwardian-London-23The end of World War I saw millions of deaths, millions of dollars worth of damage, and countless lives affected. The return of the soldiers was a shock to the nation, as the demand for health care services dramatically increased, even new mental illnesses such as Shell Shock (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD) were introduced.

The end of slavery less than a hundred years prior meant that the slaves whom once worked for English households were now free and left to their own devices. Many of these individuals worked in London, however, numbers decreased in domestic housework. Racism was still prevalent, and high class and low class lived in two completely different worlds. For a high class individual to mingle amongst the lower class was quite a shock and highly frowned upon. It seemed that the life you were born into was the life you were bound to. It was in the first half of the 1900’s, a time which wasn’t so long ago. However, mindsets and social rules reigned heavily, determining how a person lived, what they did and who they would become.

Homeless individuals, poverty-stricken families, and unemployed men and women were forced to live in less than desirable ways. High Class society had better things to do than to look after anyone outside their own social class, and had to manage their own problems with maintaining the financial upkeep of their extravagant homes. If this was so, who was to care for those who needed help the most? 

Hey you! Stay Strong!

Are you scrolling through the many blog posts on your smartphone?
Or maybe on your internet screen, sitting quiet and alone.
That situation you’re in always seems to be more than you can bear,
Wishing you could go back to the days when you lived without a care.

Let me give you some encouragement, from one stranger to another,
Some words of hope when you feel your heart is torn asunder.
You can get through day by day, just believe you are strong enough to do it,
All those times you faced and won those other battles prove you shouldn’t quit.

Be strong and courageous dear friend and know in all if this,
One day you will stand strong and happy when you come out victorious.

The Prisoners Barracks

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Plan of the Prisoner’s Barracks (1840). Courtesy of LINC Tasmania.

The Prisoner’s Barracks housed the convicts of Port Arthur until 1842, when the complex were abandoned and the convicts were moved to the new penitentiary building (which is the iconic building still standing today). In 1840, the convicts of my novel Port Arthur were housed in what looks like the plan above.

The long building on the extreme right is full of single cells used to house one convict per cell. This is the building which ran all the way down the main area, where majority of the prisoners were housed in huts around the Penal Yard. The Penal Yard was set up in a square; on the outside, huts which housed the convicts. Each hut had berths and was said to have housed between 16-30 convicts each, with 1 overseer to enure that the convicts behaved themselves during the night. The berths were opposite the doors and windows, with the overseer sleeping in a berth at the end. A light burned in each hut so the overseers could see movement, and the windows were clear windows so the Commandant, Chief Constable or the Sergeant of the Guard could see through when they patrolled the yard at irregular intervals. In the middle of the penal yard, a fountain stood (which has been moved around the Port Arthur site a few times!). The Penal Yard itself was used to keep the convicts during their free time, when they were not working or confined in their huts.

Outside the square set up towards the front of the complex were two other areas. Boys were housed separately to the men on the left, and there also stood a schoolhouse for the convicts who decided to better themselves while in prison. Other overseers slept in their own barracks, and were kept just outside the Penal Yard and convict huts. The Muster Yard was used during ‘Muster’, a time when all convicts were to line up in single file rows to be checked by the Commandant, Superintendent and Medical Officer.

Around the entire complex was a tall wooden fence which enclosed the area, of which soldiers stood guard outside. On the other side of the fence on the left was the solitary confinement cells, of which no convict was permitted. Soldiers guarded this small building to ensure none of the convicts escaped and none ventured in. This is not seen in the diagram above.

This entire structure does not exist today, as it was destroyed by fires. However, I imagine it would have been a sight to see. If you go to Port Arthur today, and you walk on the road behind the Penitentiary, between the Penitentiary and the other buildings lined up on the other side, you will notice a large area of uneven land, mounds and small hills of grass. This is where this penal yard was when it existed, the original barracks of the Port Arthur convicts of 1830-1840.

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On the extreme left, the Port Arthur Penitentiary. The road between the Penitentiary and various officer buildings and houses. The large green area in the middle of the photograph is where the prisoner barracks stood.

Diary Of A New Author – Part Fifteen

Hello readers! It has been quite a while since I’ve made a post about all the recent happenings of my authorness. Unfortunately, the lack of posts reflects the lack of work towards my writing. So many things can get in the way – university, work… LIFE! But I guess the important thing is mastering this thing we call time.

