Fortune Delivered


There was a knock at the door.

Alan rose from the couch and waited outside the hallway for just a second before entering. He didn’t want the delivery driver to think he’d been sitting there, just waiting for his food to arrive. He had been, but he didn’t want them to think that.

Through the glass of the front door he saw a bored looking asian man. He was young, around his age, and wore a bright puffy jacket with the delivery company’s logo on the front — black to the jacket’s garish yellow — and a motorcycle helmet still on his head, only the top half of his face visible through the lifted visor.

Most importantly though, his hands held food.

Well, they held a brown paper bag, but inside that bag was food.

Alan had been dreaming about this meal. All. Week.

His diet had started two weeks ago. It had meant to be three weeks ago, but then on that first tuesday someone had left a pack of biscuits in the break room and he’d eaten one before remembering he was supposed to be on a diet, and so after that he’d decided it would be best to just wait to the following Monday to start the diet again. More complete that way.

Other than that one deviation though, he’d done quite well. A whole fortnight of sticking to his meal plans, limiting his snacking to only the healthiest options, and denying himself of sugar all together. He felt great. Well, he felt withdrawn and tired, but he was also very proud of himself.

Naturally, that sort of self discipline deserved a reward.

He opened the door and forcibly stopped himself from reaching for the bag. He didn’t want to seem like a food starved crazy person. Best to let the delivery driver hand it to him. These things had a protocol.

‘Hello,’ he said, and the delivery driver turned to look at him.

He did reach for the bag then, but the driver pulled it away from his reach to read the docket stapled to the side.

‘Prawn toast, spring rolls, combination black bean, and a twelve pack of wontons?’ he said with a muffled voice as he held the bag hostage.

‘Yep. That’s what we ordered,’ Alan said, reaching again for the food, wanting the interaction to be over, now self conscious of the solo order.

The driver gave over the bag, and Alan started to close the door.

‘Wait,’ the driver said. ‘Orders of this size come with a serve of fortune cookies.’ The driver reached into his backpack and pulled out the complementary dessert.

‘Thank you,’ Alan said, taking them, but not entirely sure if he wanted them, not having factored the cookies into his calculated reward.

‘Have a good night,’ the driver said.

Alan thought he was smiling at him, the edges of his eyes had crinkled upwards, but he couldn’t be sure since he was unable to see his mouth. He thought it best to presume he was, gave him a smile of his own, and said, ‘you too.’

He closed the door behind him and carried the brown paper bag and fortune cookies into the lounge room. Alan smiled. He and the food were finally alone.

He quickly changed out of his jeans and shirt and into sweatpants and a tee — he’d only been wearing the clothes until the interaction with the delivery driver was over — settled himself onto the couch, turned on the tv, and pulled the food into his lap.


The meal was everything he’d hoped it would be.

The prawn toast was the perfect combination of crunchy and soft, the wontons squishy and savoury, the spring rolls flaky and flavoursome, and the black bean sauce ran dark rivers across his taste buds that he drank down like a man who hadn’t eaten for a week. Or a fortnight.

He leaned back against the couch at the end of the meal, a picture of satisfaction. He laid his hand across his belly which felt full, but a comfortable full. He didn’t need another bite.

But still…

His eyes moved to the plastic bag and the fortune cookies within.

One would be okay. Surely. They were so thin and light. Yes, just one.

He reached across the coffee table and lifted the bag to him. It had one of those sticky tags around the top that he could never quite open and so he ripped a hole in the plastic. The smell of the cookies wafted towards him. He breathed it in. They were far from his favourite dessert, but after two weeks without sugar the smell triggered all the right receptors in his brain. He looked in and and grabbed the biggest one.

The pastry snapped easily in his grip, causing bits of crumb to fall back down onto his lap. His mouth watered in anticipation. Then he saw the strip of paper hanging from the side of the cookie. He’d almost forgotten about the generic bit of fortune that the sweets were named for. Might as well read it, he thought.

He took up the small bit of paper and read:

You will discover you are not alone.

Alan stared at the words, printed a faded grey on the cheap paper, and chuckled. Yes, it was the usual nonsense. A sweet platitude but ultimately meaningless. Besides, he was happy to be alone.

A noise sounded from the other end of the house.

A thud, then a scurry.

Alan looked towards the sound and listened, waiting to hear if there would be a repeat. There wasn’t, so he decided it best to ignore it, and turned his attention back to the cookie. He put both halves into his mouth and chomped down. His eyes closed with bliss as he crunched the bits into smaller bits, delighting as the sweetness activated the corresponding taste buds.

The noise came again. Thud, then scurry.

Alan turned, mid chew, to once more look towards the other end of the house. He couldn’t ignore it now, could he? No. He decided. He sighed and rose, placed the rest of the cookies onto the coffee table and brushed the crumbs off his lap.

The house was mostly a single hallway, with the kitchen and lounge room at one end, a spare bedroom at the other, and in between his bedroom and the bathroom. He assumed the noise must be some kind of animal that had gotten into the house, a possum perhaps.

He stopped outside his bedroom door, gave it a quick look but saw no sign of disturbance.

