Monthly Archives: November 2011

11-11-11

So a few of you might know my birthday this year fell on 11-11-11. This is apparently some really auspicious number in numerology or the Mayan calendar or somesuch, and being born on it means I’m like the bastard lovechild of the Kwisatz Haderach and the goddamn Batman (I’m still waiting for my mail-order Fremen army and utility belt to arrive. Stupid UPS).

Anyways, I’d been thinking about getting a tattoo for about 10 years, but aside from my wedding, I’d not really undergone any event dramatic enough to paint my body for life over it. Folks get themselves inked for any number of reasons (‘Because I felt like it.” ‘Because I ❤ butterflies.’ ‘Because I’d smashed so much tequila and mescaline I thought I was jesus.’ ) but this was my first one, and being all virginal and whatnot, I wanted it to be ‘speshul’. So, I figure, I’ve got this Book Thing getting published next year, which will probably be the one of the coolest things I ever do (at least until the Fremen army arrives and I send them forth to commit bloody slaughter in my name) so I figure I’d immortalize The Book on my birthday this year, it being this auspicious date that allows me to look into the place no woman can look. Or something.

My lovely bride told me about an art project where people were supposed to do something creative/awesome/so cool it will make your girlfriend pregnant on 11-11-11 and send it into a Facebook page, but the page was one of those desperately sad ‘Social Media Marketing 101’ type deals that forces you to ‘Like’ the page before they even let you into the clubhouse and fuck that noise.

So, I’ma just post the pics up here, with various captions that will possibly amuse and/or astound.

The scene of the crime. This is Chapel Tattoo. They have gold leaf writing on their windows and very few prostitutes loitering out front, which makes them ten times classier than 90% of tattoo joints in Melbourne. Their ‘after tattoo care’ brochure advises you, amongst other things ‘Do not listen to self-proclaimed tattoo experts in bars or on the street for one month after you get your tattoo.’

I was sold.

This is the Dude Behind the Counter®. He told me his name, but I forgot it. I should let you know that, at this point, I was quite nervous about the whole ‘pain’ aspect of this deal. Having foolishly watched several You Tube videos of people completely losing their minds whilst being tattooed, I was under the impression this operation was going to sit on the Pain Threshold™ somewhere between ‘Squeezing Lemon Juice Into My Eye Whilst Someone Repeatedly Stomps on My Baby-Maker’ and ‘Being Strapped Into a Chair and Forced to Watch Jennifer Anniston RomComs Until My Eyes Flee Screaming From Their Bleeding Sockets’.

I was also plagued by the usual last minute fears. “You’re going to be stuck with this thing for the rest of your life.” “If you get this thing and the publishing industry collapses next year like you KNOW IT’S GOING TO, you’re going to look really silly aren’t you?” “You haven’t cried since you watched ET dying when you were 10, do you really want to risk your streak over something like this?”

You will note the small idols of various in-vogue deities next to the counter. I took their vacuum-molded presence as a bad sign. As if the owners were telling me ‘Dude, this tattoo is going to hurt so badly, you’ll rediscover your catholicism just so you can pray for mercy. And lo, sinner, thou shalt find NONE’.

This is my tattoo design. It was done by an incredibly talented Japanese calligrapher named Araki Miho from Ebisu Design. Yes, she does commissions. Having seen a wall full of her artwork, yes, her stuff is beautiful. Picture Kate Beckinsale and Liv Tyler making out naked in a swimming pool full of pristine First Edition issues of Detective Comics #27 and you’re in the ballpark.

The characters, top to bottom, are ‘Arashi’ (storm) ‘No’ (a pre-posessive) ‘Odori’ and ‘Ko’ (which together, make Dancer). So, Stormdancer. The red seal is for good luck.

For those of you wondering, yes, I made damn sure the tattoo didn’t actually say “I enjoy rough sex with sea-otters” or “Sad white boy who wishes he was Japanese”. Although before I had the tattoo done, my Japanese translator reliably informed me that, because kanji are pictograms and open to subtle interpretation, at a stretch, you could interpret this design as “Little girl who dances up a storm”.

“Hell with it,” I replied. “I’m 6’7. I can totally pull that off.”

