March 30, 2017

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Song for the day is Game Plan by Busby Marou, an Australian duo whose acoustic guitar rifts alone make them one to listen to let alone their sweet blues pop melodies.

At the start of the year I posted about how I had a grand plan where I would acquire a yearly calendar and put a cross on everyday I wrote with the aim of getting long chains of crosses which would then work as motivation, because a long chain is a pretty chain and I don’t want to break something pretty.

It’s worked, to a degree. I’m still marking crosses and I have more days than not with crosses on them, but I haven’t created any really impressive chains yet (I would post a photo of my calendar here but I’m writing this at work so you’ll just have to use your imagination). The good thing about the calendar system is that you can see where you’re coming up short and for me it’s the weekends where I’m most often breaking. This is surprising. If you had asked me before I started I would have thought the weekends were a lock as they’re when I have the most free time and logically I should be using this free time to write. However, also logically, being flat out during the work week the weekends are also when I want to sleep in, read books, and be lazy; not to mention social commitments and getting things done around the house that I don’t have the time for during the workweek. Also, it just goes to show how useful structure and routine is. I rarely break on a weekday because I’ve got it programmed into my schedule that I’ll get at least half an hour writing done before I leave for work, and if I have any free time during my work day (like right now for instance) I will definitely use that time to write as reading a book, being lazy, or sleeping just aren’t as easy to get away with.

So, I’ve located the problem and while I’m mostly happy with the amount I’m writing at the moment I wouldn’t mind trying to increase it and get myself one of those long beautiful sexy chains. That’d be sweet. Last year I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where I wrote roughly 2,500 words every day for a month. It was tough and the writing wasn’t my best but it clearly showed me just how much writing I can get done if I commit to it, so I’m planning on trying to replicate this. I won’t aim to write quite so much and the goal isn’t to try and write a novel, it’s more Write Every Day For A Month (or WriEvDaFoAM, not as catchy admittedly). April will be my month and my goal will be simply to write 600 words every day. Why 600? Because I said so and because it’s 100 more than 500 and I don’t really have a reason, it just seems doable. Traditionally NaNoWriMo takes place in November but if people can have Christmas in July then I think I can get away with this. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have a chain of crosses so beautiful the crippling pressure not to break it will keep me writing indefinitely. Wish me luck!

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Keeping things still on the writing front, I recently came across the blog of writer Chuck Wendig. He’s an American author of just a crazy amount of books, a number of which are about writing. Admittedly, I haven’t read any of his books…yet. His blog on the other hand I can’t get enough of. It’s equal parts writing advice, writing challengers, personal journal, and mysterious macro photos. Across all of these his ability to write well and his ability to write humorously is extremely evident. Like I said he’s exceptionally prolific when it comes to churning out books, which alone makes me interested in anything he has to say when it comes to writing advice. The fact that he writes well and is incredibly successful doesn’t hurt either. Sometimes his writing advice is spot on, hitting marks on the act of writing itself, to how to stay motivated, to how to navigate the industry. Sometimes it’s pure nonsense, in the best way. I’m not sure which one I prefer. The latter can tickle my funny bone so well I have no option but to laugh out loud, like I did with this post which I read in a quiet office block, earning me a few looks.

If you’re into blogs, into writing, or into having a chuckle I suggest you check it out.

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Remember, everyone’s a little bit weird but we’re all trying our best.

Talk soon

Damian

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March 21, 2017

Music today comes from Donovan Woods, a singer songwriter from Canada. This song is one of my favourites from him and is entitled Put On, Cologne

21-03-2017

Last year I wrote a novelette entitled The Case of Henry and the Hamster, about a simple man with a Sherlock obsession and a murder to solve. As it’s a bit of an awkward length – novelettes being a harder sell for competitions and magazines and the like – and because I’m not sure what else to do with it, I think I want to self publish it.

