The Write Shift Podcast Now Available!

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The Write Shift Podcast Now Available!

Those who follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or closely on this site have probably noticed that I've just launched a new podcast!

The Write Shift is a bi-monthly podcast that follows me as I attempt to become a published author.

Changing life, one word at a time.

I'm embarking on this new venture to help push my writing to the next stage. I've been able to generate plenty of story topics, published a few on this site and have a tonne of good ideas for next steps, but need an extra challenge to make myself go further with my writing.

The premise of The Write Shift is simple. 

Each episode I'll talk about the things I've been doing to enhance my writing career, and not just the triumphs, but the pitfalls along the way. I'll be providing insight into my creative process and how that evolves over time, as well as sharing great resources I come across, and from time to time reading some of my work to my listeners.

Right now episode 1 is available to listen to on this site, but it has been approved for several podcast distributers including iTunes, TuneIn, and Stitcher, and will be available on these platforms shortly.

For now, go have a listen to episode 1, and follow the show accounts over on Twitter and Instagram.

Exciting times are ahead!

Stay tuned for more!

 

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Eight Great Podcasts For You To Listen To

Eight Great Podcasts For You To Listen To

It's no great secret that I'm a huge fan of Podcasts.

So many great stories to listen to, so little time!

With the resurgance of podcasting in the last few years, a slew of amazing shows have become available that I love and want to share with everyone. 

Below are eight of my most favourite podcasts that I'd suggest everyone listen to.

THE BLACK TAPES

From Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale comes The Black Tapes.

Every two weeks Alex Reagan investigates the strange and bizarre, probing the depths of Dr. Richard Strand's Black Tapes. 

I'm yet to finish off the second season of The Black Tapes. Not because I've lost interest at all, far from it, but because I'm savouring each episode, giving myself some time to think about everything happening in the series.

If you have listened to serialised docudrama-style podcasts before like Serial then the format will be familiar. 

Cannot wait to finish Season 2, and hopefully Season 3 is on the way!


TANIS

From the Public Radio Alliance and Minnow Beats WhaleTANIS is another of my favourites. 

I actually stumbled headlong into TANIS one afternoon while scrolling through the newly featured podcasts in my favourite podcasting app PocketCasts. It immediately enthralled me and I never looked back. 

With just the right mix of factual evidence, historical mystery, and just a little horror, TANIS quickly earned its place as one of my top ten favourite podcasts.

The story follows Nic Silver on his journey to understand what the ancient myth simply known as "TANIS". In his two season (so far) journey, Nic throws himself into the pursuit of the myth, risking his life and his sanity regularly to get answers.

Is TANIS a place?, perhaps some kind of archaic object?, maybe a person?

You'll need to listen in to find out for sure.


KINGFALLS AM

At 660 on the AM dial lives KING FALLS AM.

Sammy Stevens and Ben Arnold host a late night talk radio show in the sleepy town of King Falls, where not all is well, not by a long shot.

From werewolves, UFO's, ancient possible-vampire custodians to Lincoln's ghost, and racist faerie magic... King Falls has it all. Produced by The Make Believe Picture Company, King Falls AM is often compared to Welcome to Night Vale, it is far superior in my book.

If you haven't listened to this yet, then get around it immediately... you won't be disappointed.


ARCHIVE 81

What do you do when you have a mysterious vault filled with audio tapes of exploratory sessions from a journalist attempting to ?

Well, you catalogue them of course!

ARCHIVE 81 is a found-audio horror podcast created and produced by Dead Signals. It follows the story of Dan, a graduate student brought into a secret bunker by the enigmatic Mr. Davenport to listen to interview tapes of Melody Pendras, an investigative journalist recording sessions with the tenants of a city apartment block in the mid-90's.

The twist? Dan himself is required to tape himself listening to the sessions... and now he's missing.

Each episode of Archive 81 is uploaded by his friend Mark who's attempting to find out any information on Dan, where he is, and if he's ok.

