June 26, 2017

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Today’s song is entitled Changes and is by American singer songwriter, Sean Scolnick, who goes by the stage name Langhorne Slim. It’s a folksy track from his album The Spirit Moves.

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Current chain of writing days: 41

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I’ve written before about my love on the interconnectedness that the internet provides us with. Not just the obvious examples of social media or the ability to video chat with friends and family pretty much anywhere in the world (although that does amaze and will continue to amaze me until the day I die), but also the connections with strangers in the weird maze that is the world wide web. Due to just about every website coming with a comments sections these days the chances of bumping into a stranger with similar interests as you has increased dramatically. Obviously there are the opposite examples of that, namely the hate filled comments spewing out of just about any mainstream message board, whether it be under a youtube video or whatever popular image on facebook is currently doing the rounds; but in other corners of the net, particularly on websites that aren’t as popular or that cater to more niche interests, there are people reaching across the globe with fingers of fiber optic cables and finding welcoming fingers reaching back.

Let me explain. I use an app on my phone to generate rain sounds while I sleep. I started using it a while back as I’m not a great sleeper and The Lady Holly isn’t the quietest. Originally, I had it on for about an hour to put me off to sleep, as it comes with the option to set it to run as long as you want. However, overtime I’ve increased it to play the whole night. This is due to the aforementioned shitness of my sleeping capability and the high likelihood I would wake up at some point during the night only to fixate on the sound of my girl’s heavy breathing. I really love using this app, it even helps me with waking up. I set it to turn off half an hour before my alarm goes so if I wake up and hear quiet I know I have to start thinking about getting up soon, but if I hear rain I can go back to sleep. Another option the app provides – and it’s called White Noise Free by the way, the free insinuating my cheapness at having not purchased the full version – is that it comes preloaded with around twenty sounds to ensure the user can chose one to their liking. Like I said, I’m a rain sounds kind of guy, but the other options include things like a general white noise – as well as a brown noise, and a pink noise, apparently there are other shades of noise – waves crashing, jungle sounds, campfire, fan sounds, as well as oddly a dripping tap and a clock ticking; so it’s also useful if you want to torture someone.

Maybe, though, you flip through the options and decide none of them are quite right. Yes, there are wave sounds, but you want a different kind of wave sound. Well, you’re covered there too because the app also has a download option, which when clicked takes you to a catalogue of hundreds of sounds. This is where the internet connectedness kicks in because this catalogue is provided from people all over the world, using yet another feature of the app, to record their own sounds and upload them to the website for everybody else to use. This is, to me, just the coolest thing. Want wave sounds? There are hundreds of them, from all over the globe. Want to hear some from Lake Michigan? Lucky you because Andy has uploaded one for you. Maybe you want to listen to the running water of the Gorge Basin in Launceston, Tasmania while you drift off. Good, because Pamela has supplied a recording of just that to the database. Scrolling through the many many options it seems like there isn’t a sound in the world that hasn’t been recorded and stored somewhere on there. It blows my mind, and is such a great thing, not just to fall asleep to, but simply that a catalogue of sounds from this era of life exists. I find the hopeful prosperity of that catalogue existing extremely uplifting for some reason.

For myself I stumbled across all this when I decided I wanted a different kind of rain sound to fall asleep to. As a kid my family and I drove up and back from our home in Traralgon in rural Victoria to Melbourne city quite frequently. We had a lot of extended family we would visit there and the trips would take roughly two hours each time. Due to my parents generally being the last to leave any party, as well as attempting to make the most of any weekend, quite often the return trip home would happen at night, and occasionally in the rain. There was something so safe and secure and comforting about falling asleep in the back of the car on those trips home. Something about the movement of the car, the sound of the rain, being warm and surrounded by my family, and knowing that if I did fall asleep there was a pretty good chance someone would carry me to bed once we did arrive home. It was probably the closest I’ll ever get to being back in the womb; especially because my twin brother, Jonathan, was usually fast asleep beside me.

That sound, rain on a car roof, is what I looked for. I found it, multiple versions, in fact, but it was Dave that provided the one that sounded most right. Dave, who lives in Los Alamitos in California, and who recorded the sound while driving around in his volvo on new year’s eve in 2016. To me there is something magical about the fact that Dave can share this sound with me, that I can fall asleep to rain from a city I’ve never been to, to know that it was recorded in a volvo, and that thanks to the comments section I can even reach out and thank Dave for making the recording. What’s more I’m not the only connection here, far from. One thousand and seventeen other people have downloaded the recording, and three hundred and sixty thousand other people have listened to the sound of rain on Dave’s volvo, and of all of those five have left a positive comment and a thank you in the comments section. Six now.