That settled it then, the possum must be in the spare room.

He pushed open the door. The room was silent, the thudding and scurrying paused for the moment, but there was a smell present. Musty. Not like an animal exactly, more like…aged. He stepped one foot into the room, shielded the rest of his body behind the door, then reached out and flicked on the switch. Warm light enveloped the room, which grew brighter as the halogen bulb became hotter.

Something was definitely in there. The room, which served as a spare bedroom/study/storage room was crowded. Plenty of places for a critter to hide. The desk chair was down, knocked over, as was a stack of his old textbooks. The explained the two thumps, but not the scurrys.

Alan bent to pick up one of the fallen textbooks. As he did he heard a noise come from under the bed. A snuffle, was probably the best way to describe it. Did possum’s snuffle? He wondered.

He got on all fours, holding the textbook as a shield, and peered under the bed.

He thought he saw movement, but it was black moving on black so it was hard to be definitive. He considered crawling under the bed with a broom or something, but quickly dismissed the idea. No, better he take the hands off approach.

He stood up, moved back to the safety of the doorway, and flicked the light switch off and on a number of times.

Amazingly, it worked.

Alan heard a snuffle, saw movement, and so left the light on.

What came out from under the bed was not a possum, or a rat, or any animal Alan had ever seen or heard of. It was round, it’s body an oblong cylinder, off of which came two pairs of feathered wings, and three sets of legs.

And that was it.

No head, no eyes, no ears. Just the single piece of flesh with wings and legs attached. At least Alan thought they were legs. They somewhat resembled chickens feet, but had the same covering of pink flesh the rest of the body had, making them also look like hands.

Whatever definition you chose, the creature used them to walk itself out from under the bed, emitting more snuffles as it went. Alan wondered how it could snuffle when it had no mouth. He wondered a lot of things in that moment, at least in the recesses of his mind; the front part was panicking. Alan let out a sound, a sort of questioning groan, and the creature spun towards him. He stepped backwards out of the room and slammed the door.

Something like, what the hell was that? ran through his head on repeat, although it was less coherent, and more like a swarm of general confusion and horror.

Alan paced down the hallway trying to think of what to do. Should he call animal control? Did they handle…monsters. Which was the only word he could think of to describe the thing. What was he going to say to them? Hello, some creature crawled out from under my spare bed that looks like a headless pig, with wings and an extra set of legs.

They’d think he was crazy.

He’d think he was crazy if it wasn’t for the fact that he could still hear the beast snuffling around in the other room.

His pacing took him back to the lounge room where the remaining fortune cookies drew him like steel to a magnet. He wasn’t hungry, but he was a nervous eater, and now seemed like a good time to be nervous. Alan drew out a cookie and had already cracked it when he saw the previous fortune.

You will discover you are not alone.

That had certainly proven to be true, he thought, first with panicked amusement and then growing horror. The cookies? Surely not. No. No. That was insane. Right?

He remembered back. He had first heard the sound after he’d snapped the first cookie. But, if that were the case…

The walls shook as a thump sounded from the other end of the house. Alan ran towards the noise, bile rising in his throat as he moved down the hallway. He swallowed it and swung the door open.

The creature filled the room. It’s huge bulk leaned heavily against one wall and its six legs scrambled as it tried to find space for the extra mass it now carried. The bed was a pile of splinters and linens, and the rest of the rooms clutter was in a state of further disarray.

Alan slammed the door shut and fell back against the hallway wall. He looked down at his hands, which were balled into fists, and forced himself to unclench them. One still held the second fortune cookie, now shattered, his sweat mingling to make it a sticky mess of broken biscuit, a small strip of paper at the center. Seven words told him his second fortune.

Ignore your problems and they will grow.

The bile came back with a vengeance, and this time Alan couldn’t keep it down.


He waited two hours before he opened the next fortune cookie.

That time was spent thinking through the problem while routinely checking in on the creature. It had calmed down after it had destroyed the room. Now it lay in the rubble of his possessions like a dog in its bed.

Here are the solutions Alan came up with and dismissed in those two hours:

  1. Starve it out – Except it had no mouth, so who’s to say the thing is even capable of starving
  2. Kill it – Problematic due to its size and the fact that it seems to have an awareness of his presence despite a lack of eyes. Basically, it might kill him before he can kill it
  3. Call the police – It seemed likely that they would do able to do something — although Alan didn’t know what exactly — but it also seemed likely that they’d have a lot of questions for him, questions he couldn’t answer. He also wondered how much prison time exotic animal dealers got these days
  4. Keep it indefinitely – Too many negatives; hard to explain to visitors, lose a whole room of his house, not really at the point in his life where he can commit to keeping a monster
  5. Give the chinese restaurant a bad review online and complain that their fortune cookies were enchanted – satisfying, but wouldn’t solve the actual problem

Which left him with option number six: open the rest of the fortune cookies and see what happens. It was a problematic option. It had the potential for greater disaster, almost a guarantee really, and by no means did it seem definite that it would offer a solution.

But it might.

