Skin deep

One notable thing about the 2010s is how many popular concepts from the 20th century are getting a revival. Some of those popular things are bad, like measles and Nazism. Others are good, like D&D and audio drama.

Let’s focus on the good for the moment. It’s a great time for RPG actual play podcasts, also known as ‘let’s listen to total strangers playing D&D for two hours as if that’s somehow entertaining rather than torturous’.

1000% accurate depiction of ‘Critical Role’

I kid, I kid. I used to think listening to other people roleplay was incomprehensible, but now an embarrassingly large proportion of my podcast playlist is taken up with AP ‘casts. They’re a good way to learn how other players/GMs approach games, after all – and god help me, the best of them are entertaining.

(The worst… look, it’s real easy to unsubscribe to a bad podcast 2 minutes after starting it.)

The successful ‘casts also have big fan followings – again, a concept none of us thought was possible or sane back in the day. The people, they LOVE listening to the D&D. They tweet about it. They tumble it. They patron it.

Anyway, if you check out social media activity around AP casts, or indeed any other form of audio drama/comedy/etc., the number one thing that comes through is that listeners, desperately, desperately want to know what these characters look like.

And that baffles me.

The thing I find least interesting, the thing I skip over in any book, the fast-forward-or-fuck-it-delete-the-whole-thing trigger in any audio medium… it’s what people look like. It’s descriptions of clothing. Of facial features. Of ohfuckmedead hair colour. Tell me about the character’s ringlets and freckles and I’m putting down the book/’cast in favour of strong drink.

Look, I get it. I know I’m wrong. I’m the weird one here. It’s utterly natural for human beings, a species that (mostly) uses sight as their primary way of perceiving all of existence, to want that sense reflected in their fiction.

But fuuuuuuuuuck it bores me.

I blame Raymond Chandler, as I often do. He taught me that you could describe characters through metaphor and simile without ever specifying what colour pants they were wearing. Consider lines like:

From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.

He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food cake.

She had eyes like strange sins.

(Yes, I know Chandler described people more thoroughly at other times, and even what they were wearing. Don’t blow up my spot, I’m on a roll.)

I read lines like that at an impressionable age, too young or dumb to register Chandler’s misanthropy, misogyny, homophobia or general shittiness as a person, and they stuck with me. To the point where I struggle to engage with any prose or audio that takes the time to spell out all the details, and to where I look at fanart and clamourings for ‘official’ artwork of podcast characters as some kind of missive from an alternate reality that I would prefer not to visit, thank you.

The principle holds true in my writing. The best description I ever wrote of a character was ‘He had a face like a stab’. That suggests not only what the character looks like (sort of), it speaks to his personality and attitude – and to the personality and thought processes of the narrator that described him.

(I abandoned the project that included that description. But I swear I’ll use it again someday.)

But here’s the thing, and the reason why this is a blog post rather than a grumpy tweet – I realise this might be a problem. That readers – the readers I want to obtain and retain – like knowing what people look like. Especially in YA fiction, which I have decided to keep plugging away at like a punch-drunk bantamweight too concussed to know when to quit.

(Hmm. Might keep that Chandlerism too.)

So with Raven’s Blood, I started working on describing characters more. I’m not sure I succeeded. But as I start planning the next, hopefully final revision pass through that MS in a hope of finding it a home, and indeed to start writing the next novel, descriptions – of characters, clothing, places – are something I’m trying to focus on. And to find some middle ground between a five-word simile and a page-long then I looked in the mirror and listed all of my cute identifying traits monologue. Surely I can manage that.

(As for The Obituarist series… Kendall Barber’s skinny, bald and missing some fingers. And honestly I’m not sure he’s that skinny any more, 5-6 years on. I couldn’t tell you any more than that, and I hope you don’t ask.)

So that’s where my head is right now. Chime in with a comment if you’re so inclined. How important are visual descriptions or depictions to you? Do you feel the need to imagine what characters look like? And what kind of descriptive shorthand (if any) works for you?

