‘No, I’ve not read the Goosebumps’ books,’
‘Really? Not even the one with the ventriloquist dummies?’
‘Or the one with the haunted house?’
‘No… not that one either,’
‘How have you not…’ And so the conversation went for a third time that day, when I attempted to explain my purchase of three Goosebumps’ books. Similar to when you don’t know a particular person who is being described, and the person doing the describing just repeats the name of the person to you several times in the hope that hearing said name multiple times in succession is the only thing preventing you from remembering said person. Let’s call him Pete.
Or, while we’re on the subject, the stereotype of the British holiday maker in the south of Spain who just repeats, ‘Cigarettes por favour!’ at an increasingly louder and more threatening tone at the poor Spanish shopkeeper.
In the spirit of reading more horror, and while at a Sunday market while visiting some friends in Melbourne, I came across a collection of Goosebumps books and thought, three for $10, that’s a bargain. Unfortunately, they were three for $12, and as much as I was going to haggle, barter, negotiate, or angrily shout three for $10 por favour, I decided to draw on my experience as a market stall holder, and remember how nice it was when people just pay the asking price.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this post to go in this direction. I would have assumed it would have been along the lines of how inspirational the native wildlife is for horror writing, as, you know, it is Australia, and we did see a small spider. But I thought the irony of being the only person in multiple groups of people who hadn’t read any of the Goosebumps’ books, but does write horror, was less obvious. And I got to crowbar in a reference to the market, which is a reference to the dog biscuits, which I’ve not referenced in a while. Basically, this is a ticking box exercise.
Also, I’ve just taken a stab at where the inverted comma should be in ‘Goosebumps Books’. No doubt it’s meant to be after the first ‘s’ or something.
That is all…
It’s always important to have a captivating image to accompany a blog post. Something that makes a potential reader think; ‘Ooh, I might read about that’.
All going well, it may even result in a ‘Like’.
So when I decided to enter ‘Peak to Pub’ – an event that involves a 2km ski through Mt. Hutt ski field, then a bike down the 18km access track, finishing with a 12km run to Methven – I decided to take a GoPro with me to film the experience and create a short montage.
‘If an image gets a like, then a montage gets a share’, as the saying goes…
The race is started with a shot gun blasted into the air, which provides an instant, attention grabbing opener for the action video. Then a 300m ‘sprint’ commences to your skiing gear. The use of the inverted commas is important as running in ski boots, through snow, at altitude, is hard. Harder than most people expect. So the initial flurry of excitement and energy is quickly replaced with wheezing and fatigue before most people even make it to the ski section.
The skiing is generally carnage, and I got a great shot sliding past other competitors who had lost their ski’s, or were chasing after their poles, or were lying face down in the snow not moving.
A quick transition gets you onto the biking stage, where you propel yourself down the gravel access track, gripped in terror that at any second you’ll get a puncture at speed, or go hurtling off the side at speed, or both… at speed. On the plus side, I managed to get some cool shots over the Canterbury Plains, with the blue sky meeting the dark haze of the sea.
The running section is where the fun really begins. It starts with a jaunt through a ‘dry’ river bed. Again, inverted commas completely necessary as at the time the river was in full flow, almost waist deep in places. But that was alright because after that it was a 6km run along a straight road. That was OK though because right after that was a jump into a river, complete with panicked swim to the net on the other side, desperately hoping that you’re not going to miss it as the current tries to drag you out to sea. That was tolerable though because you’re then light headed running through a root covered path, struggling to lift your wet, heavy legs over the numerous tripping hazards.
But then you’re on the home stretch, safe in the knowledge that despite the pain in your hips, the blisters growing on your feet, or the can of crap beer at the end, you’ll at least have got some decent shots for the montage.
Until you realise that you forgot to turn the camera on.
Meh, bit of a genre mashup, could be confusing.
Chainsaw wielding elves?
Well Christmas is coming I guess, but could be pigeon holed as seasonal.
Venomous, angry flowers?
Jumangji already nailed it.
