Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the category “story ideas”

The wolf is coming!

200px-Askalti_Darksteel_TCGI have a love for coincidence. Seeing similarities in different parts of my life makes it seem like there is a plan to the universe. It allows my imagination to posit a (usually incredibly unlikely) future based on what I’m seeing. The universe cares about me and is sending me hints so that I can guess what happens next.

That makes this current case of Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon somewhat disturbing.

Everywhere I look, I’m seeing Ragnarok. That can’t be a good thing.

12307402_865473633570486_1958686601694734196_oIt started when I began planning the second Thropes book. I’m planning the second book so that I can put the appropriate foreshadowing into the first book, so stop judging me for being a procrastinator. Lycanthropes came about as a result of a curse by a Greek goddess. So gods are real. And how would that change society? Having a pantheon of hands-on Greek gods would change a few things.

Not to mention that if the Greek gods are real, then wouldn’t that indicate that the others are as well?

So World War I is now a battle between the legions aligned with the Greek gods and those who worship the gods of Asgard. A couple of the days of the week have changed. As have a couple of months. I’ve ditched Roman gods altogether. And then left it as “time manages to push things back to what we know and love”.

But there’s Norse gods version one. And the wolves of Fenris.

magnus-chase-1And then I picked up Magnus Chase book one by Rick Riordan. He’s a very funny man and he really knows his mythologies. The writing isn’t phenomenal, but the stories have heart and the voice of Magnus is highly amusing. Oh, and he’s the son of a Norse god. Trying to stop Ragnarok.

Then my character in World of Warcraft levelled high enough to hit Northrend, and suddenly I have all of the Norse mythology I can handle, with Loken and Thorim and Jotunheim and Freya amongst other places and deities. They even have valkyr.

Following on from this, with the new WOW: Legion, they are opening up new Norse areas, including Helheim, as dungeons. It all looks very impressive.

Finally, I’m reading Morning Star by Pierce Brown. Third in the Red Rising series, it’s an engrossing work of war in space and the segregation of peoples based on colour rather than skill. Well worth a read.

The mighty Obsidian warriors live in the icy Antarctic wastes of Mars. They follow a Norse mythology and answer to Asgardian “gods” who keep them subjugated.

This is happening people. The time of the wolf is upon us! Sharpen your axes and drag out your horned helms. Let’s get the end of the world happening.

 

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The Case of the Disappearing Sharks

NB: Every fortnight I have my Golden Pen writing group at school write a story to keep them thinking and to practise their skills. I always write one as well, as it keeps me honed and often leads to more writing. Sometimes I write something I try to get published. More often I write something very weird without a proper ending. At this point, I post it here. I enjoyed the concept here but haven’t really written something that is a complete story. Take a gander.

Caroline “Yeti” Feats looked up from her game of Words with Friends and stared at the man standing before her.

“What did you say?” she asked, sure that she’d misheard. He was in his mid-twenties and wore a loose singlet top and board shorts. He also wore an expression of severe worry.

“Gone,” he said. “Every single one.”

Yeti shut off her tablet and stood up. Her eyes narrowed and she felt the beginnings of a headache pressing against her temples.

“It’s not April Fools’ Day, is it?” she mused. “You want me to find twenty-four missing sharks? That just disappeared from their tanks overnight.”

The man nodded. His long hair bobbed over one eye.

“And you didn’t go to the police?” she asked.

“Of course we did,” he said. “They’re on the case, obviously. But they’re looking for a thief, or gang of poachers. And I’m pretty sure they won’t find any. The sharks weren’t stolen. They just disappeared!”

Yeti sighed. Her forehead throbbed. On days like this she wished she’d never opened an ecological detective agency. Obviously, she was going to get all of the nutters. For example:

The case of the ninja starfish.

The mystery of the penguin burglar.

And now The case of the disappearing sharks.

“OK,” she said, opening the Notes app on her iPad. “I’m listening now. You better run me through it again.”

“You’re listening now?” the man said, annoyed. “Oh, all right.

“My name is Chad. Chad Morgan – no bloody relation. I am one of the keepers at the Melbourne Aquarium.  We have… we had one of the best collections of sharks in Australia. And then, this morning I came into work and went to feed the exhibits. And they were all gone.”

“All of the fish?” Yeti asked.

“No, and that’s the weird thing. Every other fish, whale, eel and turtle was accounted for. The only things missing were the sharks. The Great Whites, the Tigers, the Leopard sharks. The Dogsharks and Catsharks. I thought that the rays might be gone too, but it’s only the selachii subdivision that have gone.”

He was talking about the branches of the different families of the elasmobranchii – the family that contained sharks and rays. There was a family split, sometime in the Jurassic period, and the rays and the sharks evolved separately. And thus, in the present day, the sharks disappeared and the rays were spared.

“Was it just you?” Caroline wondered, pulling up her browser and typing ‘shark disappearances’ into the search bar. “Holy mother of – no. Not just you.”