BORING PRODUCTIVITY UPDATE: We moved house in the long gap between this post and the last, and I took a lot of concentration-destroying painkillers to cope with a knee injury.

But now we’re settled, I’m (mostly) off the drugs and walking straight, and I’m past the halfway mark on The Obituarist III. Which is proving to have a remarkable number of scenes in which Kendall is just wandering around without pants on.

Don’t blame me. I’m just a vessel for his truth.

I like yes-and-no-buts and I cannot lie

Okay, so this post starts by talking about improv theatre, then moves into roleplaying, then into writing, then maybe back and forth between gaming and writing for a bit?

I dunno, I’m writing this bit at the start. Which is probably a bad move.

Anyhoo, moving on.

One of the truisms of improv theatre – which I used to do a lot of back in my 20s, a revelation that should shock exactly no-one – is that you never block an offer. An ‘offer’, in this case, is an idea from your co-improviser, or the audience, or whoever, and ‘blocking’ is the act of shutting that idea down.

The obvious block is saying ‘no’ and negating someone’s offer:

  • ‘Good lord, Holmes, how will you solve this mystery while you’re all fucked up on cocaine?’
  • ‘What are you talking about? I’m not Sherlock Holmes and I’ve never touched drugs.’

More subtly, you can block an offer by saying ‘yes’ to it, but not actually building on that offer – you accept the suggestion but don’t take it anywhere.

  • ‘Good lord, Holmes, how will you solve this mystery while you’re all fucked up on cocaine?’
  • ‘I don’t know, Watson. My reasoning skills have shut down due to all this coke.’
I didn’t watch this and I do not regret that decision.

So the rule that improv students internalise is ‘yes and’ – you accept the offer and you extend or build on it.

  • ‘Good lord, Holmes, how will you solve this mystery while you’re all fucked up on cocaine?’
  • ‘You fool, Watson! This cocaine energises my reasoning faculties, leading me to the inescapable conclusion that you murdered all these fish cultists!’

Once you get enough experience, you realise that ‘yes and’ has its own problems, and there are other ways to manage offers, but it works at the start. And it’s such a simple, powerful principle that it’s managed to escape the gravity well of improv and get taken up in other creative quarters, such as gaming and writing.

But I’m not convinced that that’s always for the best.

Okay, moving on to gaming, specifically roleplaying.

99% of RPGs involve some kind of success/failure mechanic – either at the granular task level or the larger scene level. D&D kept it simple at first – everything was pass/fail, succeed or don’t. Over time, critical successes and failures crept into the lexicon – you could get a very good success with extra benefits, or a very bad failure with extra you-drop-your-sword-and-your-pants-at-the-same-time.

Over the course of, jesus shit, 45 years(!) (!!!), RPGs (as a whole) have expanded to allowing six different levels of payoff or detail in success/failure outcomes. We can define these using the language of improv, which has definitely influenced RPG discourse:

  • Yes-and: You succeed and you get something more in addition
  • Yes: You succeed and you get what you want
  • Yes-but: You succeed but something goes wrong, or you get somewhat less than what you want
  • No-but: You fail but something else goes right, or you get something to mitigate the failure
  • No: You fail and don’t get what you want
  • No-and: You fail and something else goes wrong; it’s even worse than not getting what you want

(I’m far from the first to block things out this way; the Freeform Universal RPG (FURPG), which I have never read nor played, also does this. Apparently.)

Sure, Google Image Search, this will do.

Over the last few years I’ve been running a lot of games that lean into the more complex outcomes, such as the various Powered by the Apocalypse games, and spinoffs like the excellent Blades in the Dark. These games generally revolve around four outcomes:

  • Yes-and
  • Yes
  • Yes-but
  • No-and

These aren’t equal weightings; yes-and is vanishingly rare (if it’s an option at all), while no-and comes up all the damn time. More importantly, a straight no is off the table. You can’t just fail and hit a wall; failures always add complications to the story. (As do some successes.)

