Thursday, 26 February 2015

My mind is like the weather - I can never predict what it's going to do next

Hard to believe I've been writing this blog for almost four years now and I've never considered this topic before. After all, I live in Melbourne. Everybody knows that this is everybody's favourite topic of conversation here - and let's face it, given how much it changes all the time, it gives us an awful lot to talk about.

Anyway, after my usual agonising about what I can write about for this week's post, it hit me. I should do a post about the weather. Melbourne's weather is absolutely nuts. In a matter of hours, it can change from hot and sunny to cold and rainy, and then back again several more times (in fact, the Crowded House song "Four Seasons in one Day" was specifically written with Melbourne in mind).

So here we go. What can I possibly say about the weather in Melbourne. It's crazy. It's unpredictable. It seems completely irrational and nuts. A bit like... A bit like... A bit like me, to be honest.

That's when I had my great revelation. My mind is just like the weather in Melbourne. Like the weather, my mind seems to act in a completely irrational way. I can never predict what thought will pop up next. I have no idea whether it will lead me on towards sunny skies or clouds and rain, or some strange combination of the two.

As an example, sometimes I can be sitting on a tram (yes, that's another very Melbourne thing to do) and my mind will suddenly throw out three really great ideas in quick succession. Out of the blue. No prompting at all. An hour or so later, when I finally get organised enough to write those ideas down so I won't forget them (I admit I may have a problem with procrastination) my mind will remove them completely. Totally gone and never to be recovered.

It can be extremely frustrating having a Melbourne weather type mind. From day to day, it can be hard to predict how I'm going to function. Will I be effective and get stuff done, or will I just schlump around, getting nowhere. It's a bit like the quandary of going outside - when you can't decide whether to dress for sun or rain. It's just impossible to predict.

Mind you, after so many years, I suppose I've kind of gotten used to it. And like the weather here in Melbourne, at least it gives me something to talk about.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Finding Victor - guest post by Michael G. Munz

It's always a pleasure to be hosting another author, so today I'm looking forward to a visit from a fellow Booktrope author, Michael G. Munz. Hopefully he'll be a lot of fun to hang around with. I think I can hear him knocking on the door and...hang on a minute...Mike, what's that you're holding...

Well hi, everybody! You might have noticed that I am NOT Jonathan Gould. No, I haven't hijacked his blog. He's just a little tied up at the moment, and so he's offered me the pleasure of a guest post. The fact that I was the one who tied him up is immaterial. Whether or not there are live piranhas in that pool over which he's suspended really is not something you need concern yourself with. Rest assured, Jonathan will return, possibly even with all of his original fingers and toes. But I digress.

Given Jonathan's theme of stories that stand out from the crowd, I decided to share with you a little tale of my own. It's the first thing I ever wrote that won a contest and, like me, is probably more than a little weird. The contest in question was's 24-hour Short Story Contest. Writers were given a first line and had 24 hours in which to spawn from it a 1,000-word story. What follows is my effort, which stood out from the crowd enough to take 2nd place.

Finding Victor

by Michael G. Munz

It had taken Tom almost an hour to scramble over the rocks to the hidden beach. He'd had to strap his metal detector to his back and he doubted many other treasure hunters would go to the same trouble. The rocks gave way to an expanse of sand and white driftwood bounded by a high, tree-spotted cliff.

Starting at the water line, he swept the detector back and forth. On his fifth pass, it gave a strong beep. Whatever it was, it was reasonably large and buried two feet beneath the sand. Jackpot! Tom pulled out his collapsible spade and began to dig. 

"Reckon ya got somethin', do ya?"

The voice started Tom so much that he nearly drove the spade into his foot. He turned to see an elderly stranger standing a few yards away. Whoever he was, the old man must have liked white. Everything he wore on his short, slight frame—sandals, shorts, T-shirt, even the umbrella he clutched to block the sun—was white.

"Ah, hello," Tom managed through his disappointment. "I thought I was alone." At least the man had no metal detector.

"Oh, no," the man remarked absently. "No, no, not alone."

"I'm not trespassing, am I? I mean, I didn't think this was a private beach."

The man chuckled. "Oh, not trespassing. Not private. Go right along."