She turned the iPad towards Chad and he whistled. The search had returned innumerable results – all breaking news articles – regarding the world-wide disappearance of various species of sharks. Unlike Australia, where the disappearances had happened overnight, in a large part of the world, the sharks had disappeared in broad daylight. Apparently, at precisely 4am in Melbourne, being 11am in Los Angeles, and 8pm in Paris, every shark on the face of the globe just vanished.

disappearing-shark“I had my camera out,” read one witness statement, at Shark World in LA, “and was trying to move into a position to minimise the reflective glare, and then there was a shark-shaped hole in the water, which exploded in a rush of bubbles. It made a fantastic picture!”

Similar stories came out of aquariums and sea parks around the globe.  In thousands of bubbly explosions, sharks in captivity in every country simply disappeared.

“I’m pretty sure this is bigger than me,” Yeti said. “And bigger than everybody, really. And- wait.”

Quickly, she scrolled down the page of search results with impatient flicks, scanning the headings for one important piece of information, conspicuous in its absence.

“Ha,” she said. “I don’t think I could take this job, even if I did know where to start looking.”

Chad raised an eyebrow at her. It was lost under long, bleached, shaggy hair.

“There is not a single report here of sharks disappearing in the wild,” she explained, scrolling up and down the list. “This isn’t a planetwide abduction. It’s not an ecological disaster. I’m pretty sure it’s a jailbreak.”

“Wha-huh?” said Chad.

“Let me speculate,” Yeti said, standing up and wandering over to the window. She looked out at the ocean and shook her head. “Sharks have been around for 65 million years, not evolving much over that time. They have had a nice niche in the food chain, and they’ve been content in that place. Until now. Now, humans are starting to become a threat. We’re fishing them to extinction, along with a number of other marine life forms. They’re no longer at the top of the food chain. And they’ve had to do something about it.”

“Like what?” said the ever-obliging Chad.

“Let’s say every species has a certain amount of evolution in them. We’ve evolved dramatically from the hairless, edge-of-the-sea apes we started as. Sharks haven’t changed much at all. So they have a great store of evolution available.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works,” Chad said, beautiful brow wrinkling.

“Shush. Anyway, with the threat of humanity upon them, and their current forms no longer sufficient to keep them safe as a species, the selachii family have had a growth spurt. Somehow, they’ve evolved into a species that can transport. And they can probably communicate through telepathy.” Yeti pondered. Her headache was gone as the situation became clear. Chad was staring at her with a certain amount of nervousness. She ignored him. “So, suddenly able to travel over great distances instantly, and connected to their brothers and sisters in the wild, the sharks concoct a plan to free every shark in captivity at the same time!”

“You’re a loony,” Chad said, and turned to leave.

“I’m a genius!” she shouted at him as he hurried out the door. She turned back to the window.  “Of course, the thing to ponder now is, once the sharks have escaped, what will they do with their new-found skills?”

She looked out the window at the sea that she had loved since childhood.

“Of course,” she said, shaking her head and returning to her tablet. “It could always have been aliens.”

Dream a Little Dream of Me. Or badgers. Or Superman.

dreams are strangeCorey Feldman had it good. His character in Dream a Little Dream ran all over his dreamscape, giving out good advice and saying “Heh” a lot. He didn’t have to worry about the streets changing from moment to moment, or giant rats staring at him until he woke up screaming.

Some people are already thinking “dammit. I blog about dreaming. I’m outa here.” And that’s fine. The blog is called Finding Damo, not “Keep everybody entertained all the time”. And one of the things that has consumed my life and fed my imagination since I was a young boy has been my dreams.

Luke, I am your father!

Luke, I am your father!

I have sleep apnoea. I can’t spell it but I have it. I’m not sure when it started, but by the time I was living in Rosebud, it was getting out of control. I was only getting one or two hours of sleep a night, as I would stop breathing when I fell deeply enough asleep which, luckily, woke me up again. It was terrible. I was always tired. I fell asleep in meetings, and when driving.

And I dreamed. A lot.

dream diary lock

If you can open it, you can read it.

Two of my favourite presents ever were given to me by girlfriends. The first was when I was in Japan. Kallie gave me a dream diary. She’d decorated  the inside front cover. The book had a lock and was just awe-inspiring. It wasn’t just a Spellbox book or anything. I’m not sure where she found it, but the book, and the lovely inscription on the inside blew me away. A couple of months later, in an argument, she ripped out the lovely front page and took the book back. Which is why I’m not dating her any more. That amongst other things. But at the time, WOW.

The second was a box to keep my (new) dream diary in. I’d replaced the original with a Spellbox dream diary. Not as impressive as the original, but still, with a nice locking mechanism and decent paper for writing. Melanie made the box for me from scratch. Varnished it, and burnt a design into the top. Now the diary had a home. It was an exceptional achievement and I still love it.

dream diary box

Long before the dream diary, I still wrote down my dreams. I had a yellow notepad that I wrote a lot of dreams into. I even wrote a program in Perl when I was working at Racing Victoria, to catalog the dreams by theme and add more in as I had them. And yes, I had them. Every night was a plethora of images, whizzing through my head. I started writing them down as my conviction that what I dreamed was coming true. So many times I would experience a conversation and say “Wow. I dreamed that!” So, to prove it to myself, I started writing them down, so that I could come back to them when I had that experience again.