Self publishing, though, can be a double edged sword. On one hand it’s great that we live in a time when such a thing is possible, where I can get my words out there to anyone who’s interested, and that anyone can do it. On the other hand, anyone can do it. This has lead to a flood of self published books being released on the market, most of which aren’t of the best quality. Because of this there’s a stigma around self publishing, one that’s not entirely undeserved. There are exceptions, of course. Andy Weir, who wrote The Martian, started by self publishing his novel one chapter at a time. Likewise Cory Doctorow, who wrote Little Brother and many other great books, offers all his books for free in digital format off his website. Both of these guys do have publishing deals as well but I’m encouraged that they had a strong enough belief in self publishing to try it, and that it payed off.

Ultimately, for me, it comes down to why do I want to do it and what do I expect from it. Do I expect to release my story and have it take the world by storm? Hell no. Do I expect to make money off of it’s release? Again, no. If I do release it I’m planning to make it available for free. What I really want is to release it and have at least some people read it, more than just the five family members I can count on to download my story. Realistically, this isn’t a lofty goal, which puts a pretty big tick in the pro column.

One thing that’s holding me back is that on some level I think it’ll decrease my chances of being seen as a ‘professional writer’. Part of the problem is that I know someone who has self published and it made them look a fool by doing so. This was, however, entirely because of the way they went about it. The person in question repeatedly told everyone, both on social media and in real life, that they’d “been published”; purposefully neglecting to include the ‘self’ part of the process. They also charged their friends and family for their work and then pressured everyone around them to buy it. This person is admittedly not the most mature person I know and I believe they did have the false expectations of taking the world by storm and making a lot of money. I am not that person, I do not have those expectations, and probably need to put that worry behind me.

Another reason I’ve been waiting is because I was wanting a bit of a fan base to release it to, or at least a small group of people who don’t know me immediately who might be interested in reading it. This is a really tricky one because how the hell does someone get a fan base? Really, it hadn’t even occurred to me to try and do so until I started contributing to the Sanspants Radio podcast, Movie Maintenance (which does have a fairly solid fan base). I’ve been writing this blog for a little while now and have been slowly getting more followers (hi all!), but after doing the podcast and being encouraged to join twitter those numbers have increased. This is really the entirety of my tactics to get a fan base; be consistent in posting blogs, contribute to the podcast, and try and be as funny on twitter. Although, on that note, Sanspants have recently started releasing radio plays as part of their content and one of the producers, Gabe, recently suggested we rework The Case of Henry and the Hamster to fit that format. Which, if anything, is another tick in the pro column because it means listeners of the podcast who enjoy the radio play are more likely to download the story and share it around. Basically, I can poach some of their fans rather than rely on having ones of my own.

The big and final tick in the pro column is that Brother Jonathan generously gifted me a printed version of the story for our 30th birthday (‘our’ due to the fact we shared a womb, aka, twins), complete with a gorgeous cover he designed that deserves to be out in the world. Which is why I’ll show you it right now.

Cover Henry

Pretty, right? The printed version came up great and ideally I’d like to offer them to people, but as that will cost them cash I think I’ll stick to the digital version for now.

Ultimately, there’s never a perfect time to release a first story to the world, especially when you’re doing it yourself, but I think I’ve wrestled up enough cons to convince me to do it, even if those five family members are the only ones that download it.

I guess what I’m saying is, expect to hear more about where you can download it from real soon.

Thanks for helping me talk this one though, you’re a pretty good listener.

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Remember, while the squirrel may save up nuts for winter the bear just falls asleep. Which means there really is no one right way to do a thing.

Talk soon

Damian

March 14, 2017

14:03:2017

Today’s blog song, The Fear, is not a new one but it is a good one. Ben Howard is a singer songwriter from England who’s first album Every Kingdom was just sensational, powerful and tense, and only got better with every relisten.

