First sale and the inspiration behind my first published story

For me, this year has been a roller-coaster:

  • In February, my partner and I found out we were pregnant.
  • In May, the house we rented was put up for sale.
  • In June, I sold my first short story, You Can’t Even Call It A Rainbow, to Transmundane Press, you can preorder it here on Kickstarter. Yeeha.
  • In July, the house sold, forcing us to move on short notice while heavily pregnant.
  • In September, my son was born—hot tip, he’s amazing. Yeeha intensifies.
  • In November, I sold two three more short stories. Another magazine got back to me between the draft and the finished post. Release dates here.
    • And finally, in December—mere weeks away at the time of writing this post—my first short works will be published (edit: it has been published, and you can  read it here) and I might even get to hold the first physical book with my words in it.

Sure, it will only be about fifteen hundred of them, words that is, but I think I’ll feel like less of a phoney when I tell people about my writing from that moment onward.

Now that I’ve created a timeline, if you plot the ups and downs, it looks more like a leviathan, rearing up out of the ocean, than a roller-coaster. Much better.

Enough turning data into artworks, for now, lets talk writing.

I’ve been lucky in that since my son has busied up my life, I’ve not run out of inspiration in my fiction writing. But, I do have a little less time to myself than I used to, so this blog has taken a back seat in the imagination department.

Since I’ve some recent success with the acceptance of multiple short/flash stories this month, I’ll make the next few posts about their inspiration.

The first story to be published is probably not going to be the first one that I sold. It will likely be my second ever acceptance. Adam’s Creation Uncreates God, which should be appearing on the front page of Farther Stars Than These on the sixth of December.

It’s a recycling of the first five hundred words of a novel draft that never got to the end of chapter one. I was inspired by two characters that I’d encountered this year, so I mushed them into the existing words and a tale worth telling came into existence.

The first point of inspiration was Murderbot, from the award winning All Systems Red. Perhaps the funniest science fiction book I’ve ever read and my first foray into the words and worlds of Martha Wells.

The second, Mr Motley, from the also award winning Perdido Street Station. An epic work of weirdness and imagination by China Miéville that I’ve yet to finish reading each of its eight hundred plus pages.

My story, on the other hand, is short. Shorter than this post, in fact. Well under half the upper word limit of flash fiction, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth writing. I am especially pleased with the fact that I was able to recycle a false start, fashioning it into something whole. And the validation that comes from someone wanting to publish it on their website is encouraging.

The work itself is my love letter to vaporwave. That should be stylised as:

V A P O R W A V E

And read aloud in an echoic nineties soft drink commercial voice, if you’re not familiar with the term.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, I love digressing—and at this stage, I’m not sure I can stop myself from wandering off if I wanted to—so you might be feeling a little lost right now. But that’s okay, I am too. Forget all about the similification of the graph I mentioned earlier and soak it all in, vaporwave style:

R E F R E S H I N G

Say it out loud. I dare you.

Now, you’re finally starting to get into the kind of head space needed to enter the world of vaporwave inspired science fiction. The kind of world you never even knew you wanted to visit, until now.

I hope.


This is also where the post becomes instructional:

If you want the perfect soundtrack, to amplify your reading experience of Adam’s Creation Uncreates God, you can’t go past this seminal work of the vaporwave genre: Floral Shoppe by Macintosh Plus.

The album is far longer than most will need, but you can use that time to sit back and think about what you’ve just read. Alternatively, close the window and get on with your life. No pressure.

Either way, I hope you get to read and enjoy my first published work of fiction:

Adam’s Creation Uncreates God

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Writer’s Block

Writing groups. I love them and I’ve recently joined my second. critters.org, my first group, elevated me from hopeless flounderer to hopeful author. I couldn’t have sold my first story without them. My second group is made up entirely of writers based in Adelaide and the first exercise they’ve offered, since my joining, is to participate in a blog chain on writer’s block. So here goes.

I’ve touched on this before, but at this stage so few people have read my blog—due to the fact that I have yet to tell anybody I know that I’m doing this, until my first short story gets published later this year— that it can’t hurt to rehash small parts of my story.

