A Spiritual Journey Through Vietnam - Adyar Bookshop Sept. 29

A Spiritual Journey Through Vietnam
Adyar Booksop
99 Bathurst St (Upstairs)
6.30pm Free Entry
Thursday 29th September

Join Walter Mason, author of Destination Saigon, on an incredible illustrated journey through the rich spiritual life of Vietnam.
Walter will be talking about the diverse mystical traditions of the Vietnamese people, from the stark discipline of Zen Buddhist monasteries to the wild colour and controlled chaos of Cao Dai, the indigenous religion of southern Vietnam.
This is a rare opportunity to see unknown and hidden parts of this beautiful country and discover aspects of Vietnam's culture and history that you'll never discover in a travel guide.

Buddhist Monastery, Vietnam.

Church at Benedictine Monastery, Central Vietnam.

Private shrine inside a senior Buddhist monk's room, Vietnam.

Abandoned ritual objects outside a Buddhist temple, Ho Chi Minh City.

Monday Blogcrawl

Lord but I have a list of things to do this week. Not just little things, either. What the hell am I even doing here? Oh, I remember - procrastinating. let's get into it:

New Books - Marketing and Promotion

I am always looking at new ideas for marketing and promoting myself and my book, and think that it is a particularly exciting time for such efforts. The social media continues to revolutionise everything. So here is a pile of new books I have got this month to bring me right up to speed on getting my message out!

Do the Work by Steven Pressfield - I have recently read his The War of Art, which I found one of the most remarkable and inspiring books I'd read in years. This one has come from Seth Godin's publishing venture The Domino Project.

Book Marketing Made Easy by D'Vorah Lansky

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk - Last year I was really inspired by his book Crush It, so look forward to reading this, his newest.

Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah

Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson et al - Guerrilla Networking is quite the most useful book I've ever read, and I always read Levinson's stuff on-line. This is a book custom-made for me.

Brilliance by Design by Vicki Halsey - Can't quite remember why I got this one, actually. But sometimes the most serendipitous purchases can have the greatest impact.

The Author's Guide to Building an Online Platform by Stephanie Chandler - I have only just finished reading her wonderful From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur, so am expecting this one to be equally stimulating and full of good ideas.

Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson - This one gets raved about quite a lot on-line, so I thought I'd better read it.

The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen - From the master.

Content Rules by Ann Handley & C. C. Chapman - When I was browsing this particular section at the bookshop this book really stood out as ths best one available, and it looks like it will inspire some pretty hard work and (hopefully) some great ideas and results.

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz - How to get more out of your day, apparently. I need this.

Poke the Box by Seth Godin - Why doesn't The Domino Project put titles on the front cover?

How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks by Jason Matthews - One of my goals for this year is to create a couple of ebooks. I don't have much time left!

New Books - Fiction

Here is my haul for August - fiction, this month:

Smut by Alan Bennett - I do adore Alan Bennett, and find his books a real treat.

Buddha V. 3 by Osamu Tezuka - Actually, I haven't read the first two of this famous series of graphic novels based on the Buddha's life. But somehow I was led to pick this one up.

Small Indiscretions by Felicity Castagna - Felicity is a fellow postgrad student at the University of Western Sydney's Writing & Society research group, and has just released this book, a collection of short stories set in Asia. Sounds exactly my cup of tea. And I know that at least one story is about a drag queen, so it's even more promising.

Rudyard Kipling Omnibus - When I was a child my grandfather would always give me an omnibus edition of some kind, and so I have always loved them. I particularly remember having omnibus editions of Steele Rudd, Edgar Allan Poe and O. Henry, all of which I adored. I couldn't resist this collection of Kipling's most beloved stories. I haven't read The Jungle Book since I was 10 years old. Is it just me or is Kipling's star on the ascendent once more?

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst - Nothing to say, really - he is the master. I have loved every one of his books, and think him almost perfect in every way. Apparently this one's in with a good chance of winning the Booker.

Castles, Follies & Four-Leaf Clovers

  I must declare an interest. Rosamund Burton, the gentle and charming author of Castles, Follies & Four-Leaf Clovers, is an old and dear friend. 

