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

August 10, 2016

10:08:2016

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. Mostly this is due to the welcome and enjoyable distraction of Brother Jonathan and his girlfriend Alex being in town. These crazy kids are over for a short two and a half week stint before returning to their real lives in London and Vienna respectively. Having them both be in the house with The Lady Holly and myself has been delightful. It makes coming home from work a treat where anything can happen, even if that anything is just the usual routine with the addition of their persons; because that addition is the treat. I know once they go I’ll miss them both terribly, it’s hard having your best friend and womb mate on the other side of the globe, but seeing how happy they are together well and truly makes up for that. Plus once Jonathan becomes fluent in German and manages to move his butt to Vienna I’ll have a place to stay in that gorgeous city whenever I want. Not a bad thing.

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Back to the writing. It’s been sparse, at least compared to what I was achieving last month. Apart from the welcome distraction of family it’s also due to me being burned out from work. Covering two roles has, unsurprisingly, become a chore and in the last week, and with another coworker away I’m now covering three positions. As expected this has eaten up both my time and energy and left me in a bit of a writing funk – one where I open whatever I’m working on and then nothing happens. My brain just shrugs at me, I shrug back, and then we both watch tv. It’s demoralising but I’m strengthened by the knowledge that even though it’s not coming up with much my brain is still trying to generate story. I know this because as I go through my busy day I’ll think of something, or read an article, and my brain will try to apply it to one or more of the projects I’m working on. It’s not giving great results, unfortunately, but it gets points for trying, or at least a condescending but appreciated ‘great effort’ ribbon. I’m also comforted by the knowledge that by this time next week both co-workers will be back, which will leave me to return to my usual role and hopefully have more space in my brain for the important things. If not, then I’ll contemplate taking some time off to write. This is something I’ve been thinking about anyway, work really gets in the way of solid writing sessions and I think I’m just about ready and disciplined enough to throw some caution to the wind and give it ago. At least that’s what the free spirited side of me says. The responsible side is more like ‘Well…money’. He’s a bummer, but he has a point. We’ll see.

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In novelette news all my readers have gone over it and given me some great notes which means it’s pretty much at a stage where I’m ready to share it around. What I’d like to do is try to enter it in some competitions or submit it to some magazines. This unfortunately means I can’t yet post it to this website as I had originally planned, as comps and zines request that the work not be published anywhere else and posting it here technically counts as publishing. I am writing another short story though which should find it’s way to this site.

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I read a quote recently that stated that taking up writing was like giving yourself homework every night for the rest of your life. That made me very happy. It mean’s I’ll always have something to do, never have an excuse to be bored, and will always have more to learn. What a wonderful thing.

Talk soon

Damian

25 July, 2016

25:07:2016

The last week has been a cold one for us Melburnians. While other areas of the world are reaching temperatures as high as fifty four degrees I’ve been grumbling about the fact that we got down to three degrees the other morning and I could see my breath while lying in bed. Despite twenty nine years on this planet and a preference for winter wear I still never really seem all that prepared for the season. Maybe it’s an Australian thing.

It could also be seasonal affective disorder, a mild form of depression that comes on over winter thought to be caused by the lack of exposure to light – and, which can appropriately be acronymed as SAD. Having a name for it and knowing that I’m likely to get a little SAD (wow, that acronym really does work well) over the winter months is good. It means when it does come on I can recognise it and do my best to buck up and get on with it until the happier sunny months come rolling on through. It can be a hard thing to ignore however. Not only is there wind, cold, and rain to dissuade me from getting outside and being productive, I also find I have a lackluster attitude to even try and do anything. Everything seems to become a little more pointless. Things like exercising, socialising, or doing anything that isn’t hibernating in bed alternation between reading, eating, sleeping and watching tv become mountainous tasks that seem to require much more energy than they actually do. This only works to feed the SAD as not only am I likely to gain some weight from indulging in such sedentary activities, which the depression happily feeds on, but by avoiding exercise I’m also avoiding the release of hormones such activities bring; the one thing most equipped to battle SAD. Without the vitamin D, or whatever it is, from the sun that triggers a catalyst of happiness, then surely the release of endorphins and dopamine that come post exercise are the next best thing to get our brains back to a more functional state.

Last winter SAD hit me pretty hard, not helped by the fact that the Lady Holly was living three hours away from me at the time and was equally as unhappy. This winter I decided to prepare myself. Not only did I buy more beanies to add to my already abundant beanie collection but I mentally prepared myself as well; cognitively bracing for the impact of SAD. I told myself to expect a dip in energy levels, and then to welcome winter, purposely finding ways to enjoy the extra time I was to spend at home in order to battle the winter blues (lately that’s been indoor picnics with my three favourites: whiskey, cheese, and the Lady Holly). I was also determined to keep exercising throughout the winter months so not only will I have an amazing beach bod come summer but also so I keep my hormone levels a little more skewed to the side of happy. For the most part this has worked pretty well. I can still feel an uncommon rise in apathy from time to time, and little things can affect me more than they might when the sun in shining, but during those times I remind myself what the cause may be and then force myself to go for a run or do something fun. To put it another way, I use some HAPPI (Hormonal Appeasement by Prioritising Positive Industry) to fight the SAD.