I don’t suffer from the more well known symptoms of writer’s block, that of the staring contest with a blank page or the more modern tale of dread, an eternally blinking cursor. My struggles have come in the form of writing off more than I can chew.

~Begin a haze of flashbackness~

Up until two years ago I read, on average, under one book per year. That all changed when I moved away from the city fringes of Adelaide and out toward the coast, to the beachier suburb of Birkenhead. I acquired an e-reader to make my weekdaily train ride in and out of the CBD more entertaining. I wish I could remember why in more detail, it might have been a whim or I might have been given a voucher from work for JB for the exact cost of purchasing one—what can I say, I’m thrifty.

Anyway, I had always wanted to read Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Mostly because every time I had read about what to read—which I did a lot for some reason—the internet told me to. So, I began my journey into the regular reading of science fiction with one of the classics. Over the next nine months I read many more of his stories and other seminal works of the genre and within a year something strange started to happen, but allow me to digress.

If you were to ask anyone who knows me, right at this moment, what I wrote two years ago, they should tell you that—besides hilarious work emails—it was music. I picked up music shortly after finishing school, far later than most, but as soon as I found an affordable guitar it poured out of me. I could pass a construction site and transform its natural rhythm into a riff. I could hear a coin spin through the air and be inspired by its ringing. I actually sampled the sound once, slowing it down and using it as the synth lead for an electronic track.

Within five years it had ruined my tertiary studies and within seven I was, technically, a professional musician. Professional meaning that I earned more than half of my income from music, which at the time was very little and the rest of my income was often nothing. During this time my head was full. Bursting with music of every style for every instrument. I couldn’t not hear it. I swear, if I’d met the right person at back then they might have coaxed a symphony out of me, but I never did. I had fun, but never found the business acumen to my product surplus.

Eventually, I got a day job, the one I still have and love today, which meant that I spent less and less time in bands. My musical tastes and output became more experimental and eventually all I could create was echoic soundscapes on my guitar and delay pedal(s) or V A P O R W A V E—which is essentially post-music, that everyone unfamiliar should check out—on my computer. This music was still pouring out of me at all times, up until the strange thing from three paragraphs ago started happening.

As I read more and more, and listened to music less and less, the creative part of my brain began pumping out settings or characters or, when I was at my luckiest, entire stories. This was the day the music died.

Now, back to the part about writer’s block. Like I said, or didn’t, I struggle with managing the size of the stories I want to tell, not their inception. I’ve been working at this new creative outlet, at the time of writing this, for a little over a year—August 15th 2017 was the day I created the word file of the first draft of my first piece of fiction since high school. If I was bigger on rituals I might have to start renting a Chevy every mid August and pilgrimage a drought ridden levee .

My head is busy with new ideas. I think it’s getting used to the sensation. They’re exciting, the ideas, and they can even be distracting if they occur before their previous sibling has been completely brought to life. What my head isn’t used to, is the satisfaction of finishing these ideas. I believe the longest short story I’ve written that I would consider a complete sense-making work of fiction clocks in at roughly 3600 words.

Currently, my writing goal is to birth a first draft of a novella length story—so 20,000 words—with a clear beginning, middle, end, and most importantly of all, a character that I would want to learn about and grow with. I’ve cracked 10,000 words with four different stories now. I’ve even got one that surpassed 20,000 words. But, even after all those words, I can’t identify why the protagonist is going on their journey. Each one of these has been shelved, for now.

What I did to move past this, at the point of giving up on each one of these stories, was read. I’ve read 29 books this year so far, which is a personal most. Each time I finish one, my desire to create is reborn, stronger than before and the next thing I work on ends up being a little bit longer and a little bit stronger. I’m an earthworm, moving forwards, blind through a world full of tales, digesting them and giving back not waste, but more stories—hopefully some of which are as nutritious as their source material.

 


 

It was too big for him, that was the truth. It had never really progressed, it had simply fallen apart into a series of fragments.

– George Orwell, from Keep the Aspidistra Flying

 


 

The following writers from the group, Writers of Adelaide, have taken part in the chain:

The death of an idea

One of the inspirations for me wanting to learn to write fiction was the retiring of an idea that had been rolling around in my head for almost ten years. Let’s call this idea ID.