This is Shane, my tattoo artist. Shane was a funny fellow. Not like Dylan Moran funny, mind you. More like “I bury the dismembered corpses of streetwalkers under my bungalow” funny.

He approached me in the foyer, looking like he’d just murdered somebody’s kitten. Don’t ask me how, but this dude gave off a vibe like he would just hate the fuck out of anything small and fluffy.

He held up my design and said “Is this yours?”
“Yep,” I said.
“Who put you onto me?” he asked.
I paused for a moment, unsure whether he was asking because he wanted to ruin the dentistry of whoever suggested he work on this ridiculous design. Not wanting to see the friend who recommended old Shane-o drinking liquefied Weet-Bix through a straw, I pointed to the Dude Behind the Counter®. “He said you could do it.”
“Ah, ok,” Shane said. “It’s just I don’t usually do this kind of artwork.”
“….” I replied.

NICE ONE, SHANE-O. WAY TO INSTIL CONFIDENCE, BUDDY.

This is my pasty, cracker whitebread arm, freshly shaved and awaiting the stencil. You will notice the photo is blurred – this is because I was trembling when I took it. Not because of the anticipated pain, mind you, but because the dude about to paint my body for life had just admitted “He doesn’t usually do this kind of artwork.”

This is the stencil on my arm. The tattoo people have this magic stuff they spray on your skin, then lay the stencil over the top, peel it away, and bam, all they have to do is trace the design. I was reminded of the scene in Chasing Amy where Jason Lee flips out when someone calls him a tracer. This made me giggle a bit. At the sound of my giggling, Shane looked up at me like, if it was within his power to do so, he would travel back in time and tear my grandfather’s scrotum from his body, just to stop him siring the man who would sire me.

I shut the hell up.

It begins. Shane lays me down on his operating table, asks “You ready?” and we’re off.

The pain is odd. It’s a combination of pressure and heat, like being burned, but with less edge to it. On a scale of 1 to 10 (one being a Hard Pinch, and ten being Locked in a Tiny Room With Justin Beiber Playing Over The PA Whilst a Large Hairy Man Named ‘T-Bone’ Teaches You The Subtle Art of Prison Love), I would rate it a solid 5.

Outline halfway done. The pain warbles between 5 and 6, somewhere between Having a Tooth Drilled and The Moment You Found Out Firefly Had Been Cancelled. The wrist is the most sensitive part, but it’s really not that bad. I scoff at those YouTube vids and wonder what the fuss is about. I tweet to this effect, and am reliably informed by a friend ‘Just wait. The fill is much worse’.

THANKS BUDDY!

Outline complete. My dad has a tattoo on his arm. Well, half a tattoo. It’s a heart with an arrow through it. He told me there was supposed to be a scroll around it, but it hurt so bad, he couldn’t finish it. Looking down at my arm, I consider texting him and calling him a stone-cold pussy, but then I remember he got his tatt done with a razor blade and the ink from a broken ball-point pen.

So yeah, I guess my dad is still pretty hard.

The fill. This does kinda hurt. Not as bad as having your ear hacked off with a straight razor while ‘Stuck in the Middle with You” plays in the background, more like an intermittent Chinese burn to the tune of Top 40 radio. But again, it’s not awful. I’m not saying it tickled – at no point during the procedure was I at risk of making happypants. On T-Bone’s Prison Sex scale, it rates a solid 6.5.

Aaaaand done. About an hour after we began, Shane-o pronounces me finished and hustles me out of his studio like he has more kittens to curb-stomp. This is actually a photo taken the following evening – I would’ve taken a photo at the end of the procedure, but my arm was wrapped in Glad Wrap and the Glad Wrap was slowly filling up with blood, which is probably a bit low-rent, even for this blog. In all honesty, the pain after the tatt was finished came close to topping the actual procedure – it felt like that time you went to the beach in your new bikini and got smashed on a 6-pack of alcopops to impress the boys and fell asleep in the sun and woke up to find your skin was the color of fire engines (don’t lie, you know you did it). When the Glad Wrap came off, my bride proclaimed the tattoo ‘sexy’ and I was all like ‘come over here and let me treat u rite, gurl’ and then was all ‘arrrrrg, jesus h christ don’t TOUCH IT’ when she breathed near it.