 

Life continues to be busy. Most of the time I’m of the mind that this is a good thing, although lately I’ve found myself rebelling against it; which is to say becoming sulky whenever I’m tired but still have to leave the house because past Damian has made commitments. I’m finding it hard to slice away some time to do my own things (like writing, like I am now, hi!) and haven’t felt that I’ve had a lot of time to myself lately. Basically, I’m an introvert who needs the occasional bout of D-time (Damian-time), and will contract a serious case of the grumps if I don’t get it.

Or in other words…null

Summer’s partly to blame. Melbourne’s currently going through a period of annoyingly gorgeous weather that’s making everyone want to be social, no doubt in the mind of making hay while the sun shines (or in this case drink beer outside while the sun shines). I realise I’m complaining about how annoying it is that everyone wants to hang out with me all the time and drink beer in the sunshine, which I am, because I’m a monster. No, obviously it’s awesome to drink beer in the sun with all my favourite people (bar the ones that live overseas), still, there’s a part of me that’s looking forward to winter and having things quiet down a bit. I like the idea of locking myself up against the cold, wearing beanies, eating soup, getting some writing done, and drinking beer inside for a change. No doubt I’m romanticising it. I think ultimately it’s just a case of too much of a good thing, and perhaps not enough variety of social to solo.

Work continues to be the second part of this problem. Things have ramped up at the job I’ve decided to leave and it’s becoming insanely busy for me. It’s like all the time my position was cruisey, and all the work I didn’t have to do then, has condensed into these last few months, somehow knowing I’m planning to leave. It’s horrible karmic. As for the jobs I’ve applied for, I haven’t heard anything. This could be a good thing, or a bad thing, or nothing at all. I’m hoping it means they’re still thinking things through and that I could get an interview at any point. At the very least I still have hope, which is enough to see me through each day.

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152949I recently finished Neil Gaiman’s View From the Cheap Seats, which is a selection of essays, novel introductions, and articles Gaiman has written across his career. I consumed it in audiobook version, often while riding to and from work, and internally referenced that time ‘Riding with Neil’. I now find it hard to read anything without hearing the words spoken in his melodic voice.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, far more than I was expecting. Gaiman is a favourite of mine, as he is to many, and so I knew that I was likely to enjoy this varied collection of his writing. What I wasn’t expecting was how inspired it would end up making me, especially towards my own writing. I found the combination of Gaiman’s quiet optimism and loud imagination meant that anytime after I went riding with Neil I had a score of ideas to write down and an urge to flesh them out immediately. Even when it was something as simple as an author description or an old newspaper article, Gaiman would use such imaginative words and imagery that my own imagination would flare into life and bombard me with visions and stories.

I also enjoyed the book on multiple levels. Since Gaiman includes so much of himself and his experiences into his writing it worked as an autobiography. In fact it even seems to be laid out that way, with the first few articles referencing his childhood and latter ones the progression of his career and home life. Gaiman also clearly loves writing and so often writes about writing, meaning the book also worked as a book on writing. The canny reader (or listener) could pull out a score of invaluable writing lessons from this collection, both on the act of writing and Gaiman’s approach to it. It also worked as a book on reading as it included Gaiman’s own clear love of reading (the quantity of books he’s alluded to have read is intimidating) and suggestions on other authors to read. Finally, it is quite simply good entertainment. With the subject matter being varied and wide but still shot through with similar themes and values.

I miss riding with Neil. However, I am in luck as he recently released a new series of stories, a collection depicting his interpretation of the Norse mythologies. I expect I’ll be back riding with Neil very soon. I highly suggest you do the same.

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Remember; the story of Icarus isn’t a warning about flying too close to the sun, it’s about ensuring you’re properly prepared when you do.

Talk soon

Damian

March 8, 2017

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Bear’s Den is a folk rock band from London. The combination of folk, rock, and London was more than enough to ensure my interest in the band, not to mention their great name, but then I stuck around for their subtle, rumbling tunes, that become more enjoyable on subsequent listens. Today’s blog song is their tune New Jerusalem, and is one of my favourites.