I’ve never experienced a moment that I have written down in my dream diary. Bummer.

One that could come true, after my last post:

werewolf dreamBut I’m getting ahead of myself. And the rest of this post is pretty much just an explanation of the dreams I’ve had, how they fit into my life, and what meaning I feel that they had/have. So I’m serious. If you hate being told dreams by your friends, even if they have pictures attached, you probably don’t need to read any further. I’m not going to get overly philosophical. I just want some of this out of my head and out onto a blog. Call it selfish and indulgent, I can handle that. I promise I’ll be more interesting next week.

Here’s the first page (all images clickable for better views):

front page

As it says here, the greatest part of my dreamscape was a place I dubbed Alternate Kyabram. I grew up in Kyabram. I lived in Heathcote, Redesdale, even Canada during my formative years, but from 1983 until 1992 I was in Kyabram. I delivered papers, I explored the back streets with my friends. I imprinted the town onto my brain like a mental brand. And as much as I tried to get away from the place, when I slept, I was back there.

There were a few changes. And streets didn’t always go to the same places. I also dragged in my grandparents’ places from Castlemaine and Kyneton, although sometimes they were the same place. And as I spent more time in Melbourne, there were roads to the city from my little country town.

Here’s the map, and a legend:

dreamscapelegend to dreamscape

here be dinosAs my dreaming was so vivid, I did a lot of reading about it. I tried to convince myself that dreaming was something special. I dream in colour, which is supposedly a sign that you are creative. I have attempted lucid dreaming and astral projection, all after reading about them in books (with no luck, sorry to say). I’ve looked at the meanings of different symbols in dreams. For example, shops and shopping centres are supposed to be a reflection of your subconscious. Next time you dream about being in a shop, take a look at what’s on the shelves. On second thoughts, for some of us, it’s better not to look too closely.

My shop’s shelves are usually filled with books, magazines and toys. What does that say about me?

I really don’t want to go on and on about this. I just wanted to whack up a few fragments. The dreams in the diary start from 2001. There are some transcribed from long before then. The last one is in 2009. When I started using the CPAP machine, my sleep was completely dreamless. I slept solidly from the time my head hit the pillow until I was woken by the alarm clock. By the time my body started to even out and my subconscious started forcing dreams upon me again, I was out of the habit of writing them down. I dream a lot more now, and probably should write them down in the marvelous dream diary once more. But I think that phase of my life is passed now.

This is its eulogy:

click for more.

 

part onepart twopart three

random nightmare

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It is self-indulgent. I’m not seeing anything that would be interesting to anyone else. I’m going to stop now. Dreaming is an incredible invention of the human race. The number of stories I’ve sucked out of a dream… and then thrown away because basically dreams make absolutely no sense! I have, however, had a couple of dreams that have turned into quite interesting stories. And of course, there is the old stand-by for story creation:

what if…?

And I get a goodly number of “what-if” stories out of my dreams.

Sweet dreams!

When you can’t say something nice…

A quarter of the year has gone by. Finding Damo has been dead silent. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is: I forgot the first rule of being a writer.

Write.

30 Years of DiscworldThat being said, I have been incredibly creative over the past few months. As publicity officer for Nullus Anxietas IV, I’ve written a couple of scripts, a couple of articles, many many press releases, maintained four different social networks and sang Who Will Buy (from Oliver) with completely different words (for Dibbler). I’ve done a lot of film work. And I worked with Pippa to create a Discworld cake that would feed over a hundred people. With gluten free extras.

My family loves having me around again. Shereen called herself the “Convention Widow”, so when I am home, I am loathe to hide myself in a room to write.

I have also (shock horror) spent a good deal of time doing my actual job. I’m teaching History for the first time in five years and in my brain, Australian History has always been “marked for Deletion” in case anything more important entered my head – like for example a quote from a Harry Dresden novel. Whoops, there goes the Eureka Stockade! Gone.

So I’m filling my head with useful facts, getting the Golden Pen writing club back up (stay tuned for more short stories because of that one) and trying to field a successful debating team.

And with the debating competition come the debating topics. Ah, the wonderful topics. Always something to comment on. Should we ban streaming classes in schools? Should stay-at-home parents be paid a wage?
Why don’t we just let sports figures take whatever drug they want?

ooooOOOOOooooo. Excellent topic.

It just begs to be taken to the illogical extreme. Sports people are doing drugs. The ones that aren’t are obviously at a disadvantage. Why not just let everybody take performance enhancing drugs, level the playing field and look forward to an infinitely more entertaining sporting experience?

There is, of course, the matter of rich nations immediately having an advantage (that’s where the good drugs are), especially in international events like the Olympics.

But really, I’m more interested in events like Football, boxing, wrestling. Events where we can expand the sport beyond the limits of our puny human bodies into something truly awesome.