As a GM, this is fuckin’ awesome. I want complications, I want messiness – goddamnit, I WANT DRAMA. And I love that these systems not just give me opportunities for that drama, but that most of these games give me guidance about what kind of drama and complications will suit the story we’re putting together.

But – you knew there’d be a but – I’ve come to realise that this kind of dynamic doesn’t always work for players. There are players that find this frustrating or stressful, because nothing is ever straightforward or low-stakes. Obstacles never just sit still, or allow characters breathing room to try again or think of new approaches. When everything is shifting and dynamic, aiming for maximum drama, some players feel stressed and pressured, missing the chance to brush off low-stakes failures and move on.

And to be 100% clear, there’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. Games are meant to be fun; if a players isn’t having fun, that’s not their fault, but the fault of the game/game-master for not meeting players’ needs.

Thinking about this kind of GM-player divide has made me think about what players get out of games, and what readers get out of stories. Sometimes we don’t want drama; sometimes we want harmony, or simplicity, or just relief from this dumpster fire of a world.

We need to remember that sometimes we want stories to help us feel happy.

Which brings us, FINALLY, to the writing part of the post.

Here’s the thing about writers – we love to fuck over our characters.

WE LOVE TO SHOVE OUR CHARACTERS FACE-FIRST INTO THE DRAMA TOILET AND FLUSH FLUSH YEAH TASTE THAT DRAMA AND PEE-WATER FLUSH

…ahem.

But is that what our readers always want? Is that always what’s best for the story? Does everything have to be yes-and/no-but all the time? Or is there room to pull the stakes back – to make some challenges less dramatic and more enjoyable or even cathartic for the reader? To live in the land of yes/yes-and and have no truck with no-but?

And if we do that, how do we show it?

In fiction, yes and no outcomes tend to be kind of invisible. If your daring thief/spy easily sneaks past the guards, the story usually skips past that scene in one line to get to the dramatic bit. If they fail to slip past but don’t get caught, the next scene is usually them acknowledging that, trying something different and focusing on that instead. Simple outcomes don’t translate well into prose; all of our tools are about portraying the tension and drama of complex outcomes. ‘Thank U, next’ works for songs, not so much for stories.

But I think we need to consider this, especially in a ‘tumultuous’ (i.e. THE WORLD IS ON FIRE) time when so many readers look to fiction for support and comfort as much as they do challenge and drama. We need to think about easy victories and minor defeats – what they can add to our stories, and how we portray them in ways that develop and cement our characters.

Because without these small victories, these cankers and medallions (yes that’s a reference sorry), some of the readers that we want to engage are going to bounce off out stories.

And fool that I am, I want to engage everyone.
I want us all to get the yes (and occasional yes-and) outcomes that we crave.

WRITING UPDATE: I’m about halfway through The Obituarist 3: Delete Your Account and there is precious little yes/yes-and in this story. I’m okay with this; after Kendall got his [REDACTED] bitten [NOPE] by a [SPOILERS] in the second book, I figure what few readers remain are reconciled to him having nothing but bad days from now on.

I too am having bad days, though – specifically, days where our lease doesn’t get renewed and we have to look for a new house YET AGAIN. This will likely slow down my writing schedule, ‘cos house hunting is a full-time occupation rivalled only by the actual packing and moving process.

But I’m keeping at it.
Will let you know how it goes.

2019 and all that

In previous years I’ve done an end-of-year roundup post.

2018 didn’t deserve one.

Image result for good day sir

Let’s move on.

Hey, it’s me, I’m back.

I’m feeling pretty jazzed and energetic right now, partially from getting an early night (10 minutes of fireworks and then straight to bed) and partially from finishing off a big writing project from last year.