That ‘but’ was what he was working with. Out of all the options this seemed like the only one that had even a chance of getting rid of the beast, however small that chance was.

There were two left in the bag. Two seemingly harmless clam shaped wafers with his future written inside. He wondered if it mattered which one he broke next, or, if like the fortunes themselves, all of this was preordained. It didn’t really matter, he supposed. He picked up the one on the left and snapped it in two.

Opportunities to climb high will come your way.

What could that-

A crash. A tear. Plaster and roof tiles and footsteps. From above.

The thing was on the roof.

Alan rushed into his spare room and saw exactly what he feared he would. A hole where a ceiling should be. He ran back down the hallway and towards the front door. Once outside he looked up. On the rooftop, it’s silhouette visible through the moonlight, was the beast. It snuffled, then let out a muffled and ragged caw.

Lights were turning on in his neighbours houses, and through the windows he could see people peering out.

‘Shit. Shit. Shit,’ Alan said, taking the last fortune cookie from his pocket. He really hoped it would have a solution. It cracked under the pressure of his shaking fingers, and with more than a little trepidation he freed the off-white slip of paper from it’s sugary shell.

Open up the senses, and all that bothers you shall disappear.

What the hell did that mean?

No, don’t freak out, Alan told himself. Disappear, that’s a good thing, right? He just had to solve the riddle. Open up his senses. He could figure this out. Sure.

The beast paced across the rooftop, each step cracking tiles and breaking wood.

C’mon, Alan, he thought. Open up his senses? What could that mean? No, he was reading it wrong. It was open up the senses, and the only thing without senses around here was…

Oh no. Alan really hoped he was wrong, but he had a sickly feeling that he wasn’t.

He looked up at the faceless monster, who had stopped its pacing and was now perched on the edge of the roof. It’s posture suggested it was looking down at him.

Alan, feeling miserable, put both halves of the fortune cookie in his mouth and chewed.


The tiles slid under his feet as Alan made his way across the rooftop. The rain had started while he’d been searching through the shed which only made his already dangerous task even more so. He didn’t have a ladder so he’d had to climb up the wheelie bin and then scramble his way over the guttering. Not an easy thing to do when you were carrying a drill in one hand.

He’d almost forgotten he had the thing. He’d received it as a present a few years ago when he’d gone through a handyman phase. Once that’d passed he’d left the drill in the shed with his few other tools to collect dust. It still had some battery though. He hoped it was enough.

He was about a meter from the beast when he slipped. He fell face first down onto the already cracked tiles, which cracked further under his weight. His chin bounced but he managed to keep hold of the drill. He carefully got onto his knees, wiped the blood from his chin, and looked up at the monster who had stepped forward to loom over him.

Alan swallowed his fear, which tasted of bile and fortune cookies, and leapt into action. He jumped onto the monsters back, used one hand to steady himself, gripping its wings, and with the other he turned the drill on. It let out a terrible mechanic whine that was followed with a rumble of thunder from above.

Alan screamed out an apology and forced the drill into the left side of the beasts “head”. The drill took and pushed forward. There was little resistance and he was surprised to see no blood escape the wound. It was as if the monster was made of cork rather than flesh. The creature bucked and scrambled across the roof, but Alan held on. He removed and reinserted the drill to create a similar hole on the right side.

Good. Ears done. Only five more holes to go.

Alan leaned forward and with two quick whirs, gave the beast its nostrils. It reared up in retaliation, it’s two front feet leaving the ground. He gripped tight to the wings, and felt his stomach rise up in his throat.

Lightning cracked.

The beast dropped down and Alan went back to work. He forced the drill into the area where he figured its right eye should be. The thing bucked again, forward this time, causing Alan, already off balance, to slip. He flipped mid air and landed hard on his back, which forced the air out of his lungs.

Alan gasped as he struggled to pull oxygen back into his body. Feeling sore and light headed, he nevertheless managed to draw himself up, drill still in hand.

Thunder boomed again.

Alan wiped the rain from his eyes and charged.

The monster swung its weight towards him but Alan leapt at the last second and brought the drill down to its left, creating a second eye in the creatures front. Alan smiled, he was doing well. Which was when the beast kicked him. He went down for a third time. The drill bounced out of his hands, slide across the roof, and fell to the ground with a smash.

Alan looked from the broken drill to the monster. The two eye holes he had given it stared back at him. It pawed the ground, ready for a charge, then came; one big ball of muscle.

Alan grabbed the closest thing to him, a broken piece of tile, and slashed out as he simultaneously rolled to the side.

The monster, unable to stop its momentum, skidded and toppled over the edge of the roof.

Alan pulled himself up onto all fours, and looked down. Where he expected to see the body of the beast, smashed on the ground alongside his drill, he instead saw it hovering, it’s four wings flapping to keep it in place.

It flew up, drawing eye level with Alan. Lightning cracked and through the sudden light he saw the beast now wore a ragged smile, compliments of the broken tile.

The creature bowed, and Alan met its smile with one of his own.

The monster’s body began to disintegrate, particles of it moving to land on the broken roof, and through the hole it had made.