What's more, I was the person she asked to launch the book. 

That out of the way, let me begin my review of this delightful and quite unique travel-memoir about a journey along St. Declan's Way, a largely forgotten pilgrimage path through Ireland. 

There is much that enchanted me about the book. I am always interested in pilgrimage, an interest that I think is shared by more and more people. 

Rosamund's pilgrimage in Ireland is to the holy sites dedicated largely to St. Declan, an indigenous Irish saint whose antique memory has been eclipsed somewhat by the much more familiar St. Patrick. Indeed, it seems as though St. Declan has become something of a patron saint of lost causes, the one that people turn to when things are too desperate, lost or sad. At the site of his birthplace Rosamund writes that "babies that died before they were baptized used to be buried." 

A touching and sorrowful little detail, one of many that fill this lovely book and bring to life the incredible mystical spirit of the Irish and the importance of landscape and place to them. St. Declan's well is the place where people come to have their skin disorders cured, though the pilgrim seeking healing must make something of a commitment - three consecutive sundays are required for the healing to take place. Rosamund notes that a local butcher testified to the efficacy and permanence of the cure. Along the way the author stays at a Cistercian nunnery called St. Mary's, where she becomes instantly fascinated by the nuns' lives. It is a measure of the continued glamour of the nun's role that most people quickly become enchanted when they come face-to-face with the lived spirituality of the confessed religious. Castles, Follies & Four-Leaf Clovers captures perfectly the fascinating and reliable rhythm of the nuns' lives, lives which we hear about so rarely now. It is another of the lost worlds that Rosamund Burton is able to capture and record in the book. 

The main concern of the book, though subtly expressed, is the sense of loss and longing that seems uniquely to belong to the modern pilgrim. Rosamund herself is a veteran of several previous pilgrimages, including one to the by-now famous Santiago de Compostela. She manages to pre-empt the reader's questions about the purpose of this pilgrimage through Ireland by stopping to ask herself what it is she is trying to achieve on such a journey and how on earth she can possibly identify with the religious sites along the way when she herself (though coming from Ireland) is now so obviously a stranger. Who should read it? Anyone with an interest in Ireland, or who has Irish blood flowing through their veins (a goodly number of the people reading this book, I should imagine). And all of those who ache in some way to be transformed through travel, and who hope that the foreign will bring some richer sense of meaning into their lives. 

This is a thoroughly charming and distinctly modern book. Rosamund is no great sage expounding her constant epiphanies as she crosses the wild landscape of rural Ireland. She questions herself and her motives as she encounters fairies, floods and the relentless wet weather. Like all of us she is awkward and nervous while she travels, tempted always by laziness and a lingering lack of reverence for the things she knows should be sacred. I loved this book, and I know you will too. 

Book Shows You How to Turn Your Cleverness Into Cash

I have been reading Stephanie Chandler's book From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur very carefully over the last week or so. I have taken pages of notes from it, and have filled the book itself up with underlinings and page indexes. I don't think I have found a book as practical and helpful in a very long time. I want everyone to read it.

What is its premise? That people who have a talent for writing or teaching or creating any kind of content are perfectly positioned in this rapidly changing world to make real money from their skills. Chandler's book is filled with ideas for using your knowledge and expertise to create ebooks, newsletters, on-line courses and many, many other information-based products that will not just make you money but build your platform and increase your exposure.

Who should read it? Well, I think it's basically compulsory reading for any author, published or otherwise. All of us are facing an uncertain future, and this book reminds us that there are, in fact, more and better options out there for us than ever before. I also think that anyone with a business and the ability to string two sentences together will find this book immensely valuable. Chandler's previous work has all been targeted at small businesspeople, so there is much to learn in From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur. The information she provides on creating and distributing enewlsetters alone would be of immense value to half a dozen businesses I know.

The highlights? The book is so filled with specific and practical information that I could probably provide a highlight from each of the 12 chapters. But narrowing it down, I am particularly interested in working more closely with her ideas on:

  • Creating an impressive press kit
  • Key words to include when writing copy
  • Essential things you should have on your website
  • How to prepare for booksignings, talks and public appearances
I am going to stick my neck out here and say that, if you are interested in developing yourself and your skills and moving ahead in the on-line environment, you are guaranteed to find this book helpful, stimulating and worth every cent.
Honestly, get it now.