ID was to become a website, that I was 99% sure would rival Facebook in its influence, a few weeks into the near future—hey, that’s what you get when you tell people to dream big. All I had to do was imagine it, google how to code social media, insert some extra steps and voila. I would be the next king of the internet.

But, since you’re here reading this, instead of trapped in a five hour binge on my app, this obviously never happened.

#

What did happen was the following:

I met someone during the 2012or maybe it was 2013Adelaide Fringe festival, in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, that I wanted to make a strong first impression with. So, under the influence of beer and friend opportunity, I fibbed about my coding finesse to this new friend of a good friend and spilled the beans on my vision for this nascent marvel.

At this point, I had yet to write a single line of code. But, I talked some talks, had a great night, and went home buzzing with the energy that I thought was all that was needed to bring this thing to life.

#

Fast forward to mid 2017:

The span between my required level of IT knowledge and that of my present day is growing steadily. I’m growing bored with my latest hobby, 3D printing. And, the brain worm that is ID is still bouncing around inside my head impotently.

I give up. ID is dead. I admit to myself that the first website I would make, outside of the classroom, definitely won’t lead to any sort of Silicon Valley success story and that I may never actually make a website again.

No biggy. Dreams of grandeur are wonderful, but only if you work towards them. I’d spent a decade dwelling on an idea. Imagining all the ways my invention would have changed the world and zero years actually improving my ability to make it a reality. Hahaha. Get real.

The internet is lame anyway, I thought to myself and probably went to play video games before calling it a night.

Just kidding, I love you Internet. You are the greatest xox love Jeff.

But I did call it a night.

#

Fast forward to mid 2017, plus or minus enough time for this to make sense with my last post about the exact moment I wanted to become a writer:

As I host a private funeral for ID in my mind’s eye, I think about all the people—those make believe people—whose lives I had changed. Were they any better off for my idea becoming reality? Were some of them worse? Had I altered the course of human history?

The answer to these questions, and many more like them, was yes. I had built a world. One that only I had access to.

Then something clicks. Primal. What if I not only one with access?

This question, asked shortly after the silent eulogy for an imaginary social media platform, was the inciting incident on my hero’s journey to becoming a writer. It was the want of my character arc.

Note to self: identify need.

#

Fast forward to 2018:

ID now exists as several versions of what I thought would be my first novel. It turns out writing a 40,000+ word book when you suck at creative writing is almost as hard as building a website while you avoid building a website.

Since then I’ve written a few handfuls of short stories, recently cracked 20,000 words towards my first draft of a novella about something completely different from ID and I’ve even sold my first short story that will appear in an upcoming anthology by Transmundane Press to be printed some time this year, which is bloody fantastic.

I now have countless new ideas to keep me company—faster growing ones, too—that I’m actively bringing to life in more manageable sized projects to suit my skill level.

ID may never get finished.

ID is dead—for now—which is okay because ideas are cheap.

Long live the realised idea.

Starting from the bottom

Growing up, I excelled at many subjects, but I loathed English. In fact, I was so bad at story telling that the piece of creative writing I had submitted for my high school entrance exam almost cost me my position in the accelerated learning program. The one that my parents had packed up and moved house in order for me to have the luxury of walking to my new school.

Fast forward nearly two decades to the moment I realised I wanted to be a writer:

I walked along Currie Street, in the CBD of Adelaide, on a wintery afternoon with one of my dearest friends. Coincidentally, I first met this friend shortly after the aforementioned scraping into high school. Maybe it was my recently turning thirty, or maybe it was the lack of vitamin D office workers receive near the solstice, but I said something uncharacteristically defeatist. Worst of all, I stated it as fact. “People like us, at our age, will never change the world if we haven’t already. Unless we write a book.” He ignored my temporarily bleak outlook and changed the subject to cheer me upwhat a friend.

Still, the words rolled around in my head for months. I know I said it was a moment, but this particular moment lasted a few months.

Note to self, invent new word for a long moment, ideas so far:

  • momemt – is to moment like the em dash is to the en dash – no, too obscure
  • loment – long moment – no, too obvious
  • monthment – what? get back to the story

The short story you’re about to read was the first piece of fiction I ever wrote for fun.

