All posts by Patrick

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.

Dead Machines and living robots

Hey friends,

Just a quick post, as I am SUPER CRAZY EXHAUSTED tonight, to say that I was interviewed a little while ago by author and game designer Filamena Young – and that interview is now live on her author page!

It’s here, specifically!

This was a fun interview, and by ‘interview’ I mean that she asked me a handful of questions and then I rambled and swore like one of those blokes who huff paint down the back of Aldi on a Saturday night.

Wrestling, the digital afterlife industry, the way a text can change when read by a different audience, robots, sex robots… it’s all there, man.

The interview was done as part of the digital release party for Filamena’s new novel Dead Machines, a book about giant robots, motherhood and ghosts, and I for one am very intrigued by that spicy combo platter. You can find more about it here, and buy it from all the good ebook stores and probably most of the crappy ones do. So maybe go do that.

Hope y’all enjoy the interview – I might see if I can return the favour and ask Filemena a few in return. It’s been too damn long since I had an interview on here.

And with that, BED BEFORE 8.30 PM SEACREST OUT

CTRL-ALT-Undelete

As I said last time, it’s been almost six months since I had the energy, the focus or the basic self-confidence to do any writing.

I’m not sure that I have any of those things back.

But I’m tired of waiting for them to return. Time to get back to work.

So, in the interests of holding my feet to the fire, here’s an initial teaser from The Obituarist III: Delete Your Account. See? It’s a thing that could eventually exist.

 

ONE

I was the only person at Benny Boorns’ funeral.

Seriously, the only person. Not even a priest to give a service. Just me, sweltering in my black suit, standing at the side of the grave and wondering how long I had to stay there before I could leave. Theoretically I could go at any point; it’s not like I would miss anything. But there were a couple of gravediggers loitering at the edge of the cemetery, smoking and waiting to fill in the hole, and I didn’t want to bug out too quickly in case they judged me for it.

I feel like gravediggers are probably the judgey type.

I moved to the left to get under the shade of a tree and away from the morning sun. It should have been cold, dark and rainy; that’s how funerals work on TV, and what can you trust if you can’t trust television? But the weather didn’t give a damn about Benny, or me, and so it was hot, bright and muggy, even though it was only a little after 9am.

Seriously, who schedules a funeral this early in the day, and during the week? Is that why no-one else showed up? Or did the cemetery manager know that no-one would show up, and thus schedule the funeral for the matinee session, leaving the peak-attendance spots for dead people that the living gave a shit about?

Bah. I was just marking time for show at this point.

I looked down into the grave at Benny’s coffin. It wasn’t one of the giant fancy ones that’s covered in silver filigree and takes six men to carry it; it was plain and it was small, an economy child’s coffin, like a black wooden packing crate that might have held a bar fridge. Benny had been a small man, his growth stunted and twisted by a smorgasbord of birth defects and congenital health issues. His wheelchair weighed twice what he had, and they hadn’t bothered to bury it with him. Kind of a shame; at least that way he could have ridden to the afterlife instead of having to crawl.

Fuck, this was a morbid start to the day. I needed coffee and escape from the presence of death.

‘I know I should say something sad and poignant, Benny,’ I said to the coffin, ‘but it’d just annoy you and make me look stupid. So let’s just call it a day, alright?’ And with that I turned and headed for the cemetery gates.

The gravediggers – burial ground custodian is, I believe, the formal job title – stirred to life, walking back towards the grave as I pulled out my phone to get an Uber. One stomped past me, not bothering to conceal that he was still finishing his breakfast McMuffin, but the other still retained some sense of shame, possibly from a Catholic upbringing, and stopped for a moment. ‘I’m, ah, sorry about your friend. I guess his other friends all had to go to work.’

‘Benny didn’t have any friends,’ I said. ‘He was a really unpleasant, antagonistic person and nobody liked him.’

‘Oh. Well, I mean… you liked him, right?’

‘No, I can’t say that I did. But someone had to come and see him off. Might as well be me.’

The gravedigger – sorry, custodian – seemed both confused and offended by what I said, as though a statue of the Madonna had farted in church. ‘Christ, this fucking town,’ he muttered, and went to join his friend in dirt-piling detail.

This fucking town indeed. No argument from me.

More to come.

Hopefully soon.

Crisis on infinite confidences

And then there was that time I vanished off the internet without warning for like six months.

Miss me? Notice I was gone? It’s okay if you didn’t. I didn’t notice a bunch of writer-blogs I follow quietly fading away over the last year or so; everyone’s focusing on social media these days.

Not that I was doing that. I was doing a bunch of things like moving house, working hard at my day job, playing games, drinking too much and suffering paralysing self-doubt any time I thought of doing any kind of writing.

I don’t know why all my self-confidence dried up and blew away like spilled cocaine under a flophouse fan. Maybe because I hit a plot wall in The Obituarist III and couldn’t see an easy way to fix it; maybe because I’d had no success interesting an agent or publisher in Raven’s Blood; maybe because of depression, seasonal affective disorder, fucked-up sleep habits and the constant psychic pressure of this hell year.

Or, to quote a bit of Obituarist III that I actually finished:

Maybe nihilistic depression is what 2017 demands. I mean – Trump, Brexit, section 44, North Korea, Putin, floods, Syria, war, refugees, climate change, neo-Nazis, terrorism, um… I dunno, hot hail, dank memes, disappointing new Tay-Tay singles… what’s the point of trying to do anything in the face of that? Better to hide under a blanket, get drunk and look at baby animal GIFs until Armageddon finally caves in the roof. That’s the only sane response.

Whatever the reason, the last six months have been… difficult. Not just from lacking confidence, but from lacking much ability to feel engaged or interested in pretty much anything. It’s all been too hard, too pointless, too much; much too much. Easier and better to just drift and not worry about anything.

Drifting, for the record, is less cool than it appeared in The Fast and the Furious. Or indeed Mario Kart.

So what’s changed? I dunno. Not sure if anything really has, other than spring finally hitting, getting diagnosed with an iron deficiency (yay, a problem I can fix!) and my new glasses making reading/writing a bit less arduous. Mostly I’m just tired of feeling three-quarters empty, and I’d like to work out how to refill whatever tank was keeping this engine running until now, and once again we can see that I’m bad at metaphors.

I’m not going to go on about MY EMOTIONS at length; I did that last year, last time I fell in a hole, and besides I now pay someone to listen to that kind of talk. I just wanted to say: hey, I’ve been gone a while, and I’m not all the way back yet, but I’m working on it. Thanks for sticking around.

Next step – back to work on Obituarist III, with an eye towards fixing the plot, working out what the hell it’s about and getting it out online by the end of 2017. And putting Raven’s Blood back into query rotation. And going to GenreCon come November. And maybe drinking a bit less.

We’ll see.

Go well, my darlings. Don’t let 2017 murder you just yet.