Saturday, 29 March 2014

Fame has looked me in the eye - and then walked away

I'm not famous. Not even close. Not even close to close.

Would I like to be famous? To be honest, I'm not sure. I would like to be successful. I would like to be able to do the things I like to do (which is primarily writing I suppose) well enough that I could make a good living out of them. I don't need to be rich. And I certainly don't have any desire to be mobbed by fans every time I go to the shop to buy a loaf of bread. So if that's what being famous means, I'm not sure if it's for me.

Sometimes, I like to reflect on those moments when fame has approached a little bit close. Being in Australia, I don't often get an opportunity to have access to the most famous of the famous. But I have had a few moments.

A number of those have involved sports stars (and here in Australia, that's kind of up at the top rung of famousness). As a kid, while shopping for a cricket bat, I was once served by a footballer who is often spoken about as the finest player of his era (yes, back in the '80s, even the best Australian footballers needed day jobs). I never ended up buying the bat, but I did get to feel very connected to a genuine sporting great.

Speaking of footballers, one of my physical education teachers at school was the captain of one of the top grade football teams. And a hell of a nice fellow to boot. Years later, my family ambushed him at an awards night and even with the cameras clicking, he was happy to stop for a moment and say g'day.

I've had my moments in the writing sphere as well. I guess the biggest one was actually getting close to one of my real heroes as a writer, the late (and lamented) Douglas Adams. It was at a literary lunch many years ago and the highlight was definitely when I got him to sign my old and dog-eared edition of Hitch-Hikers Guide. It's still a prized possession.

It's nice to think that somebody like myself can have these little brushes with fame. Who knows, maybe one day people will be excited to have lunch with me, and they'll line up to get my (admittedly rather pathetic and scrawly) autograph on their copy of one of my books.

Like I say, I have no great desire to be famous, but it would be kind of nice. 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sometimes I've thought about being someone else

I don't love my name. I suppose over the years I've kind of gotten used to it. But still, there are times when it irks me.

Firstly, it's too long. Three syllables is far too many for something as simple as a name. I think two is fine, and one would be even better.

Secondly, nobody seems to know how to spell it. You wouldn't believe the number of different combinations there are out there. O's instead of A's, and H's cropping up in all sorts of strange places. And the worst part is, because people have no idea how to spell it, there are now kids being born who officially have their name spelt incorrectly. It's extremely frustrating.

Thirdly, it seems to be one of those names that is always used for nerdy sorts of characters. I have no idea why. There doesn't seem to be anything inherently nerdy about it (except possibly its length). But whenever you have a character who wears glasses and a vest and long socks under shorts, he always seems to be called Jonathan.

In my younger years, I have thought of changing it. In my older years, I've thought of coming up with a pseudonym, just for the writing.

I've considered using my middle name, David, which I think is a good, solid, easy to spell, and not too long kind of name. David Gould. I could just see it on those book covers. Has a nice ring to it.

I've also thought of being a bit more creative. I've thought of reversing the name and then messing around with it a bit, so it sounded kind of presentable. The result I came up with was Nathan Ojdluog.  Doesn't sound too bad. Little bit exotic. For a while, I thought it might have some potential.

But in the end, I went with my name as given. I can't even tell you why. Maybe I've become a bit more used to it over the years. Maybe I really wasn't that imaginative. Or maybe, it's because I feel like my books are a big part of me, and I wanted to be able to identify myself with them as fully as I could.

No idea really. In the end, whether they were written by Nathan or David or Jonathan, they're still the same books. I hope you like them. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Words are my playthings

I'm a great big kid at heart.

Not that that should come as any great surprise to you. I'm kind of banging on about it all the time. What it does mean though is that, like any big kid, I like to play. And the things I like to play with the most are words.

Words are great. They're the best toys that anybody could have to play with. There are so many different things you can do with them. They're so flexible and malleable. As a writer, there's nothing more fun than figuring out the different sorts of games I can play with them. In fact, that's pretty much the theme of the most recent book I published, Scrawling.

Obviously, one of the most basic things you can do are simple puns. I love puns. I'm constantly making up puns.And the more groan-inducing they are, the better. In fact, many people say that spending too much time with me is sheer pun-ishment (cue loud groan).