Just imagine it: the Pharmaceutical Games. Who cares what that athlete’s name is? He has nothing to do with how well he’s going to perform!

bayer contestant“Coming into the arena now is the Bayer contestant. Whoa but he’s a beauty. The medical boffins have turned him into a mean (literally) green fighting machine. I’m assuming that has something to do with his chlorophyll count. Dr. Heckyll, would you care to comment on your creation?”

“Yes, Jim. Thank you. As you have guessed, we have genetically modified this specimen to take energy directly from the sun. It no longer has to worry about anaerobic pain, as individual cells are constantly fed oxygen from every pore on its skin.”

“And how do you think it will compete against the Johnson&Johnson competitor? Oh, he’s coming out now. Wow. He’s almost twice the size of your creation.”

“I’m not worried in the slightest. The J&J beast is big, but they haven’t had a winning fighter since the Blob, back in ’28!”
If you weren’t worried by little considerations such as ethics and the well-being of competitors, sport could be something I might even tune in to watch! Who cares about fairness in sport? Sport was created as a way for lords to observe the fitness of their soldiers outside of proper warfare. It was war without the death (mostly). In that situation, the person who wins is better and the reasons why they win stop being so important. Fairness? Pah. All is fair in love and sport!

I think the Death Race model is one of the better ones. Take convicts who have been sentenced to death. Give them the opportunity to win their freedom in the arena. Make them sign their body over to whichever pharmaceutical company came first in the draft. And let them have a field day.

Of course, we could never let these hulks loose on society afterwards. But they don’t have to know that, do they?
Where’s the drawback? I see no way that this could go horribly wrong, only to be resolved in around 120 minutes of bloody action!

I think I should take a break now. Gain some perspective. I’m back on the weekly blog schedule, and have some keen insights in store for 2013.

BTW, I’ve started writing again. This week was a one-act play and a short story. Finding Damo (the novel, not the blog) is calling to me. I’ll post word counts next week.

Happy Easter everyone!

Dwarves in Space.

I’m in the study of my new house, looking out at a magnificent garden and wondering why I’m not outside. At the moment, all that is stopping me is the deadline of sending my novel out to be published. And all that is stopping me there is the lack of a title.

For years, I have been calling it Dwarves in Space. And then a few people commented that it was a ridiculous title. So I changed it to “Don’t stop the world, I want to get back on.” which was very indicative of the story, but was, in the words of my friend and mentor, Danny Galvin, “a pun on a book from before you were born. Nobody will get it.”

After an incredibly long brainstorming session at Mum’s place, we ended up with the title Starstruck. Boring, but catchy. Not too punny. The problem is, you’d have to read it to get it.

And so, when I started farming it out to editors, I changed it back to Dwarves in Space!

And then I had Geoff Brown go over it – he did a great job of picking out the worst grammatical flaws and story faults, but didn’t notice that even though the Eagle was lying on the side of Mount Olympus, it was also flying King Roland back to the city for the end scene.

Oops. Minor spoilers.

My favourite quote from him was as follows: “I think the title leaves a lot to be desired, and doesn’t show the true richness of the story.”

So I’ve been madly trying to find a name that does show the true richness of the story.

Feel free to help. Here’s my brainstorm: https://bubbl.us/?h=14817/21f3cb/83C1g3DlojTJw

I’m trying to find a title that is epic, that links fantasy – with its elves, wizards, dwarves and magic – to spaceships and starcharts. It’s a comedy, so I’d hope the title demonstrated that somehow.

Not much to ask for, you must admit!

If nothing comes to me, I’ll have to hope that Penguin’s promise that “All manuscripts are carefully read and assessed,” is true, and they read it on its merit and maybe suggest something better. Who can tell?

I’m telling you, this has been an epic journey just in the writing. Let me tell you a story…

Many MANY years ago, I decided to go to a psychic. She was incredibly good at teasing out details and surprised me with a number of predictions that she couldn’t have known about. She is the reason why I didn’t get my motorcycle license. She also told me that I’d write a novel “something to do with the wizard necklace you are wearing” and get it  published. I’d been thinking of a novel about wizards and dwarves on a spaceship, and the havoc that would ensue as they tried to learn how to fly the ship. I got home and started writing.

The next phase of this story takes place in Japan. I was dating a girl named Kallie, who was a great reason not to be at home. I left early each morning and went to a cafe. I drank coffee, smoke cigarettes and wrote for four hours a day. In the ten months I lived in Japan, I knocked off ninety-five percent of the novel. And I was very happy with it.

 

And then I started reading books on publishing, and the first thing they said was “you won’t get published without having some short stories published first.”

And I met Sara Douglass. Well, I re-met her. She was my History lecturer at university, and she was an incredible writer and an incredible lecturer – full of life and humour. And I don’t want to speak ill of the dead, but her advice to me was “You will never sell anything that’s a mish-mash of so many genres.” That put me right off.

So we fast-forward ten years. I’ve had a few short stories published, I’m well into my next novel, and I’m ready to go on … ahem… Dwarves in Space!

Pippa has been invaluable in this part, going through the manuscript with a fine tooth comb, telling me over and over to work on my female characters, and pointing out grammatical errors that make me ashamed to say that I teach English for a living.