It can be tough thinking up antagonists for horror stories. Now that I have completed the first draft of three horror novellas, it’s time to complete another three. The aim is to be ‘same same, but different’, so simple really.
Monsters are always fun, until you get to the bit about where they came from? How have they not been discovered up until now? What have they been doing on this time? Questions I addressed in one of the stories by just ignoring them.
Ghosts are reliably scary, but need a motive. Otherwise they’re just drifting about the place causing mischief. Like Casper.
Then you get the mentally deranged, unstable psychopaths who may be violently partial to swinging pointy implements about. Again, all good stuff, however people generally require dialogue which can be a bit tricky.
Normally at this point, I would lean on my extensive knowledge of horror movies for inspiration. Unfortunately, as a rule of thumb, I avoid horror, and scary movies in general, as they’re… well, too scary. This leaves me with my imagination. Some may say this is a good thing, not being influenced or jaded by what has been done before. However, when the best you can come up with is ill-tempered, colourful plants, you do start to question whether you’re in the right genre. Maybe I should just bring out an angry gardening book instead… like Day of the Triffids. Damn it!
There’s a certain degree of trial and error when it comes to scouting out a new location for a possible Dog Tails adventure. Generally, it starts by looking at a Topo map, then hunting around for DOC information which hopefully doesn’t have any anti-dog sentiments tucked away in it. Then it’s a small matter of driving the two plus hours on painfully straight, boring roads, to inevitably be greeted with a small red circle containing a black silhouette of a cute, fluffy dog with a thick ‘Not Today Mate’ line through it.
So fingers were tightly crossed last weekend when we drove the three hours to Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park (not heard of it before, neither had I. It’s next to Mesopotamia… no, not that one… just to Google it). Arriving at the start of the 4×4 track that would take us into the park, the good news was that dogs were allowed. The bad news was that the weather was horrendous. We had left the warm, blue skies of Christchurch and arrived in what could most accurately be described as a blizzard. Snow filled, gale force winds hammered the truck as we negotiated a combination of rocky river beds and muddy, flooded, grassy areas. My co-pilots were two excitable dogs, eager to get out for a run, and able to provide zero reassurance as the bottom of the truck scraped along another jagged rock.
After a minor river crossing and with the snow continuing to fall, I asked politely if we could please turn around as I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. Huddled within my mates 4×4 for a tea and biscuits stop (including some Bitching Beer Treats for the dogs of course), we watched as the dogs were released to play in the blizzard. They seemed happy enough. Presumably they weren’t so tightly clenched during the drive that they’ll have to wait a good week before they get any kind of regularity back.
Now that I’m back home, I guess the trip could technically be called a success, but only in the sense that nothing really bad happened. Nothing good really happened either, but I guess you can’t win them all.
‘We lost a lot of good photographers in those early days,’ the presenter laughed, and then proceeded to tell another anecdote regarding how it wasn’t uncommon, if you were having a bad day in the late 19th Century, stuck under your fabric dark room, in the sweltering heat as another exposure failed, to take a cheeky swig from a bottle of pure alcohol, to then find out you’ve accidently drunk from the bottle of Potassium Cyanide instead.
We were listening to a surprisingly interesting presentation at the Christchurch Art Gallery on the early beginnings of photography, which when in its infancy, was reduced to exposing images onto polished glass. The various toxic chemicals involved regularly resulted in either accidentally poisoning yourself via the fumes or careless inhalation, or unknowingly reducing the odds of getting cancer while you hung around carcinogenic compounds all day.
For some reason, it made me think of the Stephen King book I’m currently reading, Misery (I realised that if I was going to write horror stories, I should probably read a few, especially as I find horror movies too scary) For those that haven’t heard of it, it’s about an author who is saved from a car crash by a psychotic nurse who forces him to write a novel for her. The author has to use a type writer with a missing ‘N’ to write the new book (the letter ‘N’ is manually filled out afterwards. He doesn’t have to write an entire book without any words with ‘N’ in it, that would be silly… and very difficult) while he’s held prisoner by a mentally unstable woman who regularly torments and tortures him.