Of recent, I mentioned that one individual’s review made me consider a part 2 to my debut novel, Port Arthur. I never would have considered this when I first wrote it, and ended the book in a way that I thought couldn’t be revived. But what kind of writer am I if I can’t take paper and turn it into lemon juice, dripping rhythmically from the edge of a neon yellow lemon sliced by the jagged edged blade of a lonely ranger riding upon a dark brown stallion with nothing but his burnt leather coat upon his hardy shoulders and pistol strapped to his waist? So, I did what I had to… entered into the world of Port Arthur and asked the question: ‘What if…?’

And that took me back to Hobart, Tasmania, where I visited a prison site named ‘Cascades Female Factory.’ It was a prison for females, unlike Port Arthur, a prison for men, and housed all kinds of female convicts during the 1800’s. So, let me take you through a very brief journey of life at Cascades Female Factory in Hobart, Tasmania.

Yard 1 was the first yard of Cascades Female Factory. A panoramic view from the Superintendent’s balcony.

It was originally a rum distillery, but was bought and converted into a prison for female convicts. These convicts arrived from various parts of the United Kingdom, but unlike Port Arthur, the convicts who were sent to Cascades weren’t reoffenders. Many of the women were convicted for petty crimes, most commonly theft of various goods in order to survive by consuming or trading for money or food.

Cascades Female Factory (or Female House of Corrections) is located in a valley opposite the Hobart rivulet, which was used as a water source for the convicts and free settlers. Water from Mount Wellington, a nearby mountain, runs down from the mountain and ‘cascades’ into the rivulet, hence the name ‘Cascades’. Among other jobs, the female convicts worked as laundry maids (hard labour) or weaved blankets. Other businesses paid the prison to complete such tasks, and the women were involved in industrial-sized work, hence why it became a ‘factory’ of working women.

The women who came in were classed under one of three classes; First Class, Second Class, and Third Class. First Class could be assigned, that is, hired by free settlers as domestic servants. These convicts would serve their time by working for them. Second Class convicts were neither good nor bad – if they behaved well, they could move up to first class. If they behaved badly, they would move down to Third Class, where solitary confinement was the norm. These women were punished often and were placed in hard labour for the penalty of their behaviour.

The historic site is continuously being updated with more and more knowledge of its past. The history of the site is one of surprise, injustice and shock. Despite the many terrible stories and facts, women did leave and become free settlers who found husbands, had children, and basically helped to populate Australia!

I highly recommend a visit to this site. The tour, along with the play ‘Her Story’ by two brilliant actors who tell the sad but unfortunately common story of a female convict, provides a great introduction and summary of life at the factory. It is a great place to learn about the female side of Australian convict history (and a great place to base a book on…!)

The Mask

Each day as the light stands by the uncovered gaps of her window blinds, she lies in bed staring above her at the ceiling.
A thousand thoughts running through her head as she lies still. ‘Another day of unhappiness’, she keeps thinking.
She showers, dresses, but before she leaves to begin her day, doesn’t forget that porcelain object she has gotten used to living with now.
How it has saved her from many  heartaches and kept her together – such a hard task deserves a bow.
Each day she wears it on her face, her tired eyes sunken and empty,
It is the eyes that reveal a person’s true soul, true heart, at times it can be hard to see.
Her cheeks are chaffed from the constant moistness they experience from the salty tears that fall. 

Now she is facing new battles she must be strong to stand tall against, Though in battle she cannot see what she is fighting against or at times what she is fighting for, the fog around her heavily dense. Even the porcelain mask can’t withstand all she is to face, it breaking day by day and night by night. She once had hope, a goal in which carried her and kept her upright and strong, but slowly by slowly she is losing sight. The cracks are now appearing to reveal underneath, a face torn and cut. The people around her who were supposed to be supporting her and keeping her afloat doing everything but.

Soon the mask she believed would help her would shatter into a hundred pieces like her heart inside her chest. A girl once happy and hopeful now scared, lonely and depressed

The Smile That Deceived The World

The inside of the mind is different to that of the world outside.
Sometimes we can appear as if we are happy, content without reason to lie.
But inside we are slowly dying and wish with everything that we can,
Simply run away and escape to a beautiful faraway land.

A place where finally everything seems clear,
A place where we don’t have to hide or fear.
A place where all the things we hold close,
Are there with us too, those things we value most.