And to add one more link to this chain l can also share the sound with you, whoever you are. Thanks for connecting.

(You can also find the site here)

Talk soon,

Damian

 

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June 14, 2017

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Today’s tune is an old one from one of my favourites, Passenger, before his Let Her Go days. Entitled, The Last Unicorn the track is a heartbreaking love song about loss and longing, centered around a one night stand. Only Passenger could do that.

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Current chain of writing days: 29

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Let’s have a talk about rewrites, aka editing, aka crying over your computer while asking your writing to be better. I have to admit I’m not great at editing, or at least I don’t have a solid process for how to do it. Actually, firstly, let me tell you the two types of ways I break down editing.

Firstly, there’s grammar and spelling. Which is exactly what it sounds like, but there is also more to it than making sure you didn’t actually write organism when you meant to say orgasm (accidentally saying someone had a shuddering organism would be terrible embarrassing). In my mind this is also the part where you clean up your writing. Literally examine each sentence to see what can be cut away or condensed, or even rewritten to enhance meaning or make it less cliche’ (for the shuddering orgasm example you could replace the word shuddering with flying, or uncontrollable, or abrupt, or gratuitous, or wasteful – some of these may be cringe inducing but they’re all a lot less cliche’ than shuddering and depending on your scene could also be more defining). It’s the part where you really look at the words themselves and work them to a point where they’re pleasing to the eye and the mind, like a gardener shaping a hedge, or a clown trying to get his make up just right. For example, probably should have just stuck with the single analogy there. The clown one, obviously.

The second type is all about the story. It’s looking at the journey your character has gone on and ensuring all the right elements are in place, that all the set ups have been knocked down and justified, all story threads tied up. For example, if you had a side story detailing a character’s effort to tame a dinosaur and then stop just before they become best friends to conclude the major story line technically your spelling and grammar are probably fine; but if your story ends and I don’t see Jimmy ride the dinosaur I will scream. This one’s also more intuition than science. It’s about ensuring the story flows well, that the theme is strong throughout, that it feels right. It can be a hard thing to do. The challenge is in analysing it as a whole and finding the spots where it feels off and then trying to figure out why. This is probably the part I’m really bad at.

I think part of the problem, if it is in fact a problem, is that I edit a lot as I go. Usually when I sit down to write I reread over the last section I did to remind myself what I wrote and get my head into the right mindset. However, I typically end up editing too. Again, it’s probably not so much a problem, other than the fact that it slows me down a bit, but it does means I’ve never gotten into the habit of finishing a piece and then figuring out ways to improve it. Luckily, for me, I do have people to help me with that. Not only has Brother Jonathan completed a writing and editing course, and is a quality writer himself, I also have a close group of writer friends whose eyeballs I force my words into and then choke until they spit out some quality feedback. Finally, the Lady Holly (aka Future Wife™) happens to be particularly awesome when it comes to the spelling and grammar side of things. Of course once all these beautiful peeps have passed on their thoughts it’s still up to me to saddle up and get-a rewriting, and sometimes I can be a lazy cowboy.

The reason all this has been passing through my mind lately is that I brutally sacrificed a bunch of my writing the other day in the name of editing. I’d started working on a novella and it wasn’t coming out quite right. I was 5000 words in but instead of perpetually adding to it like I normally would I instead analysed the shit out of it. I practically wrote an essay on the things I liked about it, the things I didn’t, and then how to fix those things. Now I’m 2000 words into the second draft and the love between me and my story is strong.

Now, the trashing of thousands of words isn’t a process I’d like to continue if I can help it, but the essay analysis definitely is. Something about the free form brain to fingers deconstruction allowed me to find the weak spots in a way I hadn’t been able to before. It generated alternatives to what I had already written and then once out I was able to compare the various options and chose the right piece to slot easily into the puzzle that was the story rather than cramming in an incorrect piece and hoping no one would notice. It was good, and the result was immediately beneficial as I’m really enjoying this second draft. This must be how other writers feel. It’s great. Who knew rewriting could be so fun? And I didn’t even cry once.