ARCHIVE 81 is meta-storyline building at its finest. It even out-inceptions Inception.


LORE

Myths are everywhere. Every culture and community around the globe has their own mythology, striking a balance between the helpful and the harmful. 

Aaron Mahnke is is the writer, host, and producer of Lore. In each episode, Aaron narrates tales that explore the depths of myths, legends, and the fears that drive us to create stories about the darker aspects of our world.

Episodes are released approximately every two weeks, accompanying Aaron's narration is a fantastic and carefully curated soundtrack that beautifully sets the scene throughout each episode. 

I often listen to Lore at night when I've tucked myself up into bed, just before sleep.

Definitely check out Lore


SPIRITS

Spirits is completely on the other end of the mysterious spectrum from the other podcasts I've mentioned above. As the show runners mention, Spirits is 'A BOOZY DIVE INTO MYTHS AND LEGENDS'.

Each episode Amanda McLoughlin and Julia Schifini, dive deep into the depths of mythology, legends, and lore of different cultures from all over the globe... amid mixed drinks and general banter. 

Spirits is refreshing, it doesn't try to take you on an audio journey. Instead Amanda and Julia discuss the myths in a 'matter-of-fact' manner, along with a healthy dose of talk-radio style comedy to provide a lighthearted look at the strange.

This is a great podcast to listen to when you're out for a walk with your dog, or in the background while working.


LIMETOWN

In 2005, 347 people in the scientific commune of Limetown vanished without a trace.

Now over ten years later, Lia Haddock, an investigative journalist for American Public Radio searches for the truth of what happened to all those people, and where are they now?

At least, that's what this podcast will have you believe. 

From the first episode of Limetown I was hooked. Visceral story telling with an NPR-vibe makes this podcast feel like these events are real, and makes you continue to listen to the series.

Clocking in at only six episodes (not including a few asides), Limetown achieves an amazing spectrum of story telling. 

I thoroughly recommend listening to it, and like other podcasts in this list, I hope they return for another season.


FLASH FORWARD

Imagine if you could open a window and see what the next 10, 50, or 100 years in the future might be like.

Boing Boing's Flash Forward hosted by Rose Eveleth, probes future possibilities every month and covers a single possibility each episode with diverse topics from biology, politics, sociology, technology, media, psychology and more.

Flash Forward is an excellent mix of fact and fiction, thought and possibility. 

If you're interested in things to come, then Flash Forward is for you.


Have a comment on the podcasts I've mentioned?

A podcast you'd like to recommend?

Please leave a comment!

Writing Dashboard: Track Your Writing Habits

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Writing Dashboard: Track Your Writing Habits

One of the most difficult things I find as a writer is accurately tracking progress while attempting to increase your word count.

Sure, you could just make a quick note on what your current word count is and watch it grow, and it's a simple way to see how you are performing, but it doesn't really give you any insight about your process.

So how do you gain a little more insight?

Mother-flippin' Spreadsheets to the Rescue!

Yeah ok, spreadsheets are pretty droll... But they are enormously helpful in visualising your progress over time.

So I've done the hard yards for you and developed a solution in Apple Numbers and Microsoft Excel 2016. Both of which are incredibly simple to use.

The files both have two sheets, one called Dashboard, and one called Writing Totals.



Writing-Totals-2017.png

So as you may have figured out from the images above, using a spreadsheet can give you easy to enter, and read, information about your writing habits.

The sheet is super easy to use, just open the file, flip to the Writing Totals Tab and start filling in the columns.

So on Monday if you've written 5600 words and you've spent 3.5 hours doing it, just add it to the Monday column of Week 1. It doesn't matter what week of the year you start (though you might like to make a note of it).

Once you've entered some info, flip back to the Dashboard and you'll see the graphs have sprung to life, showing you your progress. Don't be disheartened at first if you see some red numbers on the dashboard, with time you'll have much healthier numbers!