A couple of weeks later, it’s pretty much healed, and I must confess, for a gent who murders streetwalkers and ‘doesn’t usually do this kind of artwork’, my buddy Shane-o did an awesome job.

To prove it, I traveled back in time and took this photo of me flipping off a T-Rex, which I’m sure you’ll agree flies quite high on the Scale of Awesome.

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Community Service Announcement

I experienced a moment of sheer panty-soiling horror a few nights ago. And since xmas decorations are already up in the grocery store, I’m going to get into the festive spirit and share. Note that some details might be embellished to cast my starving artiste lifestyle in a better light, but you’ll get the drift.

I sat down at my calf-leather armoire beside my reconditioned Edwardian fireplace*, booted up my Macbook and went looking for the sequel to STORMDANCER, which a few of you droogies might know I’ve spent the best part of a year writing. However, Mr Macbook couldn’t find it.

“Strange,” said I, sipping from my snifter of brandy and raising an eyebrow at my faithful hound.**

Dropping back to the desktop, I did the double-clickeroo and journeyed to the folder that contains my sequel. Inside it, I found a series of documents of indeterminate file type, labelled with names like ‘KJBNEUFN’ and ‘G@&JDNXC’. And in that moment, I realized the entire sequel folder and everything inside it had become corrupted. Only the Macgod knows how. It was only that single folder. But the entire sequel had flipped out and been eaten by gremlins. Every draft. All my notes. My diary of a madman scribbles about where the trilogy was headed. Everything.

A year’s work. My baby. Bam. Gone.

“Well,” said I. “That’s a spot of bother.”***

Right before cardiac arrest kicked in, I remembered that a good droogie of mine had turned me onto a program called ‘Dropbox’ a couple of months earlier. And, astonishingly, I had actually been using it to store my sequel as I worked. Diving into the dropbox, I found my baby there, whole and unsoiled (minus about 5 minutes work that I hadn’t saved) and I managed to peel myself off the ceiling. It was all good. Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I would not be forced to ritually disembowel myself with the TV remote.

How I laughed….

After I’d mopped up the vomit, I got thinking about how capital-B bad this could have actually been. Typically, I’ve been pretty ordinary about backing up files – it’s only really fluke that I’d been keeping that folder updated in an online storage space. But if I hadn’t been backing my work up on a regular basis… I don’t even want to think about how badly that would have gone for all concerned.

So, my droogs, I know there are a couple of you out there like me. I know you might let your disaster management routines slide from time to time. But I tell you now, I implore you; BACK IT THE FUCK UP.

Have your words living and up to date in THREE separate locations:

  1. Sitting on some kind of physical storage device that never leaves your person.
  2. Emailed to yourself.
  3. Floating in some kind of online storage space. Here’s a couple of good free ones (if people know of others, suggestions welcome):
    1. Dropbox.
    2. Humyo.
    3. Box.
    4. 4shared.
    5. Snapdrive

Doesn’t take a lot of effort. Maybe 3 minutes at the end of each writing session. Save it. Update the online version. Mail it yourself. Done. But those three minutes can save you some serious pain.

Think of the babies, peoples. Don’t let the gremlins get ’em.

*Slouched on faux-suede couch in my sweat pants and an old Coal Chamber t-shirt

**”Da fuck?” I said, kicking the dog off my lap.

*** “Oh my fucking god,” I said. “OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYFUCKINGGOD.”


Walk

It’s been almost a year to the day since I was plucked from the slushpile and pledged my soul to el Diablo signed with my literary agent. So today, I thought I’d discuss a pit where once I dwelled, neck deep in danky doom, like some 6’7 piece of bearded navel lint. Stick with me through the depressing intro – much like asphyxiating on carbon monoxide, it gets more pleasant towards the end.

Old crusty men will tell you there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. But old crusty men tell lies and smell of vaguely of urinal cake (have you ever noticed that? BIZARRE). Bollocks to old crusty men. There are actually three absolutes in this rollercoaster we ride.

Death, taxes and rejection.

If you’re a writer with aspirations of getting traditionally published, comprehending the third is just as vital as realizing that Frank Miller is a dude who once wrote some pretty good comics but has now turned bitter and gone pantsless hobo crrrrrrazy. The truth is this: the road to autograph-signing-induced RSI, drowning in fangirl undies and throwing TVs out the window at San Diego Comic Con is paved with boiler-plate rejection.