New Books - Health and Healing

All I have to say is, "Yes, I have a pain problem." It's not really much of a secret - I have blogged about it before. So I am always on a quest for cures. Here are some books I have picked up in the last month which I hope will make a difference:

No More Neck Pain by Heike Hofler - As it says, hopefully.

Ease Chronic Pain by Judy Nelson - This one comes with a CD, and is based on sound and music therapy. It's gotta be better for me than codeine!

The Healing Code by Alexander Loyd & Ben Johnson - This is a new one, and apparently it has been big. It promises some pretty big things on the back cover - healing of 95% of all ilnesses and pain. Wow - a big call. Let's see.

Teaser Tuesdays

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
  • My teasers:

    "In our purest, most positive state of mind, we are powerful creators of our very best lives. When we think good thoughts, we feel good. When we feel good, we make good choices." ~ p.29, Louise Hay & Cheryl Richardson's "You Can Create an Exceptional Life"

    Monday Blogcrawl

    I'm trying to make more of a concerted effort to get out and about, and I have to report that it really does yield results. Whatever you do, never give in to the urge to isolate! If, however, you have chosen to lock yourself in your dark little room, here are some things on the net that I found interesting:

    Trapped in Toxic Patterns

    Growing out of a Character is like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. ~ Avril Carruthers

    If you're feeling bad, so is he.

    I went to hear Sydney author, psychotherapist and spiritual healer Avril Carruthers talk about her book Freedom From Toxic Relationships. Now don't worry, things are fine between me and Mr. Noodlies! I went because Avril is a friend and a fellow author at the Inspired Living imprint at Allen & Unwin (who publish Destination Saigon, my own book about my travels to Vietnam). I also knew that Avril's work wasn't just about bad romantic relationships. She also covers family relationships, work relationships and beyond. It proved to be the most fascinating evening. Avril's work is with what she calls "Psychic Cords," energetic connections which bind us to other people and can be the source of much of our torment. By ignoring these potentially toxic connections, we don't just make ourselves feel bad - we impact the life of the person at the other end of the cord.

    It's hard to conceive of energetic connections.

    These aren't the kinds of things that can be proven scientifically, but Avril's years of clinical work have convinced her that we are indeed connected in a profound way to the other people in our lives. Avril has her clients draw these energetic connections - these cords - and she showed us some of the incredible and powerful images that result.

    People experience energy drains.

    Avril's clients frequently describe bad energy as being "dumped' on them, and at a deep level they are conscious of the presence of these psychic cords, probing their bodies and entering them at vulnerable places. She suggests that perhaps this might be the source of some of the sensations and experiences that people describe as alien probing and implantation.

    We feel we have to support others.

    Many times our energetic connections to family members are sullied and toxic, but we fear letting them go because we think we have an obligation to care for our close family members, particularly parents. Often people see their stressed and painful psychic cords as a confused muddle, surrounding their bodies and feeding off every energetic centre. By clinging on to a toxic connection we are helping no-one, least of all the person at the other end. By letting go and becoming a full person, we lift the energy of all those around us, near and far.

    Cords connect us to the generations before our parents.

    Avril, who also specialises in past-life regression, has seen the cords extend beyond our present-day connections into generations beyond - particularly with family members. Often we are paying for the sins of our forefathers, and unconsciously feeding these old toxic connections. We can afford to let them go.

    Read Avril's book - it is fascinating.

    Unveiled at Shearer's on Norton

    You'll allow me a brief moment of boasting, won't you?
    Yesterday, as part of National Bookshop Day celebrations, I was one of a select group of authors who were unveiled on the prestigious Name Wall at Shearer's on Norton, one of Australia's greatest and most beloved independent bookshops.

    So if you are ever in Leichhardt, do drop into Shearer's and gaze respectfully upon my little slice of literary fame. Perhaps they should install a shelf for offerings of incense and flowers?
    I'm so honoured that my quirky and light-hearted little book about Vietnam, Destination Saigon, should already have become so beloved. It's success is absolutely due to the faith and support of booksellers across Australia, and I wanted to send you all my own undying pledge of devotion.

