You wake up

Hello my most excellent readers. This is another entry where I’m genuinely forcing myself to write so please excuse inconsistencies, rambling, bad jokes and leaping from subject to subject. in other words, expect the usual.

Right now I’m waiting till my friend gets home so I can go over and jam with him on some music we’re working on. I mostly play drums in this endeavour though I give a lot of feedback on the mix and the shaping of the songs. Five years ago I attempted NaNoWriMo and actually finished a novel and then the entire track of my creative life changed. When that book was done, I realised I got a lot more satisfaction out of writing than I ever did out of writing music. This was huge for me because I have literally spent over half of my life writing music, since high school. Actually, it’s 20 years now. I completely devoted myself to it too, spurning various jobs and different opportunities so I could hone my ‘art’ and work at my various projects.

For almost all of my time in bands I’ve been a guitarist and occasionally front man. I never really bothered to learn how to solo because I came from the Nirvana school of song writing – i.e. emotion is everything. In the last few years I bought a cheap electric drum kit which I upgraded to pro level and somehow ended up drumming. This gives me a lot of satisfaction but still not as much as seeing my words turn into stories.

I think this stems from my childhood, when I was writing stories and reading all the time. Pretty much all my time I wasn’t spending on my computer I was spending reading a book or trying to write something. In all my bands afterwards I’d be endlessly crafting lyrics and trying different styles and forms. In the last band I was in as singer/songwriter one of the songs even turned out to be beat poetry because I couldn’t find any other way to make it fit. When I look back at it now, it’s basically a free form (very) short story. Here it is in its entirety:


You wake up; everything is flammable; everyone is f***able; the room is on fire; you meet a responsible adult who tells you the world will end ten minutes after sundown

You agree to meet him after then

You wake up; you catch up with your friend; you tell him you set fire to the sky and the cleansing begins from within; he tells you you’re a dog of a party

And the sun dissolves away to nothingness


And for your entertainment, here is a video of us performing said song. This was about ten years ago. Please excuse the angst.

Just so you know, the lyrics came to me fully formed in a dream. I woke up, elbowed my partner awake, and had her transcribe it before I forgot it. I look at it now and I see a short narrative piece written in the second person rather than a set of lyrics. Of course, it’s both. For some reason it never occurred to me that while I was working on music I was also working on my writing. With everything I write I pay special attention to the rhythm of the words I’m putting down, how it all sounds together and whether my beats hit hard and make sense. I make sure most scenes have a ‘chorus’ where the action comes together and a resting pace that sets the tone for the novel.

Most importantly I have a part where the main character screams at the injustice of it all. Because, you know, that’s character building. Also it’s a subtle nod to my teenage and early adult war against a world that could never know my pain. The pain of being young, knowing everything, and not being appreciated for it. In a way “I Think You Ate My Sandwich” was my award to myself for “best angst”, though Tink in that book took things way better than I would have, especially since she didn’t have a guitar or a drum kit to take it all out on.

Speaking of which, I really need to finish working on my Minkah novel so I can put out revision two of that one. I still love Robert the Robot. Till next time…

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

…oh wait, it’s after midnight so technically it IS Christmas. Well, happy holiday everyone. Whatever you celebrate, I genuinely always thought of this as a time to try and tolerate family, loud children, wine cooler and bad jokes in Christmas crackers. I do miss the presents aspect of it though. As an adult I’m finding myself buying a lot of presents and receiving a few t-shirts. Having said that, I do receive the gift of an incredible amount of food so I’m actually pretty happy with that.

It wasn’t as great when I was vegan though. A Greek Christmas is not a salad-friendly Christmas. I mean, there is some potato salad here and there but most of it has bacon. The rest of the food consists of lamb and chicken. Or chicken stuffed with lamb. (Just kidding, Greeks are confused by the idea of Turducken.)

I remember when I first announced that I didn’t eat meat the conversation vanished to be replaced with confused incredulity. The next week I visited my mum and grandmother and my grandmother announced she had made vegetarian dolmades (rice wrapped in vine leaves). I took a bite out of one and discovered mince meat. “What?”, she said with a look of innocence, “that’s not meat. Just mince.”