That was LEVIATHAN, an Australian bio-horror espionage campaign I co-wrote for Greg Stolze’s Reign 2E RPG. Yes, game writing; I tried to give it up but Greg asked nicely, and also offered about double the usual payrate. Hard to turn down a friend, especially if the friend will pay your car insurance and registration bill for the year.

Anyway, I wrapped LEVIATHAN up yesterday and submitted it. Look for it as part of the Reign 2E release in August this year. Writing it was fun, and has given me a burst of word-energy like a stallion that I want to keep riding until it dies under me oh no the metaphor went dark.

New Year’s resolutions are bullshit.

Me, I have an agenda.

ONE: Finish and publish The Obituarist III: Delete Your Account. Yeah, I know I said I would do that before the end of 2018, but the contract for LEVIATHAN came through a couple of weeks later. I tried alternating between projects but wasn’t getting anywhere. so I had to go with the one that had a deadline (and would actually earn me money). Now the half-finished O3 is back on my to-do list, and I’ll be working on it solidly for the next 2-3 months.

TWO: Re-edit Raven’s Blood and find it a home. I made a lot of fruitless attempts in 2017 to pitch Raven’s Blood to agents and editors, and that failure was one of the things that sent me into a depression hole that year. But I’m well out of that hole now, and it’s time to give it another try. After I do some rewrites to tweak the themes and characterisations in the book, I’ll pull out my big spreadsheet of agent details and start firing off queries. I can’t control whether that will work out, which makes this more a hope than an agenda item, but on the plus side I can do it while working on…

THREE: Write a new novel – or at least make serious progress on one. If Blood had a publisher I’d get back to work on the next instalment, Raven’s Bones, but it’s foolish to keep building on an uncertain foundation. Instead I’ll get to work on The Squared Circle (draft title), first in a YA series about professional wrestling, 17th-century witch cults, dream demons and teenage romance. A more sensible author might pick just one of those genre ideas and run with it, but where’s the fun in picking anything but the narrowest and least attainable overlap in Venn diagrams, I ask you.

FOUR: Be a better blogger. That’s a vague statement, but vague is probably best right now. Mostly I want to have a blog worth reading on a semi-regular basis, rather than posting one entry full of vagueness, self-flagellation and unfulfilled promises every few months. There’s a few ways to do that; I’ll try a few of them and see what sticks.

That’s it for the year – four tasks/priorities/whatever. Four should be an achievable list, even for an all-mouth-no-trousers slacker like me.

2019 isn’t going to be any better than 2018 if we don’t work at it.

Let’s do that.

I’ll go first.

This year

I’ve been listening to The Mountain Goats a lot this year.

I discovered them very late – only a couple of years ago, when I was told about their wrestling-themed album Beat the Champ. I checked it out because, you know, wrestling, and I found a lot to like, so I started dipping my toes in some of their other works.

Still, it’s only been in the last few weeks that I went further into their back catalogue, and only about a week ago when I listened to their 2005 album The Sunset Tree, and the song ‘This Year’. Like a lot of John Darnielle’s songs, it’s autobiographical to some extent, and based in surviving life with his abusive stepfather. (Given my own father issues, it’s no wonder his songs strike a chord with me.)

Anyway, the song has a short but powerful chorus:

I am going to make it
through this year
if it kills me

That got into my head. And wouldn’t come out.

On Thursday, four days ago, I found out that the Melbourne Writers Festival was running a literary tattoo parlour over the weekend.

And forty hours later, this happened.

The last couple of years have been rough for me. 2017 was pretty much lost to depression and self-doubt; 2018 has been lost to day-job workload, which has dropped slightly since July but not as much as I had hoped. That’s two years where I’ve struggled to find the motivation or energy to do any writing; two years where I’ve been contemplating whether it’s worth bothering to write any more at all.

The anti-depressants helped – I’ve stopped taking them now, but I haven’t fallen back into that hole and I don’t think I will again. The prospect of a less insane workload has helped, even though it hasn’t arrived yet.