Rejection is someone you’ll hear rumours about from your crit-partners, maybe catch a glimpse of in your writing groups, but you’ll first become intimately acquainted on your quest to find representation. And when I say ‘intimately’, I’m not kidding. You’ll know where Rejection’s birthmarks are. You’ll know about that tattoo it got when it was 18 and drunk in Tijuana. You’ll know it’s not a natural blonde.

People will come at you with gems like “Stephanie Meyer got rejected nine times before Twilight got bought” or “JK Rowling ate a dozen rejections before she got her deal”. Let Phoenix Wright, attorney at law, put all such delusional cracky-talk to rest. I know writers who’ve swallowed three hundred rejections before they found an agent. Three hundred. Before they even got a ticket to the dance. Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to representation.

Got an agent? Awesome! Achievement unlocked! Now comes level two: Submissions. Your work gets sent out to publishing houses – one blind, wriggling little tadpole thing amidst a thousand others, all struggling together up that long, moist tunnel, vying for…

Nonono, wait. I’m putting a stop to this spermatozoa analogy right now.

Point is, the odds of getting picked up by a publishing house are long. You might get lucky. You might win the lottery on your first round and not have to dwell in the stinky ass-crack of Submission Hell for too long. But chances are, this isn’t gonna happen. I know plenty of writers who’ve gone from the dizzying high of landing an agent only to watch their book get passed on by every editor it’s sent to. Revise, Resubmit, Rejection. Until their fingers are worn down to little nubby stumps and signing with James Frey starts to look like a viable alternative. I even know of an author who got signed, edited, then dumped by her house as her book was in artwork stages. And to get so close just to watch it slip away? Wedding tackle, meet steel-toed boot.

Yes, okay, it’s hard. We get it. What’s your point, Jay?

My point is this: Walking this road is a slog, and some days, it’s going to seem like it’s too hard and too far away. You’ll do the math (never do the math – math is your enemy), work out the odds and wonder why you’re wasting your time. But as you walk this yellow brick road of rejection slips, you should take a moment to listen. The soft squishing sound beneath your Chucks? That’s the bodies of the people who walked this road before you and let it get on top of them.

You don’t want to be them.

As hard as walking is, as long as the odds are of you getting to the end, the odds are longer if you stop walking entirely. The probability of you getting to the finish line if you lay down? It’s nil. And ten-thousand-to-one odds are a damn sight better than an absolute impossibility.

About twelve months ago, I went from zero offers of representation to four in a single week. In the space of two months, I went from a guy with an inbox full of boilerplate rejection to having three different publishing houses bidding on my book. Two months. That’s not even a season of Metalocalypse. You couldn’t gestate an even halfway-decent xenomorph army in that time. That’s how fast this worm can turn. And it can start turning tomorrow. But not if you lay down. Not if you stop moving.

If you stop moving, you die. And your dream dies with you.

So my point?

Keep. Fucking. Walking.


1,667 words a day

Well it’s NANOWRIMO again, and for all you brave souls leaping into the breach, I salute you and offer Big Scary Hugs. Cranking out 1,667 words a day every day for a month is no easy task. So in the spirit of the occasion, I’ve knocked up some down and dirty hints and tips to help you climb the mountain.

The thing you should remember first and foremost during NANOWRIMO is that time is currency. Your life is kinda like that Justin Timberlake flick, except without to Dolby Digital Surround and Amanda Seyfried looking all at you all pouty and doe-eyed. No Cillian Murphy either, in all likelihood (sorry ladies). In fact, thinking about it, your life is nothing like a Justin Timberlake film.

But TIME IS STILL CURRENCY.