The idea came when I combined my love of food (specifically fast food) and my penchant for making bets on trivial things, usually to the value of five or ten dollars. I wished that the restaurant in the story existed and that want alone was enough to bring it to life

The first iteration of the words fell out of my head and landedmost of them anywayin my word processor on Sunday the 27th of August 2017. I edited it at least eight times over the next five months and I still think it’s an overly complicated and polished turd containing, no… featuring some of my cringiest twenty dollar words. To be honest, nothing even really happens. I’ve written many stories since thenall in various stages of completenessthat I hope you’ll get the chance to read, but I thought it would be interesting to start things off with my, literally, first short story.

Please enjoy my baby step.

 


 

Dude, suckin’ at somethin’ is the first step to being sorta good at somethin’

~ Jake The Dog

 


 

Double or Nothin’

 

He’d had thirty four of his favourite meal in a row. Breakfast, lunch and tea. The same order every time. Three times a day, eleven days in a row and breakfast a twelfth that morning. He had not parted with a single dollar since that first, most lucky meal of the day.

“Welcome back to Double or Nothin’, Dion,” chimed a ditsy service automaton. She accented the greeting with a wink. Despite installing the wink update during his post breakfast review, Dion turned a bashful rose. “I bet you’ve had a pleasant morning.” Her finger guns launched digital streamers through the air.

Dion feigned confidence. “Oh you know I have, Sansa.” A white lie. He named this store’s displaytress after his Tri-Nanna, prior to his first ever visit to the fast food chain. The right half of a smile appeared. He had called on her namesake the previous evening and, as always, she had recounted the origin story of her name.

“Oh Dee, it was the last dece piece of toodee ever made cordin’ to mum an’ she just loved ’er crimson hair. I must admit. I do remember it bein’ pretty sweet. Even for a toodee. Good ol’ geotee…” rambled his great, great grandmother.

He had misheard acronyms as new words. He dare not ask for clarification. The explanation would likely contain even worse compressions, the kind her generation loved to abuse.

“What can I get for you this time?” giggled the illusion. She opened her hands summoning a three dimensional concertina of a menu. “I bet I can guess.”

His reverie interrupted, the second half of his smile had since crept across his face. “One day you w-won’t waste my time with the menu, Sansa” he stuttered, as he attempted to charm the simulation. “I’ll have the Usual.”

#

The Usual was four courses served in a bento box the shape of a large coin.

The first course was a small cube of five layers that dissipated over the tongue, each lasting roughly thirty seconds. The first layer was tapas salty to open the tongue’s pores. The following three were designer spice combinations. These changed based on which culinary emperor ranked highest in the reality cooking multisocial. The core was always a blend of sweet, umami and salty.

#

“An excellent choice Dion. The Usual, coming right up!” The adulatory hostess tittered. She vanished the menu with an antigrav waterfall flourish. “Now turn around sweetie, I don’t want you to see me changing.”

Dion’s weary eyes blinked twice, heavy. Streamers filled the space where she stood. Each piece faded from reality before reaching the ground.

A digitised Hestia Blumenthal had replaced his server. The interadvert met his gaze. “Hello Dion. Shortly after your breakfast today at Double or Nothin’, I overtook my sister, Vesta, at the top of the Food Chain. I’m pleased to bring you three new taste sensations; created in preparation for my victory this morning!”

Dion gulped the excess saliva pooling in his mouth. His first celebrity crush. Famous for both her virtuosity in the kitchen and her flaming red hair. It had been months she’d contributed to the Usual. His stomach growled in anticipation.

“You’ll be one of the first million people to try it, so please, consider casting your review.”

“I’d c-consider it an honour!” he blurted out, trying to woo the visualisation that had a far lower level of discourse than the displaytress.

“Thank you, Dion.” Hestia swayed like a martial arts simulacrum.

#

The second course was a long cylinder containing five capsules that once chewed, had surprising volume and variety of texture. The capsules scaled from blue rare cuts of large animals that knew good lives, to well done, overseasoned pieces of jerked game meat. It didn’t matter which end of the cylinder was the starting point, both were satisfying journeys.