It did occur to me, while I tap away on the keyboard and use Photoshop to edit an image of an old camera that I took with my phone – which I think might be ironic but I’m not sure – that things could be a lot worse.
This entry was meant to start with a humorous comment on how Eskimos have over fifty words for snow. However, upon doing a quick fact check, it turns out that this idea is slightly controversial. Some people say it’s a hoax. Others claim that some dialects have several hundred words. In any case, the term ‘Eskimo’ is considered derogatory, so whether the perception is true or not, it is offensive.
Which is a shame as it made a useful introduction for how I’ve been trying to find 53 alternative words for ‘snow’, 43 different terms for ‘slope’, 40 various ways to say ‘beast’, and the most difficult of all, 42 unique modes of writing the word ‘door’ (as well for 4 dissimilar ways to repeat the same problem in one sentence).
This issue had arisen from a slightly lazy approach to writing, and assuming that I’ll be able to come up with a better noun during the editing process. When writing a story, instead of trying to think up lots of imaginative words for, let’s say ‘snow’. It’s much easier not to get bogged down in creativity and repetition, and just write ‘snow’. Then at some point down the line I’ll revise it to something more interesting. Which is fine, until you realise that there aren’t that many different ways to write the word ‘door’. Especially when it turns out it has been used 6 times in a paragraph.
On the other hand, ‘Beast’ is a great one, as you can go with monster, mastodon, behemoth, predator, creature, animal, bloody thirsty killer, monster again, beast a few times more, or any other heavy metal band name… like Cancer Bats. As you may have guessed, I’ve just finished writing a romantic comedy set in the Cotswolds, that features a large house.
‘How do you propose to settle the account?’
There was a long pause. We all stared back in silence, feeling slightly awkward. The pause continued.
‘See how effective that is?’ Stephen, our enthusiastic business workshop presenter explained, thankfully breaking the tension.
We were covering debt collection, an aspect of business that no one enjoys, whether you’re collecting, or coughing up. ‘They can tell you all the excuses in the world. But that simple statement, followed by a pause while you patiently wait for them to come with an answer, is incredibly effective.’ We all scribbled away in our note pads. I double underlined ‘patiently’.
The helpful people at ANZ bank had arranged a number of free workshops for small business owners, covering everything items such as; cash flow, internet marketing, hiring and firing, and franchises. I have been dabbling in the world of self-employment for a few months now, and felt it was probably about time I started to take things a bit more seriously. Especially as my savings are starting to dry up a bit, and the workshops were free. I imagine the two factors are somehow interconnected.
We sat, several plucky business owners to a circular table, while our presenter delved into the always exciting subjects of profit margins, profit projections, profit / loss tables etc. Topics that instantly get people’s attention at the mention of ‘Profit’. Suddenly they’re sat upright in their chair, ears pricking up, and the glassy veneer over their eyes is washed away. Oh yeah, what’s this then. Here we go, they optimistically think to themselves. To then be instantly knocked back down with a following, less appealing noun, that just sounds like a lot of hard work. One guy even called out angrily, ‘Ah come on!’ and slammed his pen down on the table, when his elation wall pulled unfairly from underneath him when ‘Profit, after Tax’ was mentioned.
During the internet marketing workshop, we covered Blogs, which made me feel that I may not be wasting all of my time writing these things… just some of it. And the power of Google Analytics, the closest you’ll ever get to being an NSA agent, while you spy on the habits and demographic of your internet traffic. So be warned, I’ll know if you have read this – a threat which does seem a little empty seeing as you would have had to have read this far to get to the threat about not reading it. Which neatly brings us to another reason why I needed to attend some of these workshops.
‘OK, I’ll go ask.’ I left Kat browsing the scarfs, and I went to speak to the shop manager. I returned less than a minute later. ‘I bottled it, let’s go’.