It's actually funny how, when I looked back through my books, I noticed there actually weren't a lot of puns in there. I was really pleased to rectify that in Scrawling, where puns play quite a substantial role in at least one chapter.

Beyond the meaning of words, sometimes it's just fun to play with the sounds of words. That's where writing within the genre of fantasy can be especially rewarding. It's a genre where making up new words is not just accepted, it's actually pretty much demanded. I'm always having fun making words up. Words for new characters, or strange locales, or any kind of fantastical element or custom. Sometimes I'll try to come up with something where the sounds of the syllables in the word reflect somehow on what that word is describing. But other times, I'll just bang my fingers on the keyboard and see what comes up. Sometimes, the more unpronounceable, the better.

There's one other game in particular that I like to play - spoonerisms. I'll often just throw them into ceneral gonversation. I like to see the looks on people's faces as they gradually figure it out. I even managed to use it (sort of) for a book title. Magnus Opum is I suppose some sort of reverse spoonerism, where it's the last letters in the words that are swapped, rather than the first.

There are lots of other different types of games you can play with words - the fun never ends. Hopefully, you'll also have a bit of time for fun this week. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Book blitz with Dan O'Brien

Today Dag-Lit Central is being taken over by Dan O'Brien as part of the book blitz for his new new illustrated fantasy short complete with giant socks, a leprechaun, and an old man as the protagonist..

You’re never too old to have one more adventure 

Brought to life by Steve Ferchaud’s vibrant drawings, this story for all ages by Dan O’Brien lets us know that it is never too late to have one more adventure. 

An Excerpt:

Robert Pendleton opened one eye as the light of a passing car flashed over the window, shattering the darkness into prisms. He rolled onto his back on the beat-up couch and yawned as he reached his hands up and rubbed his eyes unceremoniously. 

He looked out over the darkness at the digital clock. The red digits spelled out a quarter ‘til midnight––nearly fourteen hours of sleep. He smiled and grabbed one of the cushions of the couch, burying his head in it. Just enough sleep, he reminded himself. Robert felt that anything less than twelve hours of sleep was very nearly too little. 

He grasped blindly for the TV remote. 

Groaning as he lifted his head, he looked at the empty table––his eyes drawn by another flash of a passing car. He couldn’t see clearly, but he knew that the remote had been there before he had fallen asleep nearly half a day ago. 

“Could have sworn….” he mumbled as he pushed himself up and brushed his hand around the top of the table, finding nothing. “Where did….”

Another groan escaped his lips as he lifted his body to a sitting position and threw aside the cluster of pillows that he had gathered around himself. He reached out for the lamp, but instead knocked it to the floor with a resounding thud. 

Robert muttered as he stood up from the couch, and then sank to his knees to search around in the darkness for the fallen lamp. Reaching around on the shadowed floor, shards of the broken lamp scattered like pieces of light. 

He turned his head, peering beneath the large space underneath the couch and saw the reflection of the buttons on the remote. The off-gray piece of machinery was underneath the couch––only darkness lingered beyond it. He reached out as he spoke again. 

“How did it get all the way down there?” 

Robert flexed his hand and strained as he twisted his back to reach farther; yet, the remote remained just out of reach. He pulled his arm away with a huff and craned his neck to the side, staring underneath into the darkness below the couch. 

His eyes widened as he saw the impossible: there was something beyond the remote. He shook his head and closed his eyes, whispering to himself that he didn’t see what he thought he had.

“I saw a little man,” he whispered to himself as he opened his eyes once more and nearly gasped as he did so. 

The figure was closer now and he could make out the outline clearly. A tiny man rested just beyond the remote. 

“What in the name of…?”

“Not here in the name of nobody, laddie. I be a friend though,” crooned the miniscule figure as he interrupted Robert and stepped forward, placing a hand on the darkened and slick surface of the remote. 

A tam-o’-shanter crested his bright red hair, the shaggy mane blending perfectly into his equally crimson, neatly trimmed, beard. 

