Finding Damo

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

Archive for the tag “writing”

Dark Half

Sometimes you really need to think through what you type into Google.

I was talking to my wife about a guy who failed a paternity test because his baby was actually born to his twin brother – who was still inside him. Searching for that article now, I found this:

Be careful what you search for.

Be careful what you search for.

What I was actually looking for was this article entitled: Guy fails paternity test because his unborn twin is the father.

This reminded me of Stephen King’s Dark Half – Tad Beaumont has an evil twin and…

OK, wait. This story is going to require me to be a bit spoilery. If you don’t want to have the story ruined, go and read it, and then come back and read this. Otherwise, read on.

dark half

So, when he was younger he started having visions of sparrows and heard them. It turned out he had a tumour in his head, which they removed. That tumour became his evil twin and tried to kill him when he brought it to life by creating an alter ego so he could write crime fiction.

Wow. That was MASSIVELY spoilery.

Shereen looked at me and said “Wow. That really would scare you, having an evil twin brought to life from being a writer.”

My response, in my best Arnie:

not a tumor“It’s NOT a tumah! It’s my evil twin.”

Which led to:

“Ah! Twins! I have Danny De Vito in my head!”

twins2

Sometimes my mind works in mysterious ways.

I want to publish Finding Damo. I can’t publish it while I’m teaching. I can’t really write under a pseudonym, as everyone already associated me with Finding Damo (especially you, reading this  blog).

So I’m safe for now, until I write something I have to publish under a different name.

Can you hear sparrows?

Sparrow_Silhouette.svg

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May Challenge on WEBook

May Challenge on WEBook

I try to get involved in the WEBook challenge every month. Last month I was runner up. This month I’m going for the iPad 🙂

He said, She said…

Last night I was exploring first person POV, the unreliable narrator and differing perspectives on the same situation with a student I tutor. To illustrate the situation I presented the following YouTube clip:

I then asked her to write the piece from the boy’s perspective in first person, followed by the girl’s perspective. While she wrote, I did the same. It was an interesting exercise. Here ‘tis.

She

My stomach turned over as I saw him. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation. It was either the nerves. Or the baby.

Oh yeah, I’m pregnant.

How would he react? In these situations, I tend to get defensive. My back was up as we met and I’m sure I was sulking as I matched his step.

Finally, he stopped and confronted me.

He looked tired. Tired and annoyed.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

Already he’d annoyed me. He knew, but he wouldn’t be the one to say it.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked. His expression was part of the reason I was glad the baby wasn’t his. God, how could I have been with him?

“Well,” he said, his voice flat, “clearly you’re acting like this for some reason -”

Like this? Like my life had been thrown into turmoil? Like my future had just become that of the single mother?

“- so what’s up?” he asked. He was pretending to be Caring Guy. I was having none of it.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

You really want to know? I thought. “I’m pregnant.”

His surprise was genuine. Hell, maybe he hadn’t known, after all.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” And then he said the words I’d been dreading:

“Is it mine?”

I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want him to be a part of my life. My baby’s life.

“I dunno, maybe.”

“Maybe?” Oops. No guy wants to hear that. But, looking at his stupid face, I figured I was better off without him. I sighed.

“Probably not.”

The look of pure relief on his face said it all.

“Thank God!” he said, and he almost sprinted from the room. I left in the opposite direction.

Good riddance.

He

She was bugging me. She’d been moody for days. When she called me and said we needed to talk, I gigured that the inevitable break up talk was imminent. And frankly, that was fine by me.

But now that we were together, she wasn’t saying anything. I decided to make the first move.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you want me to say?”

I hate you? I’m sick of this? It’s over?

“Well clearly you’re acting like this for some reason, so what’s up?”

“I don’t know.” This was harder than I thought. She was withdrawn. Maybe it wasn’t the breakup conversation. I looked at her more closely.

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Whoa. That was not one of the possible options.

“Really?” No, not really, I’m just fooling. What a stupid question. I saw contempt in her eyes.

“Yeah.” Ok, next stupid question. I was on a roll.

“Is it mine?” I mean, really, who wants to know the answer to that, one way or another? I didn’t love her, didn’t even like her much. I definitely didn’t want to have a kid with her. But although I was pretty sure she’d been cheating on me, I had no desire to know for sure.

“I dunno, maybe.” My stomach lurched. Maybe was a confirmation of the cheating. I’d almost have preferred a “How could you ask that?” blowup, not this sulky quiet. My heart grew cold.

“Maybe?”

“Probably not.”

I was furious. I was ecstatic. I mourned the loss of my brief, ten-second child. I celebrated my freedom.

“Thank God,” I snapped.

And then I sped out of the room so she wouldn’t see the tears.

On a lighter note:

This YouTube clip was obviously part of an exercise for a film school or something. These two did a pretty good job. But I found another one which you might find amusing, although they would fail the sound check:

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!

Every sparrow – Chapter Two

Chuck poked at the crackling fire and unwrapped some ration pouches. He frowned at the narrow trail of smoke that curled off into the sky. He’d seen nobody since landing in this ancient ruin two days ago. Chuck had set up motion sensors around his entry pod, but beyond the odd rat or wallaby, he’d seen very little sign of life. Surely a fire would be noticeable in this silent land?

“Dinner for one it is then,” he said.

He settled the plastic packet into the boiling water and waited for it to heat. There was almost definitely intelligent life on this planet. He’d been pinged at least a dozen times by radar and other scans during his descent. The ship had picked up regular transmissions of energy that were too regular to be random. The consensus amongst his exploratory party was that anybody living here was underground. If there was anybody living here.

The other proposal put forward was that only the computers were left. In the thousand years since humanity abandoned Earth and headed for the stars, there had been no communication from their planet of origin. Therefore nobody had survived. Chuck did not believe this theory. It was chock full false logic, and was incredibly unromantic.

The heat sensor on the food pack changed colour and Chuck fished it out of the boiling water, hissing as he burnt his fingers. He tore the top of the bag with his teeth and spat it onto the ground. Then he grabbed a spoon and took a mouthful of what turned out to be lukewarm, slightly pasty, completely unflavoured rice. Cursing technology and money-grubbing corporations in general, he tossed the bag across the square. Various birds flittered down to find out what tasty morsels had been abandoned. Chuck snapped some images of them to send back to the orbiting ship. He gave one last mournful look at his lunch, sighed and stood up. If the natives weren’t going to come to him, he’d have to go and hunt for the natives. He hoisted his backpack, pulled out a pad, brought up a map of the ruins and headed for what looked like a giant gaming die on the city grid. It seemed to be a hotspot for energy fluctuations.

“That’s stop number one,” he said and headed out of the little clearing between the buildings. Soon the clearing was empty, but for the birds, fighting over the rice in its plastic wrapping.

And then the birds scattered as Chuck bustled back, his face scarlet. He snatched up the plastic bag of rice and tipped the food onto the ground. He looked about and nabbed the lid of the packet, stuffing both into his backpack. He pulled a small capsule out of his pocket and dropped it onto the fire, where it exploded in a squirt of foam that immediately extinguished the fire. Hands on hips, Chuck looked around critically. He nodded in satisfaction and a certain grim embarrassment.

“We left this planet because it was too polluted to live on and what do I do when I get back? Sheesh.”

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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