So there you have it. A couple of spreadsheets to help you better track your writing on a daily basis to figure out your habits.

If you happen to have any improvements you'd like to suggest to make it even better, then hit me up in the comments!

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What I'm Reading - November 11, 2016

What I'm Reading - November 11, 2016

Recently I've been asked what I'm reading but quite a number of people, so I figure I should probably do a regular post on what I'm reading. As you can probably see, this month is a bit of a mixed bag. 

I always like to have a range of books on the go, across various subject matter.

So here goes!


Ah, the Hitchhikers Guide, how I love thee. 

I haven't read it for such a long time (more fool me!) and its a complete joy to read again. I have Apple iBooks to thank for reminding me to read the H2G2 series again as they had the first book (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) available for free. 

Now that I've moved on to the second book so quickly I thought I'd take my time reading The Restaurant at the End of the Universe as it's such an awesome series that you shouldn't rush it and sometimes need to stop and smell the Arcturan Megaflowers.

This series is hands down one of my most prized reads of all time.

 


Managing Knowledge Work and Innovation, Second Edition may seem like an odd choice of book for a fiction writer to read, but often the organisational principles that are present in daily knowledge working apply directly to writing fiction as well. 

Oh, and, I have a day job so its also nice to brush up on techniques and new ways of thinking.

Concepts, thoughts, case studies, and practical methodologies to apply when doing daily information and knowledge process tasks.


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Often I find it better for my writing to do some serious reading into the genre, and this stuff is like candy to my hungry SciFi obsessed brain.

The SFWA Nebula Awards have been a constant trove of amazing writing for me to delve into over the years, and in truth its reading this calibre of material that made me want to do the sitting-down-at-desk-and-write thing in the first place. 

The Mammoth Book of Nebula Awards SF is no exception. Gritty stories that get under your skin, make you question the very nature of relationships you've forged, and more importantly reading about things that may shape the future in ways we can't imagine is sublime.


Thebes, TanisHeliopolis. Just some of the ancient cities of Ancient Egypt and the stories passed down through countless generations of scribes and historians are amazing to learn about. 

I fell in love with Ancient Egypt, the struggles of the Egyptian Gods and the mysteries of the Nile when I was much younger. It fascinates me how through simple narrative these stories can project so much life, so much meaning, and yet remain true to their purpose.

Roger Lancelyn Green has taken rougher, less elegant translations of the stories and has rewritten them into parables and fables of the Egyptian gods that anyone could enjoy.

 

So there you have it, the four books that I'm reading at this moment in time. Its a little bit of a struggle reading widely across different fictional forms, genres, and non-fiction topics but I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. 


Read any of these books?

Feel free to leave a comment!

Space-Western-Comedy Thing - Part Deux!

Space-Western-Comedy Thing - Part Deux!

Continuing on from my last post, here is part two of my Space-Western-Comedy Thing

Let me know what you think in the comments!


Orange embers smouldered in a blackened pit, heat mixing with the cold desert air on Arda Prime.

Nearby a saddled comalu stood tethered to a withered tree, chewing on the remnants of a dry tuft of purple spit-grass. The rough clumps of grass dominated the flat landscape for miles.

Cast in the half-light glow of what remained of the fire, a body lay restless in anxious sleep. Dreams of the desert, dreams of an easy life, dreams of the dead...

"Wha!" Odell jerked upright, resting on both elbows, cold sweat beading on his forehead. He glanced over at the comalu. It had given up tearing at the dry grass and curled its body around the base of the tree, head nestled between crossed paws and tree root, all four ventral gills pulsing rhythmically as it took long, slow breaths.

The horizon glowed a faint purple. Light from the nearby blue giant refracted in the planets atmosphere as its two moons shone brightly overhead. Odell raised his arm and wiped the sweat from his forehead onto his already yellowed shirt. Body complaining, he slowly moved to a crouch, reaching for his deflated water skin.