Where every particle fell, wreckage was restored.

Alan stood in wonder as all around him his roof repaired itself, then looked up to see the last of the beast, it’s newly acquired face, fall to pieces and disappear.

Then he was alone, standing on his roof in the rain.

Alan climbed down and went back inside. He made his way towards the spare room, now completely restored, and checked under the bed to be sure, but there was nothing there. He went back into the lounge room and flopped his sodden body down onto the couch. The discarded packaging of his dinner lay before him.

He wondered if he would ever order take away again.


This creature in this story was influenced by one from chinese mythology, the Hundun. In the mythology the Hundun was the personification of chaos, and lived before the world was really the world. It lived with the gods of the north and south seas, Shu and Hu, who one day decided to grant the Hundun its senses, and so drilled seven holes in its head. On the completion of the final hole the Hundun died, and from its body the universe was created.

The Hundun is a symbol of the undivided beginning, the embodiment of primordial chaos. His lack of senses highlights the complete darkness that exists in the beginning of time, and which ended with the death.

It is also the mandarin name for a wonton.



Thanks for reading,



Image and information from:


January 24, 2018


Last Friday the Lady Holly and I were lucky enough to attend The Porch Sessions. Think of it as a travelling mini festival. Really mini. Set in someone’s backyard. Four musicians, which this year consisted of Ryan Martin John, Tim Hart, Stu Larsen, and Natsuki Kurai, travel around Australia in a number of vans, playing shows in backyards of people who volunteer the spaces. A small crowd of music lovers then spread out on the supplied rugs and blankets, underneath streamers and lights, and picnic and drink while listening to some great tunes. We were those people, and it was excellent. The atmosphere was perfect, intimate but relaxed, and the music incredibly enjoyable. The standout by far was Natsuki Kurai, a harmonicist from Japan, who performed his set with Stu Larsen. He did things with a harmonica that had be heard to be believed. It was like he was singing through it, so natural did he make the sound. He also managed to use the harmonica to make background sounds that matched the lyrics, beat box, and elevate every song it was a part of. Unsurprisingly, their duo is today’s blog song.


Words written for the year: 19,539


I wrote a few weeks ago about my four new years goals, which were, in short; writing, running, reading, and photography. The goal being to increase all of these activities, using a measurable target for each of them. But I also have an unofficial goal for this year as well, one linked to writing. It is thus:

Collect as many rejection letters as possible*.

At the tail end of last year I had two close calls with awards — a longlisting for pilot script, and a shortlisting for a novella — and those close calls have motivated me. I’m going to enter everything, I’m going to submit more of my writing to competitions and magazines than I ever have previously, and I’m going to collect rejection letters like twelve year old me collected pokemon cards.

You may be thinking, surely the goal should be to win or get published, not collect rejection letters, which is where the above asterisk comes in.

*and acceptance letters where possible.

There are a couple or reasons that asterik is a subset of the goal and not the main goal itself.

First, I have no control over whether I win, or whether an editor likes my story. Literally, none. I could try to change my writing so that it fits the niche of whoever I’m submitting it to, and I should definitely be aware of their preferences, but ultimately it’ll still be a Damian Robb story told in a Damian Robb way, and if a Damian Robb story is not what they’re looking for then there’s nothing I can do about that. So, setting my goal to “winning” is unrealistic and ultimately pointless.

Second, receiving rejection letters is what writers do. I’ve read a number of books on writing, and follow an even larger number of writers blogs, and without exception every writer I look up to has an impressive collection of rejection letters. Stephen King, in his early days, kept his rejection letters on a nail above his writing desk, and wrote this in his book; On Writing:

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”

Likewise his son, Joe Hill, also now an acclaimed author, shared this tweet on twitter showcasing the amount of rejection letters he got for a single story.

Of course both those guys are successful authors, so it’s easy for them to show off these war wounds, but it’s important to remember they weren’t when they received them. Being a seasoned writer means receiving rejection letters. It’s a collection, a thing to stockpile, to bring out and show your friends, not something to be ashamed of.

Third, I want to feel positive whenever I submit a piece of writing. I should, right? If I’m submitting something then I have 1) written something (that’s good!) and 2) had the courage and belief in that writing to share it out into the big bad world of possible rejection (also good!). Also, by changing my mindset so that receiving a rejection letter is seen as a good thing, a necessary step on the road to becoming a writer, that’ll stop me feeling like a failure whenever I receive one. I don’t want to feel like a failure, I want to feel like a writer, and they way to feel like a writer is to keep writing; something that becomes infinitely harder to do when I feel like a failure.

Fourth, that pile of rejection letters will become the metaphorical ladder I’ll use to reach greater heights. Writing, like any skill, requires practice and feedback; putting your work out there before it’s ready because that’s the way to make it ready. Having places to submit my writing gives me more reasons to write, and, if the magazine or competition offers it, will provide me with feedback on how to improve. The more rejection letters I receive, the better my writing should become, until, hopefully, they’re not rejection letters anymore.