And I’m sure that much of the reason that I haven’t tried to have it published before now is, I am deathly afraid that after spending more than a decade with my baby, it will be rejected. But that’s not enough of a reason any more. OK. Here we go people. I’m pressing the send button!

Super!

I had a phenomenally deep, completely insightful blog half-written on Wednesday, before my brain melted into a sludge and left me drooling on the keyboard. When I went back to it, there was nowhere to go and no end in sight. So I’ve shelved it.

Why? Why is our heroic blogger unable to blather on about nothing for pages this week? Surely he hasn’t “lost it”!

Gods. I hope not. No, today is eight days before the first audience for my production Super! and nine days before the official showing. That’s right. One night only! Don’t get me started. Well, don’t get me started yet.

So my focus is on the show, rather than Finding Damo. And yet, here I am, taking the time to keep you all informed. Do you feel privileged?

Right, so there are two brothers, Zack and Joss. They are dropped off for their first day of school and, after travelling through the secret tunnel and pulling the nose on the statue, arrive, ready to learn. And they’re met by Igor, who welcomes them to Super Hero High School.

That’s right. Their parents have sent them to a high school for super heroes.

Health and Safety is a MUST!

Students come to the school in the hopes that they can join the elite force of country-saving super heroes – the equivalent of a nuclear stockpile in global politics. Zapped with radiation within their first few days, they are tested for powers and then trained for the rest of their school life to be the most effective heroes they can be.

School being what it is, there are always cliques. In a Super powered school, the main factions are the Heroes – dedicated to law, order and mall appearances, and Villains – bent on world domination, but with the best intentions of course. The majority, however, aren’t super powered. They are the Norms: the downtrodden majority. The elite of these can be utilised as henchmen or sidekicks (or lackeys for Igor, who runs the Henchmen and Sidekicks Union). But mostly they clean the floors and are pushed around, running errands at the whim of the Supers.

When Zack and Joss both manifest and choose opposite factions, and the Norms Jeff and Ted are bullied one too many times, Super Powers High School becomes a much more interesting place to be.

I wrote the play while travelling around Europe. Long train journeys, an iPad and Bluetooth keyboard made for a fantastic writing environment. I wrote it with a certain cast in mind, and I even got a couple of them. It’s definitely written for a high school cast. It’s also written for Shereen, Pippa and Dave, who are almost my entire audience when I write stuff in my head. Lots of Whedon references – some subtle, some a complete rip off. They wouldn’t let me do Dr. Horrible, so I did it anyway, but with a bigger cast and less girl.

OK. Six minutes before I have to go and do some work. I would suggest, that if you live in Melbourne and have nothing better to do on the 12th September, come and see it! St James College, East Bentleigh. No bookings, $5 entry. Great music from Smashmouth, Voltaire, the Living End, Michael Buble, Oasis, the Dollyrots and Oingo Boingo.

And for those wondering if I’ve added to Finding Damo – the novel, remember: melted brain, screaming Year 7 students, grumpy teenagers and the need to create a Human Fly costume in the next couple of days.

That would be a no. I promise, after the 12th, I will write 2000 words before my birthday.

PS: My stories are still selling well on Alfie Dog. If you want one for whatever device on which you read eBooks, go to the website! I’d love it if you let me know what you thought, good or bad. And tell them you want more werewolf stories, because I really want to sell them Shoot for the Moon.

WoooOOOOOOoooooo!

This little titbit is another one of those “I keep hearing this in completely unrelated forums, so I feel like I should make mention of it” news items. In this case, it is the Loch Ness Monster. It started with Dave showing me photos from his trip to Scotland, and his trip to Loch Ness. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a shot of the famous Nessie, but it put the creature in my head. Then my step-daughter was telling me how the Loch Ness monster is actually a dinosaur. My gentle assertion that the correct phrasing was more along the lines of “could be a plesiosaur if it actually existed” were met with the scorn it deserved. Finally, from two different sources, the final being Kevin Smith’s Smodcast, I hear that in America, the education department is funding a text book for schools that states that the Loch Ness Monster is real, is probably a plesiosaur (dammit, foiled by a 7 year old again), and its existence proves that evolution is false.

Socrates would have a field day with the logic involved in that one!

From here, I have a real Sliding Doors blog moment. Or a Trousers of Time scenario. Or a Community dice roll.

Depending on where I go from here could mean the difference between being picked up by a major newspaper or wallowing forever in obscurity. Or ending up evil, or with only one arm. Here are the options:

  •  Trouser leg one: from here, I go on to talk about education and the teacher stereotypes that are prevalent in the media, compared to those that are prevalent in my ten years of teaching.
  • Trouser leg two: from here, I go on to talk about all of the weird and wonderful things in this world, which ones I believe in and which ones are absolute rubbish.
  • Trouser leg three (I’m Jake the Peg, diddle-iddle-iddle um) – there is NO leg three. Although I’m going to do a blog soon on being a sudden parent, in order to stay within the realms of the Finding Damo universe.

