Thursday, August 30, 2007

Come On, Baby, Light My Ear

After reading an article in the paper, my wife's been dabbling in ear candling, a technique that sucks the wax out of your ear by way of ... well, sticking a lit candle in it.

Of course it's a special kind of candle (you can't just pinch one off the top of your kid's birthday cake), and opinions vary as to its effectiveness or lack thereof. But she had a go yesterday and today, apparently, it was my turn.

It's not unpleasant, as experiences go, the burning of the cloth tube akin to listening to someone trying to tune in a radio on low volume. It was the preparation that threw me for a loop ...

Three to four hours before the event, the instructions stated that the ear canal should be treated with a drop of garlic oil (helpfully provided in the kit). Seems this softens hard wax, as well as having antiseptic properties. So there I lay, nice and still, while the essence was decanted into my earhole.

I let it soak for a while, then sat up for the other side to be done -

- and the oil ran straight out and down my neck.

Which is why half an hour later I was getting quizzical looks from the not-unattractive young woman in the toy shop where I was picking up my son's birthday presents. She didn't say anything, but I could see it in her eyes. The question.

'Why does he smell like a Chicken Kiev?'

So then, ear candling - it may or may not clean your passages but it does give a man his mystery back

Monday, August 27, 2007

Diverse Alarms

A busy weekend here on the homestead, if only for the number of things to go wrong. In reverse order of occurence:

1. Sitting up until the wee hours to watch Spurs lose 1-0 to Manchester United. I'm a big fan of Spurs manager Martin Jol: the players love him, the fans love him, he's given the club their best finish in donkey's years - for two seasons on the trot - so what if the team's in a bit of a bad patch? Keeping him on should be a no-brainer.

I fully expect the poor sod to be sacked by the end of the week.

2. Hosting a birthday party for my wife yesterday afternoon. Everything went very well indeed until after the event. That's when we found one of the smaller guests had thought it would be jolly good fun to remove the keys from every door in the house and scatter them. Still can't find the one to open the door to the back garden ... and the landlord's coming round for our quarterly inspection on Wednesday. Grrr.

3. Sitting down to eat on Friday night and hearing an ominous 'bleep'. The kind of 'bleep' you get when a curious six-year-old arms the burglar alarm system. The kind of 'bleep' that tells you you've got ten seconds to input the right code before it goes off. Thing is, we never arm the burglar alarm for the simple reason we don't have that code ...

Picture the children, running round the house in terror, screaming at the top of their lungs, hands clasped over ears vainly trying to block out a sound you'd hear on the other side of the planet.

Picture us trying to calm them down long enough to find whatever scrap of paper the right digits had been jotted on by the landlord.

Then picture the failure of both of the above tasks.

By the time we finally got the code the noise really didn't seem that bad any more - which didn't signify any stoic acceptance on my part so much as the onset of permanent deafness. But hey, we learned three things from the experience: don't let your daughter anywhere near ominous looking wall panels in the hallway; the landlord won't have the four digit code you need so don't bother calling him; and no matter how loud the alarm gets or how long it screeches for, not a single person on the whole of the street will come out to see what's going on.

Which is comforting.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


You may (or may not) know that In Bad Dreams gets launched at the Conflux convention in Canberra next month. It's always been the plan to get along and support the book, but that all got torpedoed this morning when I sat down and worked out just how much it was going to set me back.

The big issue is that there are no cheap flights that weekend - the exorbitant cost of travel to and from the nation's capital, along with the cost of accommodation and the entry fee for the convention itself ... Well, by the time I'd done my sums I was staring at a bill just this side of $2000 (about 820 quid for all you English viewers).

To put it into perspective, it's going to cost $8000 to fly my entire family to the UK in January ...


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Something to Crow About

The cover for In Bad Dreams has popped up on the book's Live Journal site, so here it is for anyone who doesn't drop in there regularly:

Only about a month to go until you can grab one for yourselves ...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Chimp on his Shoulder

Long-time readers will know I've got a story in the upcoming horror anthology In Bad Dreams, edited by Mark Deniz and Sharyn Lilley. Well it appears some character known only as Chuckle Monkey has been popping up on various blogs and trashing the book - even before it's hit the shelves. He specifically targets Mr Deniz for vitriolic criticism.