A billow of whitish smoke drifted from the long-stemmed pipe that he held clenched between his lips. 

Robert fell back and knocked aside the adjacent table. Rubbing his eyes, he spoke a single word: “Leprechaun.”

About the Author:

Dan O’Brien, founder and editor-in-chief of The Northern California Perspective, has written over 20 books––including the bestselling Bitten, which was featured on Conversations Book Club’s Top 100 novels of 2012. Before starting Amalgam, he was the senior editor and marketing director for an international magazine. In addition, he has spent over a decade in the publishing industry as a freelance editor. You can learn more about his literary and publishing consulting business by visiting his website at: Contact him today to order copies of the book or have them stocked at your local bookstore. He can he reached by email at

Would you like to win a remarked copy of Conspirators of the Lost Sock Army and Loose Change Collection Agency signed by the author and illustrator?

Simply follow the author here and here and a few winners will be randomly selected on March 20th!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Spreading niceness on the internet

I had a revelation the other day.

I realised that there is a lot of not-niceness out on the big wide internet.

I know, this is probably not news to you. You're probably wondering where I've been all these years. You're probably wondering what took me so long to figure it out.

I guess, partly I'm kind of slow, and partly I don't really get out all that much. And when I do get out, I don't usually stray far from the places where I feel safe. So a lot of that not-niceness has kind of passed me by.

Anyway, back to the topic. Like I said, I realised there is a lot of not-niceness out on the web. And I wasn't happy about it. Not happy at all.

Now I'm the sort of person who doesn't like to let things lie. If there's a problem, I always like to try to figure out a solution. Only this is a tricky one. What could one little person do about all those people being not-nice all over the internet. It seemed like a real biggie.

Then I realised there was something I could do to counter all that not-niceness. Something that wasn't difficult at all, at least not for me. I could just do my best to be the nicest person out there in internet-land.

So here's how it works. Every day, I'm going to go out into the internet and I'm, going to be nice. I'm going to say nice things to everybody that I meet. I'm going to be super-polite, and always say excuse me, and please and thank you as many times as I can. And if anybody ever says anything to me that smacks of not-niceness, I'm not going to sink down to that level. I'm going to keep myself nice and friendly and thank them for saying what they had to say, and then find somewhere else on the internet to continue being nice.

I'm hoping that my policy of niceness on the internet won't just end with me. Maybe, just maybe, I can inspire other people towards being nice as well. Maybe I can create a whole army of nice people over the internet. Maybe I can start a niceness revolution that will completely change the way everybody acts on the World Wide Web. And then all those not-nice people will realise the error of their ways, and they will join in and help me on my mission of spreading niceness.

Oh well, it's a nice dream I suppose. Have a really nice week, everybody.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

We need more dancing dots

Some time ago, I blogged about commas. About how I have no idea where they're meant to go, and how a fair proportion of my writing time (and even more of my editing time) is spent moving the pesky little blighters around. And don't get me started on colons and semicolons, and the differences between em and en dashes.

This got me thinking (I know - pretty much everything gets me thinking. It's an affliction.) about the whole point of punctuation anyway, and about what we could do with all those confusing dancing dots. And that's when I began to think that maybe the problem isn't so much a lack of clarity in how to use the dancing dots, but that maybe we just don't have enough dancing dots to play with.

Consider this situation, which you've probably experienced multiple times (I know I have). You feel like there's a slight pause in a sentence, but you're not sure it merits a comma. Maybe what we need is something new here. A new punctuation mark that is a sort of "maybe-comma", that you can put in if you're not sure if a full comma is required. We could call it a "momma" for short.

And what about that all too common situation where you have no idea if you need a comma or a colon or a semi-colon. How about we have something new that splits the difference. Whenever you're torn between which of these complicated symbols to add, just chuck in a semi-comma-colon. Solves the problems in one, making life easy for any writer. 

I could go on and on listing further potential additions to our punctuation repertoire. Questionation marks for when you want to combine a question and an exclamation. Double double quotes for when two people are speaking at the same time. The list is endless.

Anyway, till next week, I'll keep on fighting my battle to increase the number of dancing dots. If anyone out there has any suggestions, please let me know.