My last post was all about what fantasy stories mean to me and a bit of my history with them. This was supposed to be introduction to another bit of writing, some almost flash fantasy fiction, but then quickly became a blog post in it’s own right. Good for it. Anyway, that leads me today where I will share the almost flash fantasy fiction. In fact, I’m going to do it right now before this introduction gains it’s own life and we go through the whole cycle again.

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I think it’s time I was leaving. I don’t want to work at this job anymore. I’m not really sure I ever did. Now, I know I don’t. It’s not that it’s a bad job or that I work with bad people, it’s just that it’s slowing making me sadder everyday. It’s getting to the point where I find myself thinking about if I were to be injured and how great that would be because then I would have a legitimate excuse to not show up tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, or even the next week if it was particularly bad (but not in a serious or long term way, or in any kind of way that meant I was limited in what I could do).

Worse, the weekday, workday, sadness has started infecting my previously cheerful weekends as well. Two days doesn’t seem very long when you have to work five, which actually feel like ten. Sunday’s a ride off because it’s really pre-Monday at this point. Which leaves me with Saturday. One day where I do my best to not think about having to make that trip into work. Or face another email regarding something I no longer give even the smallest shit about. Or kill time just for the sake of killing time because all I really want is for the clock to read four pm. One day spent waiting for the week ahead which I know if shown on a graph would display a steadily increasing red line of sadness.

What’s even scarier is that the red line of sadness has on occasion flickered into a greyish-blue line of nothing, just…nothing. When that greyish-blue line is present I am dispassionate, disinterested, and indifferent to all the good things and the bad; and I know that if the red line changes to the greyish-blue line for good, well, then I’ll never leave. So, I really do think it’s time I was leaving. While I still can.

I don’t know where I’ll go, or what I’ll do, but I know wherever it is I want it to be somewhere where the fantastic can happen. Somewhere where I would never eat an overpriced apple cake, that I don’t really need anyway, just as a means of reclaiming the five minutes it takes me to do so.

Maybe I’ll go hunt dragons. Strap on some heavy armor, run through the wild, and bring down one of the beautiful and terrifying beasts. Feel the sweat pour down my back as the bright sun gleams off the battered metal that clothes me. Breath through intense exhaustion as the scaled animal, that just might be a god, and I go head to head. Or maybe I’ll help them hatch their eggs. I’ve never really been much of a fighter anyway. I could build a giant nest for them and light a fire underneath to get the temperature just right. Then when the eggs hatch, I could help care for the young, feed them, teach them, sing to them. A dragon nursemaid. Why not? It certainly sounds fantastic enough.

Or perhaps I’ll go somewhere cold, but not from air conditioning turned too high. Rather, the kind of cold that will penetrate down through me to a microscopic level so that even my individual proteins will feel like they’re shivering against each other. I’ll go to a land that is defined by its cold. One that has an endless winter. I’ll find, no, build, a small cabin where I can hide and be alone. I’ll grow a beard and chop wood and have a small fireplace I can sit next to with a blanket and a mug of something that burns as it passes down my throat. I might let one person join me there. A lady who is kind, and loves me, and happy to drink by the fire as I tell my tales of past adventures, and she tells me hers. We’ll have a pet wolf, of course.

Or maybe I’ll go talk to some ghosts in the southern states of North America. Visit a part of the country that’s part Caribbean, part French, and part something else entirely. A place of music and magic. I’ll take a paddle boat down the Mississippi and eat gumbo as I converse with a voodoo Queen, dead over two hundred years ago. I could learn her songs, stamp my feet against the moist ground, and raise an army of the dead; then ask them to help the living. I could possibly conquer all the Americas with an undead voodoo army but charity seems a better use of their time. Mine as well. At least I’ll know my efforts are being put to a good, human, use – not just helping a company continue to be a company.