    Just before the unveiling. I am concealed behind the plaque just above Vikram Seth!

    But it wasn't just me up on the wall yesterday - I shared the honour with several other big names. They were:

    Congratulations to you all. I am lucky to be sharing the same space with such talented people.
    And thank you to Barbara and Tony Horgan, who continue to support and enrich the Australian book scene, turning into literary legends along the way.

    I'm Speaking in Canberra, Sept 22

    I will be speaking about the influence of Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg on the history of self-help literature in Canberra next month.
    If you've never heard of Swedenborg, don't worry - this talk is a fascinating overview of the history and emergence of self-help writing and I promise you will be entertained!
    All are welcome. Details:

    Swedenborg and Self-Help: The Influence of Emanuel Swedenborg on the Modern Literature of Self Improvement

    Thurs 22 September
    Time 7.30 pm
    Address Beyond Q Bookshop, Curtin Shops, Canberra

    Cost: Gold Coin Donation
    While most imagine that self-help books are something new, emerging fully-formed at some mysterious point in the late 1960s, they are, in fact, a venerable literary form with their roots stretching back into the 18th century. Many of the earliest self-help writers were students of Swedenborg's writings, and his ideas have filtered into our culture via the medium of popular self-help, from "How to Win Friends and Influence People" to "The Secret." In this talk Walter Mason, who is completing his doctoral dissertation on the history of self-help literature in Australia, will discuss the people and ideas that have connections to Swedenborg and that have gone on to make up part of the rich history of popular non-fiction in the West.

    Felicity Castagna's Indiscretions

    I am very excited this week to be hosting a blog post from Australian writer Felicity Castagna. Felicity's short stories have been broadcast on ABC Radio National and are widely published in Australian Literary magazines and anthologies. Her first collection of short stories, Small Indiscretions, has just been published by Transit Lounge.

    Writing My Indiscretions

    by Felicity Castagna

    I finished most of my recent short story collection, Small Indiscretions: Stories of Travel in Asia about two years ago, and I wrote all the stories in it over several years before that. As someone who is just over thirty, this book represents about a third of my life. It wasn’t all I was doing in those years, but it was certainly always in my mind and it was always forming and reforming itself in my imagination.

    People often comment that I don’t write about my own life or my own experience and that this is unusual for a young writer, but I look at Small Indiscretions and even though I might be writing about a young paranoid boy in Jakarta or a retired couple drinking bootleg alcohol in Brunei or a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in the casinos of Macau, there is a lot of myself in-between the lines. When I reread these stories I think about all of the places I’ve been and of how those places become a part of you. I come from a long line of travellers and movers, particularly on my dad’s side of the family. Travelling, living between and amongst other cultures was a huge part of my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was eighteen that my family finally settled down in Sydney after a life-time of moving back and forth between different areas of the U.S and Australia. After so many unsettled years, I couldn’t stay put. Luckily, I was living a stone’s throw from this whole region called Asia, which I knew nothing about. Over a period of about 8 years I left Australia again and again as soon I could get the money and the resources together to go back. I became completely addicted to all things Asian from Thai covers of Michael Jackson songs to Chinese herbal cures.

    As soon as you put me in a foreign space I can walk for hours on end without getting tired. When I travel, I walk down main streets and back alleys and suburbs and I think about all the landscapes I’m seeing and how people react to them. My stories were all initially written as fragments of something I saw. I usually started by writing things down that I didn’t really understand. I think, in a way, Small Indiscretions is about a lack of understanding: It’s about a bunch of non-Asian characters hanging out in Asian cities and not really being able to fully comprehend what they are seeing; it’s about foreigners exploring foreign places and seeing what questions the place and the people ask of them as travellers.

    I wrote this book for people like me who first read a lot of fiction set in the places they are travelling to long before they ever try reading a straight forward travel guide. I think the questions writers ask of us as readers are much more interesting than the answers that travel guide writers provide us with.