I’m already off to a good start. I’ve made a spreadsheet (how I love a good spreadsheet) with a list of magazines to submit to on one axis, and a list of finished short stories on the other. There are already a number of crosses (indications of rejection letters) littered across the cells, and I plan to get a lot more before the year is out, and, possibly, a tick or two as well.


Remember, the important thing isn’t to succeed, but to keep trying


Talk soon,


January 17, 2018


Today’s blog song comes from the soundtrack for the film Pete’s Dragon. Admittedly I haven’t actually seen the film, but I did recently acquire the soundtrack after hearing this tune on spotify; Nobody Knows by The Lumineers. A lovely song, and the rest of the soundtrack isn’t half bad either, with a bunch of great instrumental tracks by composer, Daniel Hart.


Words written for the year: 14,330


I have something to tell myself. It’s the one piece of writing advice — or, arguably, writing fact — that I most often forget. Like, daily. I need constant reminding of this little tidbit, and so that’s what today’s blog is for. For me to remind myself, and put down in writing for future-Damian, so he can be reminded too (and hopefully it’ll resonate with any non-Damian’s as well). So, here it is:

First drafts are just first drafts.

Fairly innocuous, right? It’s the kind of statement that sounds like it’s saying something without really saying something. Except it is, let me unpack it.

What I am trying to say to myself is this, a first draft won’t be an amazing work of art. It won’t be without faults, it won’t be without inconsistencies, it won’t be without superfluous bits, or boring bits, or even typos! The first draft won’t be the final draft. It will be a roughly cut bit of stone that kinda looks like something, but will only transform into the sculpture it’s suppose to be through the laborious act of chipping away at it using the hammer and chisel that is editing and redrafting.

Most importantly: It’s allowed to be shit.

Oddly, a blank page doesn’t fill me with despair like some writers, but rather excitement. I have so many ideas in my ideas folder that a blank page is the playground for them to finally run free in. It’s once the ideas are let out of their cages that the problems start.

The first few sessions working on something, I’m fine. I’m having fun exploring whatever the idea is, I’m learning about my characters and world, it’s great. Then there comes a turning point. It’s right about the time I realise I like what I’ve written and think it has potential to be something good. Then BAM! Anxiety and overthinking come barrelling in like two happy sheepdogs, and bowl me over.

That might be an exaggeration.

What I do do is start to analyse the writing as I’m writing it. I’m trying to think ahead. I’m trying to ask all the questions you should ask yourself during a second draft before I’ve even written the first. Unsurprisingly, this cripples the flow of the writing.

So, again, this blog is a reminder: Stop it, Damian. Stop.

What I really want is to get back into that original headspace. That place where it was more about ideas than story structure or perfect dialogue. It’s from that place where the rough kinda-looks-like-something stone comes from. It’s the right brain. But, for a story to work, for it to feel well rounded and succinct and whole, you need the left brain as well; and he’s the one who keeps butting in with his logical thoughts and analytical opinions and messing the whole thing up.

So, how do I handle my left brain so my right brain can get back to work? Well, one option is try to ignore it through force of will, remind myself of all the above stuff, and tell ol’ lefty his time will come, he just needs to wait for the second draft. But I’m not real great at that. I might put my left brain behind the baby gate, but he’s a screamer, and so the problem doesn’t really solve itself.

Another option is to try and sate my left brain, make him feel listened to. I can do this through outlining. Either roughly plot out the next few beats, or even scratch down an entire storyline, so that as I continue to write I feel like I have some idea where the story is going. I’ve found this to be pretty effective at quieting the left brain, but it can then cause right brain to throw a tantrum. He’s now worried that by outlining the story I’m restricting his creativity and imagination and not allowing enough room for cool and interesting and unexpected things to grow. And by he, I mean me, because they’re both parts of my brain, and this isn’t really how brains work anyway.

To get over this second, second guessing myself, I need one final reminder. The outline isn’t set in stone (too many stone metaphors, I know). The outline is fluid, and malleable, and can be thrown away completely if the story takes an unexpected twist while writing it.

Once I’m done shouting this list of reminders at myself I can then get back to writing the first draft…at least until tomorrow, when I forget them again, and need to start the process all over again.

So, once more, for all the Damians out there, past, present, and future:

First drafts are just first drafts.

Talk soon


The Chalk Man


I write this in a dimly lit room, stark walls surround me, no windows. If my script is large or chaotic it is because I have left my glasses in the room next door. I allow not even a mug of water in my presence. I have discovered a myth, or something more, perhaps, and I do not want the subject of my study to see me; not yet.

Lost legends have him as the Chalk Man, less a name but a descriptor; given for his white and ashen skin. Which is wrong, as it’s not skin, but bone. Bone so old that it crumbles, leaving a fine powder of dust, akin to chalk dust, on whatever he touches. Man is also wrong, as he is of no gender, nor even human, but, for lack of appropriate terminology, we will use the pronouns referring to the masculine throughout this text.

The lost legends — that are now found, if only to myself — are, by a human understanding, ancient, as the Chalk Man hasn’t been spoken of, written of, or likely even thought of, for centuries. His existence slowly being lost from the collective consciousness one life at a time. By the Chalk Man’s point of view, however, they are practically modern, having been written within the last millenium.