Or maybe I’ll take to the ocean. Grow some callouses and be a pirate. Feel the solid wooden boards beneath my feet and know how fragile they really are against the might of the sea. I’ll drink rum with the women and men that make up my crew, learn every part of what makes a ship, speak in nothing but nautical terms, look at the stars at night, and forget about things like light pollution, and social media, and office attire, and alarm clocks. I’ll sail through tropical archipelagos and come across a school of sea serpents that writhe and wriggle from the water as the try to destroy my ship. I’ll fight them off then find a baby serpent trapped under a rock and realise they were just parents doing what they had to to care for their young, as so many of us do. I’ll befriend the baby, help make her strong, and journey across the many waters so she can reconnect with her estranged parents. It’ll be hard to say goodbye, but I’ll do it, and I’ll be richer for it.

Or perhaps I should become a King. There must be some fairy tale land out there in need of one. I’ll rule with an iron fist and a gentle heart, and a sword of immense power; naturally. I’ll care for the fairy folk under my rule and lead them to great victories over the creatures of dark magic. I’ll battle their powerful leader, a demon warlord from the forgotten realm who, rumour claims, was once a man; no doubt one kept too long in middle management. We’ll go one on one in a final fight, winner take all. Except when the time comes I won’t fight. I’ll drop my magic sword and give him a hug – because that’s all those middle management types really need. The evil taint will leach away from him and his horde, and peace will once more reign across the land…until the next time

Or maybe I’ll befriend a troll and go on a long cross country adventure with him to the land of giants. We’ll sleep beneath the stars and walk until our feet feel ready to drop off. We’ll visit little villages along the way and in some we’ll be heroes and in others we’ll be villains. We’ll drink too much ale and discover a lost magic forgotten millennia ago. Forgotten by all but the giants. We’ll make our way into their giant city (both for giants and giant in size) and we’ll feel small. But not small like someone unseen and lost in the corner of an office somewhere, simply small in stature but big in heart because our adventuring has taken us somewhere new and exciting. Too exciting in fact, because the leader of the local mafia will take a liking to us and before we know it me and my trollish friend will be caught up in her crew. Except it’ll turn out she’s not really a mafia Don but the deposed Queen. We’ll give her the forgotten magic and she’ll restore order to the land and name us knights of her royal order. The smallest knights that ever served.

Or perhaps I’ll get lost in a world of rain forests where the people resemble a kind of sloth-human hybrid and communicate through singing. I’ll live in a village made of tree houses and vines, and that exists so high up in the canopy you can’t even see the ground. I’ll eat exotic fruits, drink rainwater fresh from the sky, and learn that the diverse and chaotic jungle is actually one big organism interconnected in ways I’ll never understand. I’ll take a lover, build a house, raise a family, and protect them from the dragonfly people that occasionally attack our village. It’ll be a good life, one where I’ll never think of red lines, or greyish blue lines, or graphs of any kind. I’ll grow old in my tree house home, and die, and my children will weep as the lower my body to the unseen forest floor to decompose and take its part in the endless cycle.

Or perhaps I’ll get possessed by a fox demon. A friendly fellow who speaks in a cockney accent and makes my beard bigger and more luscious than it’s ever been before, but, as is usually the case, his gifts will come with a price.

Or maybe I’ll learn to talk to the spirit of cities and discover that they don’t think much of us humans.

Or I’ll meet a witch who’s sick of people no longer being afraid of her kind. One who seeks to change public perception back to one of terror.

Or I’ll visit the lost city in the clouds who think a world made of earth is purely children’s tales.

Or I’ll come across a magic snail who’s lost his shell.

Or I’ll live forever and have centuries pass as days.

Or maybe I’ll do all these things.

And maybe I just have, and you have too.

There’s so much to do, so much to learn, so many places to visit, so many entities to talk with, so many adventures to go on, and so many stories to read.

So I really do think it’s time I was leaving.

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Talk soon

Damian