Well, the hairy rabble-rouser has dropped in today to share his opinions: it's time for a quick round of Simian Says.

P: G'day (pri)mate. Neither of my readers get over to Live Journal very often, so in a sentence, who are you?

CM: What do you mean who am I, I thought the world knew that! They can jolly well check out my LJ
Chuckle_Monkey and find out can’t they?

P: You're popping up on various blogs to sling ... well, what monkeys sling at the upcoming
In Bad Dreams anthology. Why? Just what is your problem with Mark Deniz?

CM: We sling poo… well I sling poo anyway. What is my problem with him? Well apart from him murdering me and then taking my LJ account and making a mockery of it, nothing, nothing at all!

P: Is it that you think you could have done a better job editing the anthology?

CM: Now, that’s not been asked before but I bet I could, you wanna write for me?

P: Probably not - you work with monkeys, you get paid peanuts. Plus it seems to me like Mark and Sharyn have done a pretty decent job. The line up of writers is certainly impressive ...

CM: Well there are some good authors in there, this is true, but I still don’t get why they wanted to work with ‘monkey slayer’.

P: Would it be fair to say then that In Bad Dreams fills you with a sense of horror, dread and perhaps even nausea?

CM: Indeed it does, that would be a perfect description!

P: Job done, then.

CM: Erm … that’s not what I me—

P: Alright, come on, admit it: you're Mark's dark side, aren't you? You're a dessicated corpse dressed in a wig and a frock, locked away in his basement. You know: 'Monkey! Oh God, Monkey! Blood! Blood!'

CM: Are you okay there?

P: Fine. I just really got into researching the book. Maybe I just need a lie down.

CM: Maybe… *backs out slowly*


Well, I hope that clears things up for everyone. If there's a lesson to be learnt: ignore the monkey, buy the book.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I'm a fair way behind the pack when it comes to audio plays from Big Finish. Little things like feeding the family each week mean that the days are long gone when I could afford to snap up their Doctor Who discs at the time of release. And as for as the various spin-off series, the only one I'm still up to speed with is the Bernice Summerfield range, not just for the obvious reasons but also because they really are exceedingly well-written, right across the board.

Anyway, it's more than five years since BF launched their range of 2000AD audio plays, and I'm embarrassed to say I've only just got my hands on some of them.

Being the weekend, it was time to plug into one of the stories and take my mind off the various house-keeping chores people do of a Saturday. First cab off the rank was Wanted: Dredd or Alive by my old boss-turned-professional-scribe David Bishop. And as I scrubbed last night's pots I realised he's been sitting on a pleasant little secret for the last half-a-decade.

For anyone unfamiliar with the character, Judge Dredd lives in Mega-City One, a huge metropolis consisting of hundreds of City Blocks, each housing thousands of people. A city block provides residents with shops, schools and sufficient other facilities that they could conceivably never leave their block in the whole of their lives. Think a city squeezed into a tower block and you'd be pretty close.

The other thing about them is that they're named after famous people or characters from the 20th and 21st centuries. Since the strip began there have been Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman Blocks, for instance, as well as blocks named after Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando and hundreds of others. Yes, you know you've made it when a block bears your name.

So I was particularly chuffed when, 26 minutes in, the action shifted to Pete Kempshall Block. Yes, it was big grins and chuckles as I sploshed through the dishes.

The only problem is that I'm now stuck doing the washing up for the rest of my life - if I looked that happy doing it, my wife reasoned, I could stick with it.

Ah, fame.

Friday, August 17, 2007

On Fire

A good day's work on the spec script today, with my finally feeling like I've got the answer to 'How much plot do you need to fill a 25 minute episode?'

Blazed through a new scene-by-scene breakdown - including finding a way to accommodate a twist in the tale that totally blindsided me a couple of days ago - then got halfway through a draft of episode one before running out of steam. You could smell the keyboard burning from the end of the road.

Well, it was either that or the stench of the potato we forgot was in the microwave yesterday evening. By the time someone remembered it, it was black as a taxman's heart and the whole house reeked like back-burnt bushland.