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Remember, if you hear hoof beats don’t think horses or zebras, think centaurs. The world deserves to be as magical as possible.

Talk soon

Damian

June 7, 2017

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I Need My Girl by The Nationals is today’s blog song. Amazing bit of music, especially the underlying guitar riff running through it, it affects me in a way only good tunes can.

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Current chain of writing days: 23

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My writing boot camp is over. All campers (me) had a wonderful time. To give a quick summary it went like this: TV and books were consumed, food and coffee were devoured, and words were written and written and written. I didn’t achieve all the lofty goals that the naive, optimistic, me of a week and a half ago set out to do but I made some headway into a couple of projects, enough that they’re now ticking around my head where I can slowly add to what I already have. They’ll get done, in time. In the meantime I very much enjoyed wearing pyjamas for the majority of a week.

I’m now 2.6 days into my new job and so far so good. People are nice, mostly just learning the ropes so far, and best of all I’m already past the hump as it’s now a four day week for as far as the eye can see.

Good, right?

Well, for me at least.

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I thought I’d give a little rundown on what I’m currently working on, as much to get my head around them as for any other reason.

Firstly, Change: A fantasy novel depicting the life of a changeling.
Changelings are a subsection of the community who experience random extreme physicals mutations throughout their life, known as changes. I’ve always read fantasy novels (a blog about why and what they mean to me can be found here) and so it was only a matter of time before I would try to write one of my own. Saying that, I’m not planning for this one to be the medieval England setting most people might typical associate with fantasy, but rather a mix of various settings while still incorporating some of the usual fantasy tropes.
I’m currently five thousand words into this story, so still very much early days as a typical novel might sit somewhere around ninety thousand, but I’m enjoying it so far and will hopefully get a first draft complete by the end of the year.

Sherlock Radio play: In addition to our usual weekly podcast, Movie Maintenance, the guys and girls who make up our crew have now started releasing monthly radio plays and audio stories under the moniker Movie Maintenance Presents. As the fans of the first podcast are likely to listen to the second, and because the episode I did on Sherlock went pretty well, it seemed an obvious idea for me to write a Sherlock radio play. As the pitch I used in the MM episode was based off the current TV show I couldn’t, for legal reasons, just adapt that into the radio play, so instead I’m writing a new Sherlock story set in the original 1800’s. I’m still in the planning stages of this one, although because it’s a mystery the initial outlining will be lot more thorough than my usual process, so by the time I start writing I expect it’ll come out pretty quickly.

The Hive: A horror novella about a cantankerous reporter assigned to complete an article on an annual farmers market out in the country.
I’m not really a fan of horror, actually, that’s not entirely true, horror movies make me run and hide little the little boy I internally am, but horror literature I’m surprisingly okay with. Either way, it’s always good to push your boundaries and try something new. Good friend, Nice Guy Sean, came up with the idea that he, Gabe, Tom, and I each write a horror novella, which we’ll then combine into an anthology book that we’ll then make available for fans to buy. It’ll be called The Seasons of Horror Anthology, as each of us will set our stories within a different season; I’m spring.
This is the project I spent most of last week writing and it’s coming along pretty well. I’m probably a third through and am enjoying writing my grump of a character and trying to embed the story with as many creepy vibes as I can before getting to the truly scary stuff. Should finish this one in a month or so, which will give me plenty of time to do additional drafts as I think we’re going for a halloween release.

Two Stories: A play about a relationship told simultaneously in two parts. That probably sounds confusing but the basic idea is that a girl and guy swap the narrator role of the story of their relationship whilst also acting it out. That’s still confusing isn’t it? You’ll just have to wait for it to come out. I’ve done very little for this one other than jot down a few early ideas, but I have the tone very firmly in my mind, and am planning to discovery write most of it and just see how it comes out. If I can put aside a few days to it I think it should come out okay.

And that’s it!

Fun, right? Well it was helpful for me at any rate.

Alright, back to work.

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Wait, one more thing. I’m going to be recording a short story I wrote last year for a possible future Movie Maintenance Presents and will be releasing a free eBook version at the same time it comes out and so decided to make a cover for it:

The Fox's Beard Cover 3

Pretty, right?

Okay, feel free to continue with your day.

Talk soon

Damian