#

The smile left his eyes, but remained widespread throughout his jaw. The restaurants motif resonated privately via his eartenna. Four familiar chords, E, B, C#m, A. His heart emphasised each beat.

More streamers. Sansa had returned. She held a large coin between two creaseless index fingers, both at right angles to her outstretched arms. It was the stores icon, the one he longed to activate. It danced with glittering visual effects, a personal laserworks ballet.

Double on one face.

Nothin’ on the reverse.

The same coin he’d seen spinning like a beacon above buildings. The same coin he’d seen waltzing through eyedverts on his travels. The same coin he had not seen, but received subconsciously, myriad times since the advent of the negative space advertisement. All of Double or Nothin’s night based marketing was made by meticulously purchasing space between their competitors glowing eyedverts and making order of the grout-like patterns of darkness between.

They looked like the images that Dion had once found while exploring the annals of his Tri-Nanna’s multisocial. Specifically those in an album entitled “Highway Long Exposures”. It was as if some urban conductor had somehow choreographed the vehicles to tell stories with the space their headlights could not reach. He was amazed that digital photography, an artform that peaked in the early fifties according to her, had remained of interest throughout all her years. He’d thought of these images often within the last few days.

“Let’s play!” exclaimed Sansa.

His heartbeat quickened. He swiped his credit finger through the projection. This started the huge coin spinning like a powered thaumatrope. His mind raced. He wondered if every customer noticed the way the images on either side of the coin blended into a logogram of the fourth course of his favourite meal. He dismissed the line of thought as he couldn’t comprehend how anyone could miss it, since everyone he knew ate there at least weekly since the introduction of the Usual.

#

The third course was a smooth palate cleansing vitajel. This alone could sustain human life without the need for dietary variety, but its primary purpose was to wash the tongue clean of all previous sensation in preparation for the fourth and most important course of the meal.

#

He had played this game three times a day, eleven days in a row and breakfast a twelfth that morning. Every time since the first he experienced the same reaction. A light sizzle started in the nape of his neck, it bubbled down to his shoulder blades, then rushed the length of his arms and flowed, like blood refilling a sleeping limb, from his fingertips. He wanted to win. More than that, the risk was the true lure of the game.

Countless cheerful arpeggios lilted between his eartenna, drowning out the distraction of reality, no resolution to be found in their ascension. An eternal crescendo demanding his attention. Demanding his joy.

The coin’s rotation continued with no sign of deceleration. It wasn’t clear whether he stood there, buzzing, for ten seconds or ten minutes.

The music changed. His cheeks tightened, eager for what was coming. Quickening, echoic, six note arpeggios excited his cerebral cortex. They started at the lowest range of human hearing, followed by another a semitone higher and then another, higher still.

Wasteless confetti poured from the coin at an increasing rate, ravaging his visual cortex.

#

The final course was an asymmetric piece of sashimi. The iconic shape was the result of a precise tessellation to preserve certain integral tissue from a once scarce variety of carp, the kloi. It was an understated meat due to the intense strictness required of its aquaculture.

The kloi was now the most farmed fish on the planet. Its population was approaching thirty five billion, about to pass that of the domesticated chicken.

When prepared adeptly, the fishes flesh retained two unusual traits that made it so valuable to the owner of its biorights. The first was a mild persistent dilation of the pupils for up to twenty four hours. This rendered users unable to focus on the bright advertisements of their competitors, but primed to receive the data sent via their cross-stitch of antineon subliminal messages. The second effect was much more subtle. It was a slight, but most importantly safe, increase in temperature throughout the cerebral cortex. Pairing this with increased activity in the optical centre of the brain, the effect was a feeling of intense reward and satisfaction.

#

Consciously, he wanted to win. Subconsciously, merely anticipating the outcome was the true lure of the process. He was in a blissful stasis.

The coin and music halted. He was dying to learn the outcome.

For the thirty fifth time in a row, he had gambled his three hundred and ninety five dollars that the menu called for.

He was ready to receive another exquisite meal, but what price would he pay? Seven hundred and ninety dollars… or Nothin’

Still frozen, Dion was already beaming the soulless grin of a meaningless victory.

 

END