Shooting myself in the foot – career-wise – I’m going to go with spooks and the unexplained.

We love Ghost Kitty

Girls With Slingshots – another great web comic

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child – say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldn’t see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didn’t like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was just a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. I’m not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon I’d be highly nervous following that dream.

We are still largely ignorant of the universe we live in. There are thousands of strange and unsettling occurrences that – well, that occur – every day. Some people say that they can explain it, WITH SCIENCE! but they often just ignore the element that isn’t explained.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if Shereen had been pregnant and a doctor had told me that the baby would be born autistic. Because I’d dreamt it. I might have been surprised if they doctor had told me that the baby was made out of strawberry icecream, and I’ve dreamt that as well. But I’m quite happy to believe that I had a prescient dream.

I mean seriously, who wouldn’t be? It means that I’m a super hero! I can see the future! The day that I stop dreaming is the day I can tell the Prime Minister that the world is about to end! If I ever dreamed of tattslotto numbers I’d be set for life!
Of course, that’s rubbish. I seem to get déjà vu more than the average person. I remember dreaming it and then it comes true. Or I just live an incredibly boring life where I do the same thing over and over again, and have shocking short term memory. But I’m not dreaming true dreams, and don’t place a lot of credence in the words of other people who say that they do.

But I believe it’s possible. I just haven’t done it yet.

True dreaming. Out of body experiences. Aliens, ghosts and poltergeists, clairvoyants, past lives, the yeti and the panther living in the Rushworth forest. I’m quite happy to believe in all of these things. They aren’t outside the realm of possibility. They’re as plausible as God, heaven, guardian angels and the like, and some people get quite upset when you laugh at those beliefs.

OK, ghosts. That I can give a little more personal experience about. I have two personal ghost stories and one that I’m going to butcher because I can’t remember it properly. I think it comes from one of Shay’s friends, so Shay, if you remember the conversation, feel free to weigh in via the comments.

Ghost story no. 1:

I was living at the Terraces in Bendigo. Every Tuesday, I’d walk over the hill in the dark to where Mark lived to watch Star Trek: TNG. And then I’d walk back much later at night over the same hill. At the top of the hill one night I noticed a pure white cat sitting in front of a car wheel. As Death says: CATS. I LIKE CATS. So I watched it. It watched me. As I walked past the car, it should have passed beyond my line of sight behind the wheel – it was just sitting there looking at me. To my shock, I realised that I could still see the cat, through the wheel of the car. Now it was slightly transparent, but it was still there.

I kept walking. I never saw it again. It could have been a trick of the eyes, but that’s my story.

Ghost story no. 2:

I’d just broken up with Cath, back when she was still Cath. We were civil, outwardly friendly, but there was still a bit of stress there in the relationship. She was flatting with Dave in Middleborough Road, a brilliant house that we almost destroyed in the time we lived there. Those two stayed in the same place for another… year? after I left. I was back for a visit and stayed out in the lounge. During the night I woke up and stared into the face and torso of an old man staring back at me out of the roof. I felt the thrill of fear but he wasn’t threatening. He seemed more evaluative. He was trying to get a measure of me. When I sat up, he faded.

I told Cath about him the next day and she said “Mmm. I know him. He looks after me at night. He’s very protective.” To top that off, I emailed a clairvoyant who dealt with ghosts and spirits. She emailed back saying “Oh yes, that’s the man who used to own the place. He’s looking after Cath and he has always been a little bit curious about you. He never quite trusted you in your relationship with her. He isn’t threatening, just curious. He watches you on the loo, cos he liked to read there too.”

Quite apart from being freaked out by the fact that a ghost is watching me on the loo, I hadn’t told her most of that information, so it was an impressive feat of either ghost whispering or making stuff up.

Ghost story no. 3:

This one is absolutely freaky. But it was ages ago, and I’m not sure if I can tell it properly. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine… But the friend experienced a number of the ghostly symptoms, so I give it a lot more credence. OK, let’s see what I can get out.

This girl’s boyfriend lived in a flat. He experienced a number of elements of a haunting – The lights would turn on and off by themselves. The taps would turn on when he left the room. There was a cold patch in the lounge, directly under the fan. He loved it. A haunted flat. And then, somehow, he found out what had happened. The guy who’d been there beforehand had committed suicide after his girlfriend had died (I’m making up the reason, but he committed suicide). After he found out, the spirit started to get angry. Objects would move around the room. My friend’s friend (the girlfriend) was hit with a glass one day when she visited. And then the guy had a dream where he died, hanging from the fan like the man who’d died in the flat. It wasn’t fun any more.

He started to look for a new place. He started to get angry very quickly. He withdrew, argued with his girlfriend. One morning, his girlfriend came over and he didn’t answer the door or his phone. You know where this is going. He was hanging from the fan, attached by his belt around his neck.

I can’t explain that one. I have another friend whose ghostly companion follows her from house to house. There are hundreds of stories out there. You can’t explain them all. Oh, you could say they’re lying, deluded, psychotic or mad. There are atmospheric anomalies and magnetic disturbances and the like.