    Monday Blogcrawl

    I have a shocking headache today. I really should do something about my headaches - go and see someone. But inertia always takes over. I hate all the fuss of going to a doctor - the inevitable waiting, the probable requirement to come back again. So I think I shall just find all of the solutions on-line. Here is what I've been looking at:

    Cambodia Now

    Vietnamese Vegetarian Dishes - Bun Cha Gio

    Another lunch staple of mine is Bun Cha Gio - or, as in this case more properly Bun Dac Biet.

    Bun Cha Gio is a plate of cold noodles served over a delicious salad of bean sprouts and shredded fines herbes. On top of that is piled a couple of freshly fried spring rolls, chopped into threes, a serve of fried gluten (taking the place of the usual grilled pork), some deliciously prepared tofu made to emulate bi (shredded pigs skin), and even a vegetarian equivalent of nem, a sour-tasting preserved pork. Over this you pour a healthy amount of nuoc cham vegetarian dipping sauce (instead of the more usual sweetened and chili-enhanced fish sauce), mix it all up and have a delicious and fiulling lunch.
    Agreed this all sounds like a bizarre collection of meat substitutes, which it is, I suppose.
    The thing is, the vegetarian version is actually tastier and healthier, and I would choose it any day.
    So try it - you will be back for more, guaranteed.
    And just think of the good karma!


    Duy Linh Vegetarian Restaurant 10/117 John Street, Cabramatta
    (02) 9727 9800

    Vietnamese Vegetarian Dishes - Bun Canh Chua

    Canh Chua is one of the staple dishes of Southern Vietnamese cuisine, and is the kind of dish that is quite addictive.

    It is a sweet, clear and tangy soup made on fish stock, slightly sour through the judicious addition of tamarind pulp. On a very hot day it is almost the perfect thing to have for lunch, normally accompanied by grilled fish.
    It is a quintessentially Southern dish, though you will occasionally find it listed on menus in Central and Northern Vietnam. My advice is never to order it above Quy Nhon - I have had some disastrous encounters with Canh Chua in Hue and Hanoi. The amateur food historian in me says that it is probably a dish inherited from the Khmer, who serve up a similar sour soup called Samlor Mchou. It is also a distant cousin of the various tangy (and delicious) fish soups of Thailand, including the by-now universal Tom Yum.
    Canh Chua is normally made with a whole fish, though restaurants will sometimes make it with prawns - in Australia, even with chicken! It is filled with bean sprouts, pineapple, watercress, tomato and, for me, the two ultimate ingredients - bac ha and okra. This leaves you with a substantial and nutritious soup that could almost be consumed on its own with rice.
    Because it is so frequently made for lunch or dinner, my partner Thang tells me that one of the ultimate (and most delicious) of homemade snacks is bun canh chua, in which the leftover soup is re-heated and noodles are cooked in it. Because of its homemade nature (a kind of Vietnamese bubble and squeak) it is the kind of dish rarely served up in restaurants.
    But at Duy Linh vegetarian restaurant in Cabramatta they serve it up, and it makes for the most wonderful lunch all on its own. Indeed, it has become something of a signature dish for the restaurant. Now, a fish-based dish might seem hard to re-create as a vegan recipe, but in fact the soup's other strong sweet and sour flavours mean it can be re-created meat-free almost to perfection. Indeed, I actually prefer the vegetarian version.
    So next time you are out in Cabramatta, drop by Duy Linh vegetarian restaurant and try the Bun Canh Chua - noodles in traditional sour soup.
    It's delicious!


    Duy Linh Vegetarian Restaurant 10/117 John Street, Cabramatta
    (02) 9727 9800

    Teaser Tuesdays

    TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
  • My “Teaser” Sentences for today:

    "I am responsible for my life and destiny because I signed up for it before I came in. I chose my parents and all my relatives in order to learn some cosmic and spiritual life lessons this time around. With this understanding, I don't blame any of them for what happened in my childhood or what happens to me as an adult."

    ~ page 37, "I'm Over All That" by Shirley MacLaine

    LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own “Teaser Tuesdays” post, or share your “teaser” in a comment here (if you don’t have a blog). Thanks! :D

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