You tell a Greek relative that you’ve given up meat and you might as well say “I’ve gone on a hunger strike.” All of a sudden you have half the extended members of your family telling you your cheeks look ‘sunken’ and asking how you can ever be full. My mum offered me sardines the first 5 times I visited her after my announcement. The worst part for them was that they couldn’t argue against any moral high ground on my part because I wasn’t operating from one. I made it very clear that I a) felt healthier when I didn’t eat meat and b) looked better when I didn’t eat meat. I went so far as to call myself a “vain-a-tarian”. It was great for me. For the first time in my life I could wear stretchy designer t-shirts (please don’t imagine Ed Hardy type monstrosities. My stuff was more artsy-emo orientated. Also threadless) and skinny jeans. I do realise it’s still possible as a ‘chunky’ person to wear skinny jeans but it’s never advisable. If only because of the ever-present butt crack syndrome.

I downgraded after a couple of years to vegetarian. A couple of years after that, due to regular dinners with family members of my girlfriend (now wife), I downgraded again to eating seafood and fish; what I dubbed a ‘pescetarian’ for convenience sake. Though it wasn’t actually that convenient as I constantly had to explain what it meant. A couple of years after that I downgraded yet again to “I will eat lamb at Christmas” as it just seemed the festive thing to do. Not for the lamb, obviously.

So where does this leave me? Chubbier than when I was a vegan, that’s for sure! I’ve been considering going back to it but aside from everything else, it’s actually quite expensive. Yes, this is even if I go to the Central Market and buy all my produce fresh. Unless I somehow carve out twelve hours a week to prepare all my food (and a few more hours beforehand to work out what I’d even want to eat for the week) then I’m left with a heap of stuff that I don’t end up eating. Aside from the crackers anyway.

At least I was never on the Paleo diet; a diet that seems engineered to kill people. Yes, let’s put maximum strain on the heart and fill ourselves with fat, as nature and cavemen intended. The world of actual scientific fact has returned a verdict on this only recently and proclaimed that it’s about as healthy as drinking nail varnish. Of course, to the paleo community this is only natural as the scientific community are in cahoots with the ‘everything but meat’ industry.

Changing the subject swiftly, I joined a gym around the corner from my house to motivate me to go more often. As I haven’t been to a gym for a full year and a half before I joined this one, it gives me a 400% success rate after going there four times. Possibly only 100% as that’s the highest you can go. Apart from certain grammatical exceptions. Am I the exception? All I know is I’m 200% more tired than I was a couple of hours ago so I should probably try and rest before the mayhem tomorrow. At least I have the beat-boxing car to look forward to when my nephew unwraps it; until the batteries run out anyway.

Why am I forcing my brain to do this/

Well, it’s 5am and instead of flying to my bed to pass out, I’m forcing myself to write yet another blog entry. I really hope that this is actually sharpening my writing skills rather than just underlining for me how stagnant my writing is staying. I mean, if I’m not improving then I’m basically just torturing myself right after a bout of insomnia, right? Would I be that cruel to myself?

Rather than answer that very obvious question (the answer is yes, for those who don’t know me well) I’m going to move onto a topic I’m quite invested in: video games. I’ve loved video games since I was about seven years old when my dad bought me an Acorn Electron from the neighbour next door with a jar of opals he dug up in Cooper Pedy. I loved that thing. It came with about eight games, all on cassette. I think the main one I played was a game called ‘Ghouls’ where the ghost chasing you would taunt you when you died by basically looking really happy about it. I also used to borrow books on programming the Electron from the library and spend hours typing out the programs in them. Yep, I was a bit of a nerd but I remember those days fondly.

After that, I upgraded to a PC. Not just any PC though, this was one with a 5 1/4 inch floppy drive and 512kb of RAM. On top of that, it had a monochrome monitor. After the world of colour I got from my Acorn Electron, I was a little disappointed. Though once I discovered how much faster disks were than cassette (to load the “Acorn Olympics” game on the Electron, for example, took about thirty minutes) I was hooked on playing everything I could. First I started buying magazines that came with disks, then ordering disks from the back of the magazine. The internet didn’t exist yet, at least not as we know it, so I had to actually go out and find every game I played.