Odell raised the skin to his lips, Well, no use for that he thought to himself as the last few drops of water ran out onto his tongue. He stood up, stretching his muscles in a grand backwards arc. More than a few tendons and bones fell into place in a cacophony of snaps and clicks.

Odell had been on the road for days and his body had begun to suffer the toll of sleeping rough. Sleep never came easy to him, he tossed and turned, often waking more exhausted than he had the day before.

He wandered over to his sleeping beast at the base of the tree. The comalu raised an ear, its left eye cracked just enough to watch Odell approach. He reached for the saddle bag slung low over the its back, searching for another water skin. After a minute the beast shifted its weight, blocking his access, but he knew there wasn't anymore water.

Odell circled the tree and scratched behind the great cats ear. It raised its head to get a better angle against Odell's hand, gills puffing with pleasure.

"Come on girl, we've a job do." said Odell, looking the comalu in the eye. With lazy abandon, the cat rose to its feet and stretched out each of its four legs, shaking the dust off its fur.

Odell hitched his foot into the side stirrup and hauled his tired body onto the beast, his hands finding the reins. "Hya!" He shouted, the great cat responded, leaping to a run.

-

After an hour travelling across the dusty plain, Odell and the comalu stood high atop a ridged cliff, its sheer face stretching down several hundred meters. In the valley below Odell could see the outskirts of Vayne peering through light forest and low slung humid mist.

Odell shoulders tensed, he could just make out the security points that rimmed the city edge. High angular grey walls were broken into several segments. Inroads guarded by turrets and accompanied by patrolling drones gave off an eerie light as they danced through the valley mist in regular routine.

He turned towards the great cat and rifled through its saddle, extracting a visual scope which he held to his face and peered into the valley stretching out before them.

Placing two fingers against his neck Odell spoke in a soft, but clear voice "This is Parrish, security has increased significantly. Variables have been altered, requesting additional compensation."

He waited a few moments, fixing his scope on a singular drone, studying its flight pattern.

"Parrish, the client has authorised additional transfer of one hundred thousand credits."

Odell flipped the scope said viewfinder, electric signals glowing like bonfires in his vision.

"Two hundred thousand, no less." he replied.

"Parrish, I can't do that, the client has left strict orders that one hundred thous..."

"Then I guess the client won't be happy after I leave without their prize. Tell the 'client' when they are serious, and will pay what it's worth, to contact me."

Odell noticed a change in the way the drones and turrets were moving. Both appeared to halt for a moment and reset, turret barrels lowering and drones returning to the ground. The glow in his scope dimming, everything was off, all except power to the guards communication units.

"Wait... Damn it Parrish, fine, two hundred thousand... But I'm cutting into my own profits."

"Fine doing business with you Emmit."

He lowered the scope, eyes adjusting to the distant haze. It would be sun up soon and the mist was thickening. The comalu groaned a little, and nudged him with its head. Odell placed his arm on the beast and rubbed his hands through its course hair in anticlockwise circles. It lowered its front legs and arched its back, a purr thrumming from deep within.

"Yea... I know, time to get to work."

Space-Western-Comedy Work In Progress... er, thing.

Space-Western-Comedy Work In Progress... er, thing.

In an effort to keep the content fresh around these parts, below is an excerpt from a recent space-western-comedy-thing I've been working on.

This chapter was written while I was travelling between Amsterdam and Berlin by train earlier this year.

Damn those trains are fast.


APPROACHING PROXIMA GATE - DROPPING TO SUB-ENGINES

The announcement woke Silas with a start.

He'd stretched out and rested his feet on the cockpit console soon after leaving Forte Shipyard. He pawed at his grubby black stetson he'd strategically balanced between forehead and chin. Silas removed the hat, dropped it on the console, then threw his arms back in a comically large stretching motion.

"Martha, eta to horizon" he said, stifling words through a yawn.