A place of solitude for the cheerful human being,
Who into this situation was cruelly hurled,
Of whose lovely smile could ever so smartly,
Deceive the entire world.

Diary Of A New Author – Part Fourteen

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Add a little bit of dictionary with a tinge of thesaurus, 1 week of intense historical research and 1 year worth of hard work. Oh, and 1 cup of internal tears, frustration, disappointment, lethargy and writers block too. However, do not fret, for in the end you can top it off with a big happiness cherry and all will be well.

Okay, so that’s not how we authors write stories. But I thought it would be a good idea to spread some knowledge and personal experience to new writers out there, or even writers who have been doing their thing for years.

I managed to conjure up a general step to step guide in how I write my novels. This shouldn’t be followed step by step (unless you really want to), and it shouldn’t be taken as the right way in how to write. This just works for me, and if it works for me, maybe it can work for you too! So let’s take a journey into my writing process. You ready?

Step 1: Plan it all out. This kind of seems obvious huh? But I used to be someone who could sit down and write without a plan, and things would just roll off my mind and onto the pages. However, the more longer and complicated my stories got, the more I needed a plan; something to guide me as I wrote. I suggest first thinking of your idea, and then writing it down, in dot points, as if it were a detailed summary of the entire story. Make notes to remind yourself about what you’re thinking at the time about certain parts, and make sure everything you’re thinking goes down onto the page. Read, re-read and re-re-read over your plan constantly so you can correct any parts you don’t like, add or remove parts, and just familiarise yourself with everything. You want to begin writing and know exactly what’s going to happen in your story. When you have your plan and you know what you’re going to be writing about, when you look for research to compliment your story, you’ll know what to look for so you’re not on a wild goose chase wasting time looking in the wrong places (or the wrong era…). Planning also includes creating your characters, so when you’re reading over your plot, it will give you a chance to think about them – who they are, what they’re like etc.

Step 2: Write it! Go ahead and start writing. Don’t worry too much about each line being perfect – that’s what editing is for. Focus on getting your story down, illustrate everything you’ve seen in your mind, and give it your best shot. Then let it sit and cool for about hmm… A few days, depending on how busy (or free) you are. This is because your mind needs time to forget about every detail of the book you’ve just spent creating. I used to go through and edit, then as soon as I finished the last chapter, the next day I would start from the beginning again. This isn’t so good, because most likely what will happen is that you won’t pick up the tiny mistakes you would normally pick up on if you just let the book (and your mind) rest for a bit. So in the meantime…

Step 3: Read what you’ve done. And take notes. Lots and lots of notes. Microsoft Word lets you make comments for this very purpose, people! Highlight too if you like, but definitely make comments. Comment on what you think sounds ridiculous, if there is conflicting or missing information, about whether you need to research into something… But don’t forget to comment on what you like! Nothing feels better than going back over and seeing a comment saying “Good job! This sounds amazing” (Oh, stop it you!) If you like, you can even use this opportunity to begin to give your work a bit of an edit (check for grammatical errors, punctuational errors etc.), as I know authors are grammar Nazis and can’t help but fix those tiny things, but try not to put too much time or pressure into that (for now!)

Step 4: Now you’ve read over it, you can start to think about what needs to be added, removed, researched… Use this time to research and look through your comments to make sure you’ve answered all you’ve commented on. This part is really important for a historical fiction writer like myself, because now I know exactly what to look for in my researching session. Instead of writing, I research, and it allows me to get information as well as rest my eyes from the book, so its like a two in one step!

Step 5: Now you can edit. Yeah, you’ve been looking for this perfect opportunity, I know. But taking time off to research, and not thinking about whether your sentence structure is perfect, is very important. Now you’ll pick up on all those mistakes you would have most likely missed if you went straight into it, and you haven’t lost time between editing sessions because you’ve been working on your manuscript behind the scenes in the meantime.

Now, the rest is up to you. You can read over and edit, focusing on different aspects each time you read through (for example, focusing on consistent speech, correct facts etc.), or just doing a thorough edit. I personally suggest leaving the manuscript to sit for a few days, or a week (or even better, a few weeks) which is hard because you just want to keep writing and editing, but trust me, it really helps pick up on mistakes, and gives you a clear head space to think about other things you can add or remove.

All the best in your writing, and I hope this guide can bring some structure or can suggest another way to look at the writing process!

Any questions or comments? Feel free to comment below.