This was becoming a bit of a routine. For some reason, when approaching suitable shops to stock some Bitchin Beer Treats, I had a habit of either finding excuses not to speak to the manager, or ducking out of it at the last minute. Worst case, I would walk towards them smiling, but at the last second as they looked up, I was quickly turn and suddenly take an interest in a collection of classic bookmarks, greetings cards, or some other tatt that I didn’t need.
Not entirely sure why. Maybe it was a lack of marketing known how. Or Confidence in myself. Or fear of rejection. Maybe it was the same reason why I preferred Tinder over actually approaching girls in a bar.
Whatever it was, this marketing tactic wasn’t doing me any favours in the sales department, and once again I left a store with the same amount of biscuits that I had entered with.
Over a coffee, Kat and I discussed sales strategies, which essentially amounted to me growing a pair.
During this motivational this pep talk, we noticed that the café we were in was dog friendly, and would the perfect place to exercise this newly acquired ‘go get ’em tiger’ attitude. I turned and saw that there wasn’t a queue at the counter, and the manager was free. Perfect time to approach, once I’d just finished my coffee. I sat, taking short sips from the hot coffee, as I allowed it to cool to a more palatable temperature. The counter was still free. ‘Ooh, still a bit hot’ I said, taking another sip and placing the tepid coffee back down. I looked over at Kat, who just silently stared back unimpressed.
‘…………………………………………….fine,’ I stood up and with a box of biscuits under my arm, approached the counter. Kat watched from the safety of the table as I awkwardly stumbled my way through my sales pitch. I returned several minutes later with a grin on my face.
‘They bought a box’.
As I finished my coffee, we watched as the café manager instantly went out with a pack of biscuits in her hand, and sold it to a couple who were sitting out front with their dog. Obviously someone has a bigger pair of sales kahunas than yours truly.
Ten minutes after we left the café I got a phone call. It was the manager of the café asking if I had any more biscuits I could drop by. She had already sold two packets and thought she could sell a load more.
I’ll leave it to you guys to work out what the morale of the story is.
I sat staring at the large, faux mink blanket that hung on the wall in front of me, waiting for a response.
I rolled my eyes and asked the question again, this time out loud and slightly more impatiently, ‘Is it better to stay in one genre, or genre hop?’
Several seconds passed. Still no response
I looked around the gallery at the other participants, all feverishly scribbling in their note books, evidently having selected a less reclusive piece of art work. I returned back to the carpet, then sighed and found a chair to sit on to wait out the remaining 18 minutes of the 20 minute exercise.
I was attending a creative writing workshop at a local art gallery, and was starting to think that it may not have been the most productive way to spend an afternoon. The clues were everywhere; the slant towards poetry which I don’t have much of an interest in, another participant in dark glasses playing a lute when I arrived, and the deep, emotional, quite personal feedback people were providing on our first exercise; 10 minutes of free writing to a person who isn’t judgemental. It appeared the entire group experienced some level of self-discovery and insight, apart from me, who just wrote down stuff I already knew. Maybe I just missed the point.
We then had to go into the art gallery, find a suitable art work, ask it a question that we would normally ask an expert in our chosen writing field, and then wait for an answer. Now, as much as this might be an easy target to take the piss out of, it should be noted that I think I was the only person who didn’t get anything out of this. It seemed everyone else got some kind of deep rooted, emotionally rich, life affirming answer, and were grateful for the opportunity to ask it. If that’s your thing, then good for you. However, what I got was a large blue blanket staring stubbornly back at me. I was starting to feel quite out of my depth.
The nail in the coffin was when we discussed dreams being a source of inspiration for creativity. Anyone who knows me will be aware of my feelings towards dreams and how much I hate it when people tell me about their fantastical, wondrous experience that occurred just two nights ago, which didn’t happen, and I can’t relate to in any way possible.
‘… and my History teacher, Mr. Harris, was there holding a bouquet of flowers, and we sort of floated, but not really, through this door that wasn’t a door, but more like a motorway…’
For reference, the art work was Te Whare Pora, in the Mata Aho Collective. Let me know if you get anything more useful from it.