Finally, my gaming life changed when the man who supplied my parents’ chicken shop (yep, I’m Greek and my parents owned a chicken shop. Feel free to report me to the stereotype police) gave me a copy of the Sierra adventure game ‘Police Quest’. [Edit – He supplied their chicken shop with arcade cabinets. Because of this, I got to play all the way through Double Dragon 2 and Golden Axe]. This game allowed me to be a police officer and play through an actual storyline. It completely blew my mind. After this, adventure games were my favourite genre. I found and played everything I could at the time, using various tricks to get my monochrome graphics looking as good as possible (which still wasn’t that good.) I also played through the old Infocom text adventures which required me to actually read the words on my screen. This was actually perfect for my monochrome monitor and I never needed to tweak the graphics. Not much, anyway. I also got to play through Douglas Adams’ own game version of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ which is incredibly funny, incredibly frustrating and currently exists as an online version here: http://www.douglasadams.com/creations/infocomjava.html

Eventually my PC got upgraded to… another PC. This one had a colour monitor! And two floppy drives instead of just one. I remember getting it from Cash Converters. I was so excited I celebrated by getting Space Quest 3, which was the best game I had ever played. It’s still right up there for me, and one of my most prized digital possessions is the reply to the email I sent to one of the writers of the game. It was actually as funny as the game was. It wasn’t for a few years later that I discovered that sometimes your heroes don’t turn out to be exactly as awesome in real life as they are in your favourite media portrayal of them, but Scott Murphy was that guy for me.

From here of course I went through a string of upgrades and games and a brief stint testing games in a gaming centre which… was pretty awesome, actually. Even though it doesn’t pay well (or at all, outside of the occasional free game) and I was living off of iced coffee, $2 meatball subs and lollies. Half Life 2 was the amazing game of the hour, followed by Deus Ex and, when everyone came over to play, Rogue Spear, where we worked together to kill terrorists and yell at my cousin for running ahead of us and getting the hostages killed.

These days, when I actually have any time (which isn’t often), I play games  on my PS4 because maintaining a PC just is too time-consuming, space-taking and expensive. Right now I’m playing a game called “Far Cry 4” where I can get attacked by a tiger at any time. Though usually it’s either a bear or some sort of badger that kills me. I also get to ride some sort of one person helicopter, or gyrocopter, or something. Whatever it is, it’s fun and makes a buzzing noise. I can chop chunks off trees with it as well.

Where am I leading with all this? Well, the first games to really capture my imagination were story based. They were rich, funny and detailed fiction and on occasion the story-telling was excellent. At some point I plan to try my hand at scripting something in the game universe and I’m hoping I can make people laugh and have fun like I’ve done over the years.

Alright, I think this counts for my writing. I can finally go to sleep. Do you have fond memories of storytelling in games or even any other unconventional media? Let me know in the comments!

Phone blogging!

I didn’t think it would come to this but I’m writing this entry on my phone. I’m in bed already and my laptop is all the way in the other room so I’m going to put up with predictive text for this entry.
My band played a gig tonight. Well,  the band I play drums in played a gig. I think I hit the drums hard enough that most people didn’t notice the little mistakes I was making. I try to beat those drums like I hate them more than anything in the world. I mean,  it works for Dave Grohl.

At some point during the gig an eccentric old man turned up. Now,  when I say eccentric I mean really eccentric. He was wearing striped pants and a different coloured suit jacket and a gold chain and a dapper hat. Also, when I say old I mean in his 70s at least. He suddenly sailed into the most pit and started dancing like he’d stumbled upon a Sinatra retrospective. Watching him shimmy across the floor during a particularly heavy part of my friend’s show was the highlight of my night.

I just realised I actually get to sleep in tomorrow with nothing I have to do! This is a first outside of the holiday we took. Today I went to four jobs though they were pretty easy. Yep, I’m drifting into tedious details,  I think it’s time to wrap this up. Till tomorrow!

Sleep and other myths

After spending the last three hours trying to fix a stubborn laptop and failing miserably, I finally decided to give up until tomorrow so I can actually sleep before a “Go to sleep, idiot” headache descends upon me. Then I remembered that I absolutely had to write something before I could let that happen. So here I am, desperately trying to outrun the headache I can feel galloping down the hill that is my cerebral cortex.

Tonight I finished listening to the podcast “Serial” with Margie (my ever-suffering partner). What an incredibly interesting show; though the host seems a little nasty towards the accused. I do think that she needed to present a certain side of things for the sake of story telling and excitement for the listening public though. I also know now that if I ever end up in jail, try to become the cook. And make awesome omelettes for my breakfast club. Oh wait, they call themselves “the breakfast club”? I guess prison is just an extended version of detention, really. I’m sure if he’s ever released he’ll fist pump the sky and “Don’t You Forget About Me” will pump over the PA system in his honour. Considering this podcast has made history I doubt anyone will forget him.