"Ah, good. Well, good day, then." Tom went back to digging in hopes that the man would wander off. He'd had spectators make fun of his hobby before. 

Instead, the stranger stepped closer. "Ever found anything good?"

Tom rolled his eyes as he dug. "Sometimes, yeah. It's not a waste of time, if that's what you're implying."

"Oh, didn't say it were! Or do you have to find the good stuff to be enjoyin' it?"

Head down, Tom continued to dig, watching the sand for signs of anything. "Doesn't hurt if I do..."

"Oh, sure, doesn't hurt, doesn't hurt. Always wondered what drives yer type ta be lookin' fer treasures that others've lost. Heads down ta the sand alls time. Now me, I'd be flyin' a kite. Ya see a lot more. Notice a lot more. See things comin'. Goin'."

Tom stood up with a scowl. "Where's your kite?"

The stranger just shrugged with a grin before checking his watch.

"You have somewhere to be?" Tom asked hopefully.

"Just here."

"Something happening here?"

"Oh, things happen everywhere, don't they?"

Tom let it go and turned back to his digging. Still the man continued to stand there. 

"It's funny."

Tom sighed, but kept digging. "What's funny?"

"How you types always know ta come here. ...Well, guess ya don't know, but ya do it anyway."

"Yeah, isn't that interesting." He cared more about what was beneath the sand than whatever the man was talking about at that point.

"Then 'gain, suppose if ya knew, you lot wouldn't come at all. Or maybe ya would. Some people gets tired of it all, don't they?"

"I'm getting tired of something," muttered Tom. He'd nearly dug deep enough.

"Had a good day?" the man continued. "Kiss yer wife, tell 'er you love 'er? Kids? Family? Friends?"

Tom kept digging without speaking. Within moments his spade struck metal, and he switched to using his hands. 

"No? Oh, shame, shame. Always ought ta do that. 'Every day like it's yer last,' they say. 'Course, they also say 'Don't talk ta strangers,' and I never understood that one. Guess no one's perfect."

The old man sat down and, to Tom's relief, ceased his jabbering as Tom swept the sand away from his find. Whatever it was, it was black, long and cylindrical. He kept digging, following the shaft to where it lay beneath some buried white sticks of driftwood. Puzzled, Tom went the other direction where the shaft met a familiar rectangular casing. With a theory growing in his mind, he uncovered more until he saw the tiny screen and was certain. He laughed with surprise.

It was another metal detector.

Yet how had it gotten buried there with the driftwood? It only took a moment's closer look at the "wood" for him to realize what he'd really found. He leaped back in horror. 

"Somethin' wrong, is it?" said the man.

Tom pointed to the hole. "Bones! There's a skeleton with a metal detector down there!"

The man remained unimpressed. "Yep. Was Victor, I reckon. Came here ta die couple o' years ago. Leastways, I think that was 'is name."

Tom stared. "WHAT?"

The old man smiled. "Victor. Brain tumor's what got 'im, I recall."

Tom looked back and forth from the skeleton to the man. "Tumor? You mean he just...died right here on the sand?"

The stranger nodded. "Looked surprised, too. 'Course, most o' ya look surprised when it happens. Not right sure what brings ya here. Guess it's some sorta instinct."

Tom stepped back, appalled. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. "There's OTHERS?" 

"'Course there's others." The man smiled as if Tom had just asked if the sky was blue. "What'd ya expect to find, coming' to a place that's so bloomin' hard ta get to? All that's here's dead treasure hunters. Secret treasure hunter burial ground! Just like elephants, 'cept diff'rent. Somehow ya all knows ta come here when yer 'bout ta die." A stabbing pain shot through Tom's left arm and he suddenly felt light-headed. The old man cocked his head. "Ya did know ya were 'bout ta die, didn't ya?"

Tom clutched his heart in pain. The last thing he saw as he fell was the sand rushing up to meet him. 

As the ocean breeze tugged at his umbrella, the stranger looked down at Tom's lifeless body with a chagrinned grunt. "Pity. Forgot ta get 'is name. Ah, well." Tom's spade lay in the sand where he'd dropped it. He closed his umbrella, took the spade, and began to dig Tom's grave. "Least they always brings their own shovel."