His purpose, in those legends, is ill defined, if simply not mentioned at all, which is a shame because his purpose is a very important one, that contains many roles. He is a king to some, a servant to others, sometimes a friend, sometimes an enemy, an angel, or a demon. His job, as it were, is to appear as the honest reflection of us all. A confusing, if not mysterious, job description I am aware. Let me try and make more sense of it.

Have you ever caught your own reflection and for a moment thought someone else was looking back at you? Perhaps you saw a monster, or a stranger, or a royal, or a saint. Just for a second. That was the Chalk Man. Or at least, that is the Chalk Man at work, and he has been doing this work for a very long time.

It is presumed that the Chalk Man was present when we were still walking around on all fours. Indeed, it is likely he was there when our ameba ancestors were first beginning to divide. He watched us, they say, the legends that are both ancient and modern, from his reflective surfaces, waiting for the day when we would gain a level of sentience that could recognise our own image.

Some of the legends, that I have hunted down in hidden cities that no longer have names, argue that the Chalk Man did more than watch; that he, just once, stretched out a bony arm from his reflective kingdom and altered the course of man; that it is due to him that we are so different from the rest of the animals that we share this planet with. What it is the Chalk Man did to achieve this is not written, and so this theory is to be taken with a pinch of salt…or chalk dust, as it were.

The first recorded encounter with the Chalk Man came some time after, when one of the ancient civilisations, the residents of one of those cities without names, first started writing things down. One such text wrote of an encounter whereby a local woman went to drink from the underground river that fueled the city, peered into the inky water, and saw the Chalk Man staring back at her. The woman, a weaver by the name of Oma, cried out, but did not flee. Instead, once her breath and heart were once more under her control, she crawled back to look at the water. Once more she saw the Chalk Man, bony and white, her own reflection nowhere to be seen. He did naught but watch young Oma, who, after deeming him not a threat, went to gather others to show them the chalk figure in the water. By the time she brought the crowd to the water’s edge, he was gone; her own reflection returned to her. It would only be later, after multiple appearances, that Oma’s story would be believed.

The reason why the Chalk Man simply watched Oma, and especially why he watched her in his own form, has been much argued over the many years by the forgotten scholars that once studied the Chalk Man. Some claimed that by seeing the Chalk Man as he truly is allowed Oma some gaining of knowledge outside of our understanding, and caused some great shift in her life, and on mankind as a whole; and indeed Oma did go on to live a remarkable life. Some claimed that he fell in love with Oma, and stole her reflection for those few short minutes to take as his Queen, only to find a reflection was no substitute for the real thing; this too, may well be the case. For myself, I think the Chalk Man was simply studying, seeing some final aspect of mankind’s heart so he could then go on to do his true work.

The work, as one of the old texts described it, was: “Purveyor of understanding and dealer of truths”. This is the most accurate description I have found. Simply, the Chalk Man shows you what you need to see. If you be good, but lacking in courage, you may see yourself momentarily in a reflective surface as a hero. If you be evil, but lacking in morals, you may see yourself as a monster. You may see an angel when you need hope. You may see a devil when you need fear. You may see your mother when she needs you to visit. And on it goes. The Chalk Man knows what you need to see and shows it to you. Often, after a viewing, you may find some of his bone dust on a shoe, or you shirt. This is the way to know if was a true showing. Or, so the texts say.

One text, the latest I’ve found, goes one step further. It claims that behind every reflective surface lies a kingdom, his kingdom, and if you do not heed the truth he offers you that he will reach out and take you there, never to return.

The next question, and the one most pressing to my own research, is why was knowledge of the Chalk Man lost? Why has he left our collective consciousness? Many of the the legends I’ve found barely describe the Chalk Man whenever they reference him, so sure were they that the reader knew of whom they spoke. So how is it that he is not even a mythological figure today? I do not know, but I expect to find out soon for I think he watches me.

Twice now I have had a glimpse of something else in my mirror. First, I am sure it was his own figure, white and silent, then the second time I saw myself, only with unbroken skin where my mouth should be. After both instances I searched the area for dust, and both times found it.

I have collected the dust and added it to a small vial, to be sent to the university along with this manuscript. I hope to send it this very afternoon. This will of course require me to leave my matte room and pass my own reflection, be it in a window or pool of water. I am ready. I have my questions. If I see him again I will not look away, but will instead ask why he withdrew from our world — as I am sure now the lost knowledge of his person was at his own design — and if he is likely to return. I hope he does, this world could do with a good hard look at itself.

One final note. It occurs to me that perhaps I have been…foolhardy, cataloging this history, if indeed the Chalk Man does want to stay hidden. So if you are reading this, it might be best to steer clear of mirrors for a while. You never know when he might be watching.


Thanks for reading,


January 3, 2018


Music today comes from The Northern Folk, who I saw open for The East Pointers a few weeks back and was blown away by; not least because they are a ten piece band. Their sound was unique and folksy, utilising their many instruments, and with vocals to match. This one is called Stovetop Coffee


Words written for the year: 2528


Hello and welcome to 2018.