  1. Prepare.
    I’m not an outliner. I’m a pantser all the way. But NANOWRIMO is all about getting words down on the gorram page. 1,667 words a day in fact. You can’t afford to spend time wondering What Happens Next. You need a plan. Even if it’s a plan that you’re updating weekly or daily. You need to know where you’re going or you’ll waste time staring at the Blank Page of Doom™ and wondering why god hates you.
  2. Understand the point of the exercise.
    NANOWRIMO is about word count. Many of the words you write will be less than sparkling. Some of them will be downright awful. A few will make the gods themselves avert their gaze. That’s okay. You can fix the words later. What matters is that you have the words to fix.
    Quality is awesome, if you can afford the luxury. I’m not discounting the importance of quality at all. But for NANOWRIMO, quantity is more important.
  3. Forget tools. 
    People spend a lot of time and research trying to find the right ‘tool’ to use: Scrivener, Storyist, Storymill, Manuscript, Copywrite, yadda yadda. And then they spend time figuring out how to use those tools. And time is something you don’t have.
    Seriously peoples, all you need for NANOWRIMO is a word processor. Hell, you don’t even need that (you shouldn’t be checking spelling tbh – it costs you time), you just need something that counts the words you’ve written. I recommend acquiring the services of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, who burst into cartwheels and pom-pom waving and “Gimmee a <insert the first letter of your name here>” every time you write a new one hundred words.
    But I realize they might be hard to get hold of.
  4. The Fortress of Solitude. 
    Even Superman needed a place to get away from the noise and rush of the world. If you want to get 1,667 words a day done, you’ll need one too. A closed door. A room without phones or interwebz. An understanding partner, who can comply with the request “do not open this door unless the child/dog/house is on fire”. If you can retain the services of several burly gentlemen in cheap suits to stand outside said door cracking their knuckles at anyone who draws near, that’s awesome.
    An attack leopard would be even better.
  5. Get a run up. 
    In all likelihood, your energy for the project will be greater at the beginning than the end. With this in mind, try to break the 1,667 words a day count whenever you can, particularly at the beginning. If you’re on a roll, don’t stop. If it’s 1am and you need to work the next day, but you’re WTFPWNing this scene, don’t stop. If the child/dog/house is on fire… yeah, maybe you should stop.
    Briefly.
  6. Don’t go back to check it. 
    Seriously. Don’t even stop for a spell check. It’s all about the words, my friends. You are Orpheus and your book is Eurydice and if you stop and turn around, she’s going to disappear and Hades will be like ‘damn, what up with you Greeks can’t you follow a simple set of instructions I mean how hard is it’ and you’ll be all forlorn and whatnot and wind up getting torn apart by crazy drunken naked ladies on the slopes of Mount Pangaion.
    Or maybe not. But you probably won’t finish. 😛
  7. Don’t let anyone read it.
    You’re not in this for praise. Writing at this speed, you’re not turning out your best prose. This is not the point of the exercise. You are in this for words. At the end of the month, you go back, beat them into shape, get the story into a place where it’s worthy of review. For now, having someone read it is only going to a) Waste time, and b) Sap confidence (when your reviewer fails to turn cartwheels over the words you’re churning out like an underage worker in a Chinese sweatshop)
  8. Back it up.
    My god, don’t forget to save your work. In two separate locations. Every day. Haste makes waste, and NANOWRIMO is all about haste. You don’t want your hurried CTRL+S to ruin a day’s work.
  9. Remember why you’re here.
    Writing is supposed to be fun. If you’re not enjoying it, you need to ask why you’re doing it. NANOWRIMO shouldn’t be a chore. It’s more like a mission. You are James Bond, and your mission is to get into the swanky ball, make sweet love to the billionaire heiress on her arch-criminal husband’s desk, steal the plans to the Doomsday Device from her unmentionables and get out without a wrinkle in your $5,000 tuxedo (maybe getting into a punch-up and car chase on the way out). You must succeed, or else the world will fall into chaos and misery. If you view NANOWRIMO like you view doing the laundry, you’re never going to make it through to the end.
    You are a secret agent super spy in expensive threads who makes sweet love to billionaire heiresses.
    Repeat that to yourself in the mirror every day.
  10. The end is not the end.
    NANOWRIMO is an exercise in discipline. But it also leaves you with a product: 50,000 words of perhaps less-than-stellar quality, which you can nevertheless beat into serviceable shape with more hard work.
    The next step is to take the raw clay you’ve produced and make something awesome out of it. But the important thing is that you get that clay first. Everything else is secondary for now.
    And never forget the feat of writing those 50,000 words in itself is frackin’ awesome too.

You can do it. Believe it, and make it so.

Good luck, my pedigree chums!