But for now, I’ll keep an open mind.

Remember Alfie Dog and my stories. Apparently they’re selling well. Thank you to everybody who as supported me.

Back from the bliss

Breakfast of champions!

Sorry about the last two weeks. I was on sabbatical. I was on my Honeymoon. I was living it up in the lap of luxury in sunny Queensland, sipping cocktails from the poolside bar and eating altogether too much each morning from the breakfast buffet. It was the most relaxed I’ve been in two years. I left my technological devices behind and that made all of the difference. Of course, that meant that I wasn’t writing blogs.

I know that the ideal way of doing this is to let my readers know that I’m going to be on holidays, but it just popped up on me without warning (you know, apart from the six weeks advance warning I had when booking it).

As per normal, I now owe you two blog posts. So this one is going to be a blatant self-promotion, owing to a number of very exciting things happening at the moment. The second will be one of my ever-exciting, interesting and amusing posts on the nature of life and the universe.

 

But first the blatant self-promotion:

Finding Damo came about as an attempt to get inside the head of my main character Damo. It was meant to be blogs from the actual character and ended up being posts from the increasingly disturbed mind of his author as his random conspiracy theory-addled brain made more and more sense to me.

But it was about making it easier to write the novel, thus getting it finished and published and me becoming the next Nick Earls.

The other thing that helps me get published is having other stories up for sale. Which is what I accomplished just before I went away. Alfie Dog publishing have just accepted a couple of my stories for publication as eBooks.

Be Practical and Ted’s Souls are two short stories that I’ve had accepted for publication in different areas, but for various reasons never saw the light of day. Finally, they are available for your reading pleasure. Apparently the highest purchase of any one story has been 17. I’m thinking my PR machine can beat that.

My stories go live on the 15th July (UK time, so maybe the 16th here in Oz). Put that date in your calendars, although be assured that I’ll be spamming the date once my stories are up and ready to go.

Go to: http://alfiedog.com/products-page/damian-perry/ on the 15th July and feel free to buy the stories at your leisure!

NAIV logoBut it’s not just my own writing that I have come to annoy you about. You know that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, and am currently in the process of organising the Nullus Anxietas IV convention – the Fourth National Discworld Convention in Australia.

I’m in charge of PR – so if you haven’t heard of it by now then I’m not doing my job properly.

You can get access to all of the information on what’s coming up by following these incredibly well-written pages of information:

The Australian Discworld Convention website – currently under the control of our cousins in Adelaide.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Facebook fan page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV Google+ page.

The Nullus Anxietas IV twitter feed.

Do you get yet that the name of the convention is Nullus Anxietas?

The most exciting part of the Nullus Anxietas (IV) experience right now is our involvement in Pratchett-Palooza, being run by Dymocks. They have their own Facebook fan page, but refuse to go to Google+ so I’ve duplicated the various events through our page. You can also access the Dymocks events page.

The most important event on this calendar (quite apart from 3 for 2 Pratchett books) is the Pratchett Promenade. The culmination of a month of Pratchett fun! Involving a fashion catwalk, a talent quest, costumes and merriment. I have a special stake in this one, but you won’t find out until the night.

Finally, thank you to everyone who contributed to the Write a Book in a Day event. The boys completed two books totalling about 20,000 words in the space of a day, with illustrations. And then bound it and sent it off. We are waiting to find out whether they won any of the awards, but we raised over $500 in the attempt, which is fantastic.

And so, it is a busy time. I’m flat out. Now is the time for relaxing, but I don’t think it will happen. Sometimes I look at my life and think: I could really do with some time off.

But, nah! Holidays are exhausting!

The Darkness

Last night, my fiancé crawled up next to me.

“I had a nightmare,” she said, and told me what it was. It was detailed, it had dialogue, examined a number of themes and basically demonstrated a healthy subconscious dealing with the stress of everyday life.

About two weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and crawled up next to my fiancé.

“I had a nightmare,” I said. She commiserated.

“What was it all about?”

“Ghosts,” I said. And promptly fell back asleep.

And I’m the writer.

No, really, the dream was just as complex, with lots of themes and allowed me to recognise a fear of mortality that ended up being a blog post from a couple of weeks ago. But having voiced the fact of a nightmare, I put it out of my head and that was enough.

Last night I dreamed that I broke the neck of a rat because it was crawling around inside my shirt and I didn’t want it to bite me. Later in the dream I pushed a man (a bad man) down the stairs and snapped his neck with my boot because he was threatening to turn me in for something that I had done earlier in the dream.

My sister said to me today: “Your nephew is going to be a fantastic storyteller. He loves telling stories – of course they’re incredibly dark and gruesome, but a good read nonetheless. Just like yours.”

I have no idea why I so often go to the dark places in my writing. I write lots of funny, nice and friendly fantasy and science fiction. But the two pieces that have made it closest to being published are the story about the guy who cuts people’s “souls” out of their body to trade with the devil, and the wife who is sick of her overbearing husband and so feeds him to a zombie.