And I think this will help. Having a pocket pep-talk that I can look to, day after day, in case I need it. Which I probably will.

But it’s not only that.

For a long time I’ve been hung up on ideas of preparedness and perfection. I’ve told myself that there’s no point in writing right at the moment, because I need to get the idea right, do more research, find the voice – hold back, don’t rush, wait a while. And that’s led to doing nothing much in 2018 except being indecisive, playing video games and going to bed early.

Then I went from zero to new tattoo in less than two days, and a tattoo of lyrics I’d heard only recently at that. Which reminded me that I don’t have to hold back until everything is perfect; sometimes right now is better than perfect. And it reminded me that I can actually be decisive – that I like being decisive, and getting shit done.

I like it more than stasis, that’s for fucking sure.

In the immortal words of actual cannibal Shia Labeouf:

I’d love to say ‘no more faffing about, back to writing immediately!’, but that’s not how it works. I still have a ludicrous workload to manage until at least the end of November, and there are too many days when I literally don’t have time to write.

But there are also days when I have some time. And I’m ready to use that time.

The Obituarist III has been half-done for god, too freakin’ long now. I probably need about 30-odd hours to finish the core draft, then another 10-15 hours of revision and polishing once my editor and readers are done with it. That’s not so long that I can’t get it done before the end of the year.

So that’s the new plan. And I’m going to keep quiet on here until that plan comes through – there’s not much value in sporadic low-content blogging before that point, after all. Not when I could use that time to get the job done.

I think this is it for new tattoos for a while, and for Mountain Goats tatts in particular. I don’t want to be one of those guys who’s just too into The Mountain Goats. You know the type.

But still.

I’m going to make it through this year.

If it kills me.

Not waving, drowning (glub glub glub)

I’m making kind of a habit of disappearing for long periods.

Maybe you thought I was dead.

Nah. My computer was, though, for close to three months, during which time I shelled out a bunch of money to get files recovered, Googled every step required to take the PC apart and put it back together, made lists of all the software I needed to installed and generally got no writing done.

And while all that was happening, my day job went through a big shake up and a bunch of people got laid off. I didn’t, and my job changed to have more of a writing focus, which is a plus – but my workload went through the roof, and it hasn’t stopped climbing yet. Which explains why I spent my entire weekend in the office, shooting videos and developing content, and don’t have any downtime scheduled until maybe next weekend. If I’m lucky.

So I’ve had no time, energy or spoons for writing. Or blogging. Or doing much more than sleeping of late. And I’m not getting enough of that.

Still. I ain’t dead yet. And after I nursemaid four textbooks off to print in the next three weeks, I’ll hopefully get a chance to fall down, go boom, get back up again and revise my writing plans for the year.

I’ll tell you about that when it happens.

But right now it’s nearly 6.30pm and I’m stuffed. Time for another early night.

Still lost in the analog hellscape

BRIEF UPDATE

  • My hard drive is full of ‘bad sectors’, which sounds like a third-wave cyberpunk novel.
  • It is going to cost a LOT of money to recover the data.
  • I tried writing longhand as an alternative.
  • Turns out I can’t read my own handwriting any more.
  • After much soul-searching, I’m paying said LOT of money.
  • Hopefully I’ll be back to normal next week.
  • HA HA HA HA HA I just cursed myself didn’t I
  • Lift your game, 2018.

Thus God makes fools of us all

When last we spoke, I was getting ready for a February of working towards solid yet achievable goals, culminating in a finished Obituarist III draft.

Then on Saturday, this happened.

Yep, my PCs went from useful implement to oversized paperweight, and no amount of cajoling or crying has fixed it. Or (so far) allowed me to retrieve any of the files on it, which include not just the O3 MS but every document, video, photo and piece of music I own.

I should be freaking out. Good thing I’ve started taking meds.