The End

So, yeah, I'm a wee bit strange, but show me a writer who isn't and I'll show you a writer who's hiding something. And now, if you'll excuse me, I should really see what that big splash was in the piranha room.

Michael G. Munz is a Seattle sci-fi/fantasy author. His comedic fantasy, Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure, was published by Booktrope in July. Michael can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and at

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Time to change the frequency

I had a revelation the other day.

I have them every so often. Mostly it's nothing particularly earth shattering. But occasionally I think to myself, "Hey, that's kind of interesting. I wonder if anybody ever thought of that before."

I was in my car. I was listening to the radio. I was listening to a station I wanted to listen to. I also had kids in my car. They weren't so keen on listening to the station I was listening to. Of course, I didn't end up listening to that station for too much longer.

Thinking about that experience made me think about the whole idea of different radio stations, broadcasting on different frequencies. It made me think of the numerous times I try to talk to my kids and they completely fail to pay attention to me. No matter how loudly or insistently I speak, there's no way I can batter my way into their consciousness as they continue to chat away together. And that's when I realised it.

My kids and I are on different radio frequencies. They're communicating on one radio frequency, and I'm communicating on another one entirely. That's why they are completely incapable of tuning in to what I'm saying. Every so often, we find a cross frequency that works (usually when the words chocolate, ice cream, or pizza are involved), but mostly we're on completely different wavelengths.

This got me thinking about the whole frequency thing (I know, I've said before that thinking is one of my bad habits). What about all those other times when people fail to understand each other? What about people on opposite sides of the political spectrum, or religious people vs non-religious people. We're all talking to each other. We actually seem to be speaking the same language. And yet, we're broadcasting on completely different frequencies from each other. It's no wonder we never seem to actually engage with what we're saying.

So what can we do about this? I'm not sure I have an answer (which I find very frustrating because I'm a problem-solving kind of guy). We certainly don't want to end up with just one frequency. Imagine if there was only one station you could listen to on the radio - how boring would that be. But maybe, we can try to make the time to change our "stations" every now and again, and try to listen to something on another frequency, even if we think we're not going to like it.

No idea what the outcome might be, but at least it's a neat sounding metaphor, and I love a good metaphor as much as the next writer.

Till next week, hope your frequency is a good one.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Oh where oh where did my concentration go?

I used to be really good at concentrating. I used to be able to give myself a task and set my mind to it, and then spend a good period of concentrated time, focussing on the task and nothing else.

When I used to write, I could often go for several hours. I could easily knock out well over a thousand words in a session, and often twice as much. To be honest, anything below 1500 would really be regarded as sub-par.

Similarly so for when I used to read a lot. I could spend hours lost in a good book. Seems like I never had trouble spending a whole day, happily relaxed on a couch and lost in the plot.

These days, things are really different. Whenever I do devote some time to a book, I always find myself getting impatient. I always want to jump ahead to see what happens next, rather than be content to find things out when it's time to find them out. Sometimes, I even (shock horror) don't get around to actually finishing the book.

When it comes to writing, things are even worse. Gone are those marathon sessions when I could churn out several thousand words. These days, a good writing session is (sob) 500 words. That's right, a mere 500. And even that seems like a battle. I'm constantly checking word counts, to see if I've reached that magical number. Maybe I'll rearrange a sentence to make it a bit wordier, just so I can up the count. And when I do get to my 500 for the day, it's always with a great sense of relief that I save the document and shut it down. Look at me. I've achieved my writing goal. It may be kind of puny, but at least I've achieved something.

I'm not even sure who I'm supposed to blame for this sad loss of concentration. Is it because I'm getting older, and my brain finds it harder to focus on things for extended lengths of time? Is it the stress of my work, which forces me to spend most of my day on a computer, thus dramatically reducing my tolerance for off-work screen time? Is it family, and the constant distraction it brings? Is it the internet, with its whirl of redundant information constantly being thrown in my face? Or is it simply the stress of dealing with modern life, with all its complexities?

Whatever it is, it can be damn frustrating. I yearn for the old days, when I was able to get so much done, and writing wasn't a battle to steal short snippets of time.

In the meantime, I think I've spent long enough writing this post, so goodbye.