We returned from our holiday this afternoon to discover our cat in shock that we weren’t dead. He leaped onto my lap, cried indignantly, then pushed his head up onto my face repeatedly like some sort of retribution for scaring him. I think he’s still terrified we’ll abandon him after the whole episode where we accidentally locked him out and he got lost for a few weeks. Even though that was almost five years ago now.

But hey, if it wasn’t for his disappearing act and his ridiculous amount of affection for me/sookiness I never would have written my book about it. It actually feels pretty good to have three completed manuscripts. I just wish I had some sort of sponsorship so I didn’t have to work close to full time while I’m revising them. Maybe I should dance wherever I go and if someone stops me and says “Hey, cool dancing” I’ll inform them I accept paypal and credit cards if they want to leave a tip, and produce my swiper.

I’m not sure about going to NY next year anymore. It’d be an amazing networking thing but I half feel like I need to work even more on my books. Once I’ve finished the revision for the Minkah novel maybe I’ll be ready, but not before. I might start focussing on some of my short stories for revision and fleshing out too. Especially my ‘three sisters’ story. I think next year everything will come up Panos.

Another piece of exciting news: David Lynch coming to Australia! I’ve already gotten my tickets for his talk, and it sold out within about 7 minutes. So happy…

Write every day. Apparently.

You may have been wondering after my last entry, “What the heck happened to Panos? He used to be funny and actually edit his posts!”

Well, I’ve decided I have to force myself to write every day to keep improving my craft. While ideally I should be sitting down and working on novels and short stories and Pulitzer-winning articles (that’s a thing, right?) realistically on some days I just can’t summon the creativity. Those are the days I’ll be turning to this blog.

Well, those days and also the days around them. You see, I’m quite rusty with writing at the moment. My brain is creaking every time I fire up the ol’ synapses. This blog is my opportunity to oil the gears, tie the shoelaces and pat the rump of the stallion that is my thinking process. It also gives me the opportunity to mangle similes so they’re unrecognisable aside from their dental records.

I mentioned a “Mr Bubbles” when I wrote last night. It was actually meant to be “Dr Bubbles”. He doesn’t have an actual Phd as of yet but he hopes to get his Doctorate of Life Satisfaction at some point in the future. If I don’t do a ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ situation on the story anyway.

My eyes are stinging from spraying myself in the face with sunscreen. You’d think I’d assume that spraying myself in the face with anything would be a bad idea but at the time I was worried about my eyelids getting sunburnt. Also, I felt drastic measures were needed to cover the surface area of my nose. The time I spent at the beach was fantastic though, even when I looked down and noticed the shore was trying to slowly bury me as the ocean lapped at my feet.

I’d better get to some ‘real’ writing. Maybe I’ll even continue my “New and Improved” draft of the Minkah novel. This time with extra love interests! And a selfish protagonist. I miss my cat, he’s at home while we’re on holiday. I like to think he’s extremely upset about the whole situation and is refusing affection from our house-sitters. You go, Minkah. Spurn the people-who-aren’t-Panos.

holiday!

I’ve finally taken a break to relax with my wife. We’ve gone to a place called Wirrina Cove that’s near Normanville and an amazing beach. We spent a few hours today sitting near the beach just relaxing and I managed to get in a two hour nap when we got back to our room here.

This isn’t an exciting or interesting blog entry I realise, but I’m pretty happy.

I’ve also taken advantage of the rest time to play some old (very old) computer games I’ve been meaning to play for decades. One of them is called “Alter Ego” and involves you making decisions about your personality and reactions to certain situations from infancy all the way through to old age and death. It’s amazing how much detail it gets into. I tried to be honest, but also kind of a deviant. It’s making me an interesting mix as the game goes on.

I’ve been having some crazy dreams while we’ve been here as well. I’ve welcomed them because I haven’t had dreams I remembered for months now. The main one involved giant metal cubes of testing rooms and a guy called “Mr Bubbles” who joined a band. He was so happy when he was asked he looked like he’d won the lottery. I might have to throw him in a story. With a unicycle.

Just finished “Alter Ego”. I died playing softball. At the time, I was ‘going steady’ with a woman, was still studying and worked ‘building my career’. I think I was happy though.