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In writing news The Lady Holly and Brother Jonathan have both now read my novelette and have given me feedback. Both were not only extremely constructive, helping me to strengthen the story and my writing, but were also very complimentative; which I thoroughly enjoyed, my ego basking in the warmth of their praise. Next I’m planning to make some edits based off of their feedback and then pass it on through a friend to her Aunty who’s a professional editor, and much less likely to be quite so nice as she doesn’t love me the way the other two do.

I’ve also started a new short story which so far has had a few false starts. I had a plot I liked but it took me writing out a few pages until I figured out just who my character is and how he relates to the theme. I ended up rewriting those first pages a few times until I had it right. I’ve got it mostly sorted in my head now, and on my notes page, however I might still ditch those initial pages once the stories done as they’re mostly set up and aren’t working to push the story forward as much as they should. We’ll see. In the meantime it’s all practise, it’s all learning, and, most importantly, it’s all fun.

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Finally, I thought I’d share a TED talk I watched the other week that I found very engaging. It covers the differences between introverts and extroverts and is presented by the highly entertaining psychologist Brian Little. If you don’t know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert I expect you will by the end of this talk.

Talk soon

Damian

July 1, 2016

01:07:2016

After having finishing the novelette last weekend I ended up not writing much this week; instead I plotted out a few ideas and tried to figure out what my next project will be.

I’m still very much in a prose state of mind, to the point where at night I find myself subconsciously writing descriptions of whatever odd things my brain is providing while I drift off to sleep. A good practice for the craft I suppose, but not great for my sleeping pattern. I’m tempted to go with another short story as I have an idea for one I really like. Two, actually, as an idea popped into my head as I was looking at the hairs on my arms while in the shower (thank you subconscious). It’ll be a very short one, probably fitting into the flash fiction section, and I think I might even try bashing it out this weekend.

However I’m also considering writing an idea for a TV pilot for the next project, mostly so I’ve got one in the bag in case any opportunities come up. It’s this idea that I’ve been attempting to plot out this week, but I’m struggling to fit it into a TV structure. Part of the problem is that I don’t know what the full story is. The idea came from one of the earlier scene-a-day’s I wrote back in 2014 (you can read it here if you like) and while the scene sets up a lot of intriguing things past Damian didn’t really have answers for them, and present Damian isn’t much better. I instead have colourful blobs of ideas that have yet to resolve themselves into the fleshed out storylines they will hopefully one day become. Basically I might have to let it gestate in the back of my mind for a while until I can see what the blobs are. Sometimes that’s all you can do, forcing it might get me answers but chances are they’ll be of a lesser quality that the one’s my subconscious might come up with given enough time.

Given this point I think I will go with the short stories next, and see if by the time they’re both done I have more in the idea bank for the TV one. Thanks for letting me talk that out, clearly I needed it.

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June is now over and with it my June Retune. Mostly it went well, although I have to be honest and say I unintentionally took a week off last week, using my busy work schedule to justify it to myself. This week I was back on it though and now have many pleasingly sore body parts.

The end result was a loss of three kilos but the real prize was getting myself into a routine that I am more than happy to sustain. I can now quite easily get up at six and get an hour of writing done before work. I continue writing during my lunch hour and, if possible, for even longer. Once home I do half an hour or so of exercise and call it a day. Having kept that routine for (mostly) a month now it’s feeling natural to do so and my body and brain seem to have adjusted; meaning I actually have all the energy to accomplish all these tasks without too much internal complaining. I’m also doing all this on a much better diet that I was before the retune started, mostly thanks to having cut my sugary snacking back drastically. Once again my body seems to have adjusted to this change as well. I’ve read it takes doing something consistently for three weeks for it to become a habit and this clearly fits that model. Yay, improvement!

I also wrote almost all of the novelette in that time, which at twenty six pages of prose is the longest thing I’ve written to date other than my screenplay, and I wrote that in a year and a half. So I think I have to include the completion of that wee story in the June Retune prize pack as well.

I’ll continue on with this routine for the immediate future, which was always the plan; giving myself the month long timeline was a lie I knowingly told to myself in order to maintain motivation. It’s weird that we can do that, and it’s weirder still that it works. I’ll probably be a little more flexible diet wise, especially when eating with other people, but otherwise the only other change I’d like to make is to get some writing done in the evening too. I never really managed to work that into the retune and, while I have a strong feeling I’m more of a morning person, wouldn’t mind seeing if I can learn to get used to that as well.

Hell, it should only take three weeks, right?

Talk soon

Damian