So in the short term, February is going to involve talking to IT people, trying various solutions, writing what I can on my wife’s old laptop and generally cursing fate.

Oh, and writing occasional posts from work while on my lunch break.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Wish me luck.

GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL

Okay, it’s the end of January and approximately a hundred degrees in my office, so it’s time  to knock out a blog update before my brainmeats sizzle and fry within my melting skullfat.

At the end of 2017 I talked about depression and recovery, and wanting – needing – to put in the work to make 2018 less godawful and more worthwhile. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do the last few weeks – put in the work.

I’ve been aided in this by starting a course of anti-depressants. Well, I think I’ve been helped; it’s hard to quantify the effects, and nothing dramatic has happened. The key thing is that I don’t feel… overwhelmed all the time. Which is something.

(Mind you, I don’t love the side effects, which including gaining weight, getting dizzy-drunk on two beers and becoming reeeeaaalllly gassy, but I guess you take the rough with the smooth.)

Work has to have direction and purpose, of course, and so I set myself a slew of goals on January 1st while still bleary and hungover from a big NYE involving dogsitting and beer. (It’s important to start as you mean to continue, after all.)

Obviously, my main goals are writing goals:

  • finishing, revising and publishing Obituarist III by the end of March
  • doing a new set of revisions on Raven’s Blood by May and getting it back out to agents
  • starting my new YA-wrestling-horror-mystery-romance novel, Piledriver, and getting it about 75% finished by the end of the year

On top of that, I have reading goals, gaming goals, blogging goals, social goals, health goals, sleep goals, emotional goals… I’m basically entirely comprised of goals at this point, like some kind of sports-themed Voltron.

The next step (according to all the advice books) is making things concrete, so I broke down a set of tasks for each goal and peppered them throughout my January calendars and to-do lists.

Now, at the end of the month, I can go through, check myself against all my milestones and mini-goals, and see how well I did.

How did I do?

Not that well.

Setting goals is easy, but when it comes to kicking them, I’m not exactly Pele or David Beckham or, um… Serena Williams? Look, I don’t understand sports, you know that.

Ultimately I took on too many things to handle in one month (especially one heat-wave heavy month), and with the best intentions, I was still only able to achieve a few of the tasks I’d laid out.

What that tells me, though, is that my problem isn’t that I can’t do these things, it’s that I can’t do all of these things. Not yet, and not all at once. Not while my mental health is recovering and my writing muscles are atrophied.

But muscles get better through use. And I’m not giving up on using them.

So for February, I’m setting a smaller, more controlled set of goals, focusing on just a few of the big picture plans rather than everything in a blender. Will that work better? It should do, if I stick at it.

I plan to stick at it.

One of those goals is getting back into a more regular, more interesting blogging routine, where I write about more than just not writing. At this point I’m aiming for at least one post per month, at around this time, looking at what I’ve achieved and what comes next. If I can, I’ll try to get a second one in there every month about something engaging that I can talk about in a fun, useful way.

Let me know how I go with that.

Huh. It got cooler in here since I started working on this blog post.

…maybe I’ll do a bit more writing tonight.

Die screaming, year of fuck

I’ll keep this brief.

2016 was shit.

2017 was worse.

Worse for a lot of people, in a lot of ways – and yes, there were some high points and victories in there, but not enough.

For me, it was a year of poor physical health, poor mental health and zero creative health, which I’m pretty sure is a thing. A year when I couldn’t see any point or purpose in writing.

Will 2018 be better? If it is, it’ll only be because we work at it – if we turn the anger and sadness and helplessness of this year into fuel for making change and building something better.

So that’s what I want to focus on from this point – putting the work in. On my health, on my mood, on my writing, on my professionalism, on my drive, on my projects. Less pie in the sky, less survival thinking; more getting shit done, more setting and (important) working towards goals.

But first I’m going to get drunk and celebrate 2017 dying in a fucking fire.