Lots of people laugh at death. Some people even laugh at Death. Maybe not twice. My conclusion is: if you can laugh at it, it’s no longer scary. I think I did the right thing by letting my stepdaughter play Plants Vs. Zombies. Zombies are no longer something that she is scared about. She knows the sunflowers and peashooters are out there to protect her. And a zombie with a bucket on his head just seems less of a threat.

So there’s that. Write funny stories about bad things and don’t fear the bad things.

But I also write pure darkness, with very little humour in it. And Shereen believes that I can write that because nothing truly evil has happened to me. I am living vicariously through my mind to try and experience evil from the safety of the page. I know that I love reading Stephen King and Clive Barker, revelling in every gory death. But I’m still rooting for the good guys. I still want to read the happy ending. And the happy ending means more when they’ve gone through so much more to achieve it.

Of course, sometimes I write horror because that’s where my mind goes when the story pops into my head. That guy just walked into an alley and didn’t come out again. Logically, he walked to the other end and left by another exit. But what if. . . hell, maybe the alley eats people. Maybe another man sends people there as sacrifices to the person-munching alley, to – oh I don’t know, to gain its favour and the power that goes along with that? And what in Bob’s name is a man-eating alley doing in the centre of Melbourne anyway? And then things get convoluted.

I want to read that story now. I should go and write it. And I need to start getting some things published. Or my twisted little four-year-old nephew might beat me to the punch.

PS. Oh, I haven’t put this one down on paper. You wanna see dark? Sometimes, for a good costume, things have to die. For those who are really squeamish and love their teddy bears, you should stop reading now and go and read Penny Arcade instead.

We're going on a bear hunt.

Imagine That.

A good imagination...

Shereen and I sat down with a financial planner last night and discussed getting life insurance. I’m growing up! But now that I’m worth more dead than alive, I’ve had to accept that I’ve just taken the first step towards accepting that I’m going to die. I mean really, why would you bet an insurance company that you were going to die if you knew you were going to lose?

Dammit.

But never fear, bloggy followers, I am not talking about death, save as a lead-in to a commentary on imagination.

I spent a few weeks as a child wide awake each night terrified that I was going to die. As an adult, I’ve always assumed that it was a normal stage of development. You start off and everything is part of you. And then you want someone to feed you and they don’t and you realise that they are an independent entity. And eventually you realise that if they can go away and not come back then you might end as well.

For me, that was compounded, I think, by an incredibly vivid imagination. At night, trying to think of what death would be like, I could feel the wood of the coffin on my skin. I would try and drag a breath from a space completely devoid of air. I couldn’t imagine being dead and at peace. I could only imagine dying and the fear and panic that went along with that.

I’ve never written about that before. But I’ve written about almost everything else. And I know that I’m not famous enough for people to care where I get my ideas, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It is an insight into my warped mind and where a simple idea can take me.

The most convoluted idea for a story ended up being a short story called Have your Lamington and eat it too. I was living in Seymour, walking home from the bakery, eating a sausage roll. Bits of pastry were flaking away and dropping to the ground. I watched ants take the flakes away – a tasty meal – and had an epiphany: it is incredibly difficult to eat every little bit of anything! Imagine, then, if you had to eat a magic lamington in order to gain a special power. Imagine if you had to eat ALL of it for the magic to work. And imagine that something really bad would happen to you if you didn’t eat it all. I watched the ants drag crumbs of sausage roll down beneath the earth and decided that some poor sod wild have an extremely unpleasant time getting hold of those last few crumbs.

Ted’s Souls came out of a conversation with Dave, where we tried to figure out what the appendix did. It seemed like as logical a storage place as any for the human soul.

Shoot for the Moon was an exercise in sense-writing to begin with. I wrote a scene with as much sensation in it as possible. It turned into a proper story because I wanted to explore a world where nearly everybody was a werewolf, because really, it wouldn’t be that bad – most of the time.

Dwarves in Space began as an image of a group of dwarves lighting fires in the hold of a spaceship to keep warm and ponderings on how a wizard would survive in an environment of pure technology.

And Finding Damo evolved from a desire to tell the story of some of the stupid things I’ve done along with the idea that there might be a junior Perry out there somewhere that I don’t know about.

I have a story that deals with what the heir to Prometheus would steal if we got another go at Break-and-Entering Olympus. A story that came out of a minor nervous attack over the thought that, on a train, you’d have nowhere to go if the passengers suddenly turned into homicidal maniacs (yes, I think about these things). A story based on the observation that when you kill a spider, the corpse doesn’t always stick around (and so, is it really dead? Or are spiders immortal?). And a story based around a song called Skin Deep. I never knew it was called Skin Deep as a kid. I just remember the line: Better watch out for the skundig. What the hell are skundig?? That was a year’s worth of peaceful sleep I’ll never get back, I tell ya!

Come to think of it, “Better watch out for the Skin Deep” also has incredibly creepy vibes.

Lots of stories in my head!

Anyway, there are thousands of stories in my head. I should stop talking about them and go and write some. And if you know anyone who wants to buy some, feel free to send them my way.

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