My 2017 culminated in a flurry of activity; appropriate, seeing how that’s how most of the year felt. It began with the arrival of Brother Jonathan from the distant shores of Austria, with my  future sister in law, Alexandra, on his arm. Their return home (at least, my home) is always a welcome one, but especially so this time, as it had been over a year since I held my brother in my arms. Things didn’t stop once all the hugging was caught up on though, as my other brother, the one they call Matthew, and I still had a half marathon to complete (as previously mentioned) I’m happy to say it went well. We started at six in the morning joined by our cousin Dominic, all of us fresh and chatty, and ended at just after eight, significantly less fresh and chatty. Two solid hours of running. The breakfast that followed felt well earned.

Christmas came next, spread out over two days to accommodate all the family. Many presents, drinks, food, and games meant the days had the special feel that holidays should, helped along by not having to go to work, or even plan out much beyond eating. This didn’t last long, however, as come boxing day, Jonathan, Alex, Holly and I, headed back to Melbourne to jump on a plane and fly over to the North Island of New Zealand. We were there for a wedding, and so our visit was a short one, four days, but full to the gills with driving, walking around beautiful places, a heavy dose of bananagrams (look it up), and of course, a wedding. It was the first time I had ever been to a wedding where I was a stranger to both the bride and groom, as they were friends of Holly made from her time living in London. It’s an odd thing to introduce yourself to someone whilst simultaneously congratulating them on the ceremony you’d just witnessed. Still, the night was a good one, and my lack of familiarity with the happy couple didn’t diminish the joy of celebration.

We got back to Australia just in time to celebrate the coming of the new year, more fun and family, and here we are; 2017 over.

It was an incredible year for me. I got engaged, traveled to Borneo, was nominated for awards, and had a book released with my writing buds, plus plenty more. All of it felt like moving closer to the mountain. It was, without doubt, one for the books.


Now with 2017 in the rear view mirror it’s time to look ahead at 2018. This time last year I wrote about how I wanted to write every day, crossing off each successful day on a giant wall calendar as motivation. Here is how that calendar ended up:


As you can see I had a rocky start, then managed to find my groove, with most of the blank spaces that followed either due to holidays or special events. I’m proud of that spread, but want to kick it up another notch this year. Which brings us to the first on my new years goals.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Brother Matthew’s impressive goal list for 2017. He had nine, which also happens to be his favourite number, and so for this year he’s given himself another nine. When he told me this I jokingly responded that as my favourite number is four (D is the fourth letter of the alphabet — younger me was very logical when it came to choosing a favourite number) then I only had to have four goals. The more I thought about it, the more I liked having a list of four goals for the new year. Four would fit well to the unofficial goals I already had in my mind, and if I wrote them down and defined them properly I was more likely to stick to them. So, using the S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, Time-bound) goal setting technique the Lady Holly uses with her students I wrote down my four goals for 2018.

The first, as alluded to earlier, is a writing one. Last year to get the daily cross off on the calendar I just had to write something, a single line would do the job, preferably more, but if that’s all I had then that would do. This year it’s not that simple, as my first goal is to write 600 words a day on average across the year. That ‘on average’ is important, because it means I can write excess and have words in lieu, or make up missed days later if I need to. I’m hoping the former is more the case. Usually I don’t like the idea of running-on goals and being able to make up for missed days later, because it can be too easy to use this as an excuse to be lazy and then have a insurmountable number to hit. To negate this I’m making it so I have to use my weekends to catch up on any word counts missed during the week, so that number doesn’t snowball on me if I start missing days. Instead of the wall calendar this year I have a spreadsheet with every day of the year written in one column and a word count column right next to it waiting to be filled. I’ll also keep a running log of the ‘words written for the year’ on every blog post, instead of the former ‘current chain of writing days’.

The second goal I stole from Brother Matthew’s own goal list; run 1000 km across the year. Another goal that requires consistency every week, but one I believe is achievable.

Goal number three is likewise stolen, and that is to read 25 books (or more) during the year. Far too often I waste time browsing on my computer, at either social media or who knows what, only to later lament that I never have time for reading. This year I want to flip that, less screen time, more page time.

These first three goals were easy, all being continuations of goals I already had, just better defined. But of course my favourite number isn’t three (my name doesn’t start with a C after all) and so I needed one more goal. After allowing my brain some time to marinate on it I decided I wanted it to be a photography based goal. I often take plenty of photos on holiday but want to get back into the habit of taking photos of everyday life as well. So, in order to achieve this, I’ve brushed the dust off my old blipfoto account, a site by which you add one photo a day, taken on that day. If you wish, you can follow along here.

That covers most of the main stuff, there are other things of course, like getting married to a girl called Holly, but one thing at a time, yeah?

Wish me luck.


Remember, take a breath. Here we go again.


Talk soon,



December 14, 2017


Given the season it seems appropriate for today’s blog song to be a Christmas Carol. This rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas comes from one of my favourites, Stu Larsen.