But at least the incinerated tuber smell has covered up the other odour pervading the place, the reason why yesterday was a dead loss on the writing front and why the vaporised vegetable was forgotten in the first place. You see, my daughter spent most of the day throwing up, courtesy of some bug or other, and the clean-up efforts account variously for my lack of creativity and any cookery-related memory lapses ... It was like that Monty Python sketch, stretched out over twelve hours.

Oh, you know the one ...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Presents: Tense?

Birthday season has kicked off, with the first of five anniversaries that'll be packed in between now and September 5. Yesterday was a joint celebration for my father in law and my daughter (who's not actually six until tomorrow) and today has been divided between wrapping presents and making dairy and egg-free cakes for her to take into school. Unbelievably they're quite tasty, plus they won't kill any of her allergy-prone classmates. Bonus.

The next big task is to track down something special for my son. With four weeks to go until he turns four, he's suddenly developed a love of Thunderbirds. Oh, how his face lights up at the thought of getting a 'rocket' as one of his presents. Oh, how mine darkened as one toy shop owner after another has informed me the series is 'past it' and no one's interested in it any more.

I'm staking out ebay as I type ...

In other news, my various scribblings are ticking along, causing me to smile ever-so-slightly at the post on Vicious Imagery last week about Shitty First Drafts. Oh, I'm there. I'm so there.

Protracted silence concerning one possible job ought to be making me antsy, meanwhile - instead I'm feeling eerily calm about it. And a cover is now available for In Bad Dreams. I'd put it up now, but I'd better find out if I'm allowed to show it to you first ...

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Long Time in Blogging

Hello? Hello?

Ah you're still here! Thank God for that. Apologies for neglecting you, but wage slavery has taken a big bite out of my available time for the last week. Loving the money, hating having to backburner other things.

Anyway, I'm back now, and here's what you've missed - and what I've learned - in the last few days:

1. The most important thing a freelancer can do is invoice. Unless you're on a regular contract (in which case the money appears by magic in your account at the end of the week) magazine writers must always remember to send in their paperwork. The company will never - ever - call you up and point out that you've forgotten to take their cash from them. And despite a big (that's BIG) sign taped to my computer screen to remind me to invoice on Thursdays, last week it slipped my mind completely. First time that's happened in over a year, and I just can't figure out why. So it's two-minute noodles for everyone until Friday. But then it's bumper wages - woo-hoo!

2. It might look good on paper, but it sucks out loud. I've been spending a fair bit of time on that by-now-mythical audio script, which is requiring a large rethink after the initial draft ran considerably under time. Part of the reason it's running under is assumptions I've been making on the part of the audience - what's clear to me, however, will bewilder anyone who hasn't sat down with me and gone over the plot in minute detail beforehand. Rectifying that, however, has led to some truly appalling moments of exposition and info-dumping dialogue. It's mostly in hand now, but I'm exceedingly glad no one was in the house to hear the out-loud readthrough I did the other day.

3. Some days you just don't feel like it (or Grand Theft Auto is a bad, bad thing). Mix one part good intentions with one part first-free-day-in-a-week. Leave to stand, then wonder where the afternoon went.

4. Fresh air is toxic to writers. Decided not to work on any kind of scribbling for the whole weekend, and just play with the kids. Went to the park with them and immediately felt utterly drained and lethargic. Home for a nap, and wonder where the afternoon went.

5. I need to get out more.

6. Eternity has a half-life of 47 years. So I discovered when I found my daughter had used a quarter of a bottle of the perfume on my son while playing hairdressers. Five days later, you can still smell him coming half an hour before he gets there. It's so bad that shaving his head is becoming an option.

7. Lots of people are interested in In Bad Dreams. Editors Mark and Sharyn did a Q&A spot at the Conflux Mini-Con last Saturday, and the turn out was reasonably impressive, I thought (my own lame question notwithstanding). Woo-hoo!

8. Everyone should watch The Chaser. Well, to be honest I already knew that, but since I'm reviewing the DVD today, here's a clip for non-Australians (you may want to refresh your memory concerning
Flash Beer first).

And finally a belated congraulations to Mondy, who got hitched at the weekend - nice one, mate!