The Hoseface Chronicles

Apparently regular weekly, fortnightly or even monthly blogging continues to be too much effort for me to handle at the moment. Is it because I suck? Or because this is a fallen world in which the Throne of God sits empty and demons run wild to stoke and inflame the weakest and most despicable impulses of base humanity?

I mean, I know which one has the most evidence pointing to it. My intrinsic suckiness ain’t involved with The Bachelorette.

But anyhoo, some stuff has happened, is happening or will be happening now that we’ve hit November, so lemme talk about that for a bit before returning to the important work of patting my dog.

2017 has been notable in that I’ve felt like hammered shit pretty much all the time. Which is fine (note: not actually fine) if I’ve been drinking all weekend (note: don’t you judge me), but less great when it’s just a regular Tuesday morning and I wake up wishing I was dead (note: DEAD).

Poor sleep has been my biggest issue, so in September I took myself to hospital for an overnight sleep study. It was great fun (note: no it wasn’t), as you can see from the photo.

Turns out, really hard to sleep with all that crap attached to your head.

But all that glue in my beard paid off, as it revealed that I have a moderate case of sleep apnea – as well as a moderate case of upper airways resistance syndrome, which is basically a more obscure, less mainstream version of sleep apnea for hipsters, or something. (note: you probably haven’t heard of it)

It’s kind of a crap thing to deal with, but at the same time I’m really glad about this.

Depression and ennui and self-doubt are hard to tackle and overcome. Physical problems? Those can be fixed! You can take a pill for those!

Or, more accurately, you can sleep with a hose in your face.

(Peter Ball has written on dealing with sleep apnea and crushing exhaustion, much better than I can, and he covers pretty much everything that needs to be covered. Go read him talk about it.)

Sleeping with a CPAP machine doesn’t magically fix all your problems – but damn, it fixes some of them. Since I started using it a few weeks ago, I don’t wake up exhausted in the morning, I don’t hit a wall of tiredness by mid-afternoon, and I don’t get home with a grey haze on my brain that drives me into bed by 8pm. All that’s pretty great.

That said, I’m shifting from waking up 5-6 times a night because I stop breathing, to waking up 5-6 times a night because there’s a bloody hose sticking out of my face. I’m not waking up tired, but I am waking up dehydrated and headachy – which are more easily treated than exhaustion, thanks to the miracles of running water and paracetamol, but it’s still not ideal.

What would be ideal is losing a bit of weight (note: maybe like 5 kilos? I’m honestly not that fat for a bloke my height) so that the apnea fades away. As for the UARS – well, that will probably improve if I drink less alcohol, which would also help with the weight (note: it’s like some circle of life shit). If I can get all that under control, there’s no need for the CPAP machine, and Hoseface can go hang out with the rest of the Nightbreed.

What’s all this got to do with writing?

Not a lot just at the moment, admittedly. But it means that there are more hours in the day in which I can write – when I actually have the physical and mental energy required to sit down and bang out words without greying out or shutting down.

Is that happening? Yeah. A little bit. Not enough to be worth noting as yet – but still more than a few months ago.

In a few days I’m hitting GenreCon in Brisbane – going to workshops, talking to other writers, singing karaoke, drinking with friends (note: but not too much, ‘cos of the UARS thing), networking and, most of all, reconnecting with writing. (I would say ‘getting inspired’, but I feel a bit silly using phrases like that because I’m a dickhead.)

(If you’re also going, say hello! Just don’t tell me I look tired.)

Will I come back next week raring to go, pound my way through Obituarist III by the end of November and start writing about teenage wrestling-mages by December? Umm… possibly/hopefully the first part of that; probably not (note: yeah, nah) the second part. But even the first part wouldn’t be happening without 7-8 hours sleep every night – so if it does happen, we can thank Hoseface.

Let him be your new favourite Marvel superhero. Thor can piss off.