Current chain of writing days: 24


I didn’t know if today’s entry should go into the journal category or short fiction, because it’s a tale of my life but also involves me telling a made up story. It was quite the dilemma, I mean it was no Sophie’s choice, but still. In the end I went for the journal option…obviously.

So, the first thing you need to know about this entry is that twitter recently doubled its character allowance per tweet, increasing it from one hundred and forty to two hundred and eighty. The reason this is important is because a while ago I had the idea that I would tell a story through twitter, and not just tell a story, but also have it be interactive. The way I would do this would be to have a poll of alternative story options attached to every tweet that people would vote on to decide what happened next. Basically like a collective choose your own adventure. However, upon trying this I found the one hundred and forty character limit to be too restricting. I couldn’t get across enough information, or write in any enjoyable way, and it simply came across as stilted and unimaginative. I gave it up as not possible, at least, until the recent increase.

It turns out two hundred and eighty characters is just long enough for me to do what I wanted. Of course, I still had one issue,  if nobody voted my story would quickly hit a dead end. Luckily, that turned out not to be a problem. I threw out this initial tweet…

…and soon had the confirmation that I would have at least a dozen or so people to help me out, and I’m happy to say that number grew as the story went on.

Enough set up though, right? Here’s how it went…

(They stalemated me! I decided I had to do both)

It was an exceptionally fun experiment, one that received an even better reaction than I had hoped; speaking of — thank you to all my fellow twitterers who voted and in so doing helped me tell this tale, and to every one who sent me messages about it.

I’m now thinking of starting a separate twitter account for just this purpose, we’ll see.


Remember, ideas are easy, it’s the doing that’s hard.

Talk soon



December 8, 2017


I thought I’d share some writing music today as the blog song. This one is called Quintessence and is from the composer Theodore Shapiro, feature as part of the original score for the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Really beautiful track and one that gets my emotions rising and falling every time.


Current chain of writing days: 19


The other day I logged onto facebook only to be greeted with a “memory” — a series of photos that were added on the same date several years ago. It made me angry, and at first I didn’t know why. It wasn’t that the memory was a bad one (who would ever share photos of a negative event on their facebook?) but still, it irked me. I clicked on the three dots in the top corner and selected ‘see less often’, and tried to move on. But I couldn’t, and, after a few days of thinking about it, I think I’ve figured out the reason for my frustration.

The internet is an attention devouring machine, this is not news, nor, at its core, is it a bad thing. There’s plenty out there that’s beneficial or educational or that allows us to connect with others. Great. And, for the most part, we have control over our own actions and can choose where to isolate our attention. For the most part. It’s the part we don’t have control over — let’s call it instincts, or subconscious, or lizard brain — that I’m concerned with. It’s the part of us that gets addicted to the dopamine hit when receiving a like, or that’s wired to respond to the colour red (originally for poisonous animals, then traffic lights and warning signs, and now notifications and email alerts), or the part of us that can’t help to relive the past in order to learn from it and alter our actions in the present. It’s when websites purposely recognise and then abuse these instincts to keep us scrolling and clicking indefinitely, that I think it becomes a bad thing.

Let’s focus on the living in the past thing. Any kind of zen master or mindful consultant talks about “living in the present”, which I translate as slowing down your brain for a second and actually focusing on what’s going on around you; taking it in, and finding the enjoyment of that moment in real time rather than later in your memories (or photos). It’s the same reason meditation exists, and has for centuries, to force that action. We are hardwired to either relive the past or consider possible future outcomes, both of which I believe have sprung up as survival instincts; for learning and preparing, respectively. Which is fine except we’re too good at it. We move past the point where we’ve learnt what we needed to learn or prepared as best we can, into obsession, fixation, and worry. And it’s tiring. I’ve found myself wanting to stop thinking about a thing, either past or future, and I can’t, my brain just keeps cycling over it again and again. Which, of course, is where meditation and consciously living in the present come in; to break that cycle. It’s psychology as much as anything else.

But all this is my long winded way of explaining why the facebook memories thing annoyed me so much. It can be hard enough keeping your mind in the present and maintain control of your attention, and this new addition to the facebook algorithm seems purposely designed to take advantage of this. And look, I have no doubt some people love it when these memories pop up, and I too like looking at past photos, but only when I’ve purposely chosen to, not because facebook has told me to. Of course the simple solution is don’t go on facebook, except it’s not that simple. We use facebook for a whole bunch of different things — including news, communication, and event coordination — so if I log on for one of these reasons I can’t help but see either the memories or one of the many other ways the site is designed to grab and hold onto my attention.

Ultimately, I don’t have a good solution, but at least I figured out why seeing past photos of myself made me so angry. In the meantime I’ll just keep clicking ‘see less often’ and hope I actually do.


In other news the Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing awards, which my novella The Case of Henry and the Hamster was shortlisted for, were held yesterday. Unfortunately I did not win, but I can’t deny it was still very cool to be in the running, receive a certificate, shake some hands, and get my photo taken.

Hopefully next time I can also walk away with a win, but the only way to do that is to keep writing, so that’s what I’m going to go do.

Talk soon