ETA 12 MINUTES

He looked at the console through bleary eyes for a little while, taking in the ship data fed to a small screen. Without much thought, Silas placed his hand on a once-was-white mug, dry brown rings coated its inside walls.

He stood up, caught his balance, then made a b-line directly to the dispenser unit at the rear of the cockpit.

"Coffee, give me a cup of black lightning."

The dispenser churned, Silas could hear the sounds of bubbling water behind the wall panel. He sat his mug on a small metal plate below an opening. A silver nozzle shot out and fired hot fluid into the waiting vessel.

Silas picked up the mug, turned and unconsciously brought it to his lips.

PAH! Silas loudly spat across the cabin. "What the hell is this? Plain hot water? Are you trying to kill me?"

COFFEE RESERVES DEPLETED - AN ORDER WILL BE PLACED AND DEDUCTED FROM STATION STORES DURING NEXT DOCKING CYCLE

"Sheesh... we got anything stronger?"

SHIPS TEA STORES ARE CURRENTLY AT NINTEY-EIGHT PERCENT

"You know..." Silas started, briefly sniffing the cup of hot water "...you might be smart for a virtual intelligence, but I'm going to have to teach you a thing or two about..."

On the primary screen a large ring appeared, flanked by several control structures. Dozens of small craft short-range craft zipped about the Proxima Gate area, most were security escorts and local merchants, but a few were longer range one or two person craft.

Silas sat at the console placing his cup over its regular stain and watched the ships dance around in open space.

"Approaching Vessel, this is Proxima Gate Authority. State your designation, destination, and submit for cargo scan." An audio feed announced. By regulation all ships that pass through the Proxima Gate were checked for outstanding fines and scanned for contraband before being allowed to depart.

"Control, this is Silas Byrd of the trader ship Doubletree, we're headed through Proxima and out into the rim territories. Dampeners offline, ready for scanning."

Silas flipped a few controls and the Doubletree slowed to a crawl, he knew without active dampeners he was vulnerable but a faster pace could tear the ship apart from sheer inertia. Not something Silas was willing to happen to a craft he'd lost so much blood and sweat for.

EXTERNAL SCAN DETECTED

"Yeah Martha, I know." Silas said.

Absentmindedly, Silas began flicking between images of systems and stations beyond the gate in the planetary rim. He'd have to refuel on the other side somewhere and thought he might as well make it worth his while to find some extra cargo to haul.

A notification flashed up as the gate authority contacted him again.

"Silas Byrd, during routine scanning an anomaly in your drive core has been detected. Please power down your engines, your ship will be led into our inspection dock."

"Wait a minute, what anomaly?" Silas protested.

"Fluctuations in your drive core signature require further investigation. You will be denied departure and fined if you do not submit."

"Hey I've got a schedule to keep, its something that can wait, cant it?"

"Mr Byrd, the articles of stellar gate travel are quite clear. Any ship found to not operate within nominal tolerances will be impounded pending furth..."

"Yeah yeah ok, no need to drone on, I hear you." Silas interrupted, "Powering down. Just don't keep me long will you."

On a touchpad Silas placed two fingers and slid them down towards the edge of the console. The regular hum and throb of his ships engines slowly faded and fell silent. He wasn't ready for the lack of shipboard sounds, they'd been a constant for the last few years, the familiar sound of home.

"This is gate impound vessel delta, confirming power down. Prepare for towing."

The cup of hot water Silas had rested on the console rocked a little as the small one-man craft nudged the front of the Doubletree. Dull thuds sounded through the cabin, the impound vessel clamps locking onto the hull. He winced a little, hoping the front end of his ship was still intact.

Outside, the local space was buzzing around the interstellar gate. The gate drew long strips of shadow in the light from the nearby Proxima star. Service businesses had popped up not long after the gates construction years ago, everything from repair yards and mod shops to restocking points, and commodity market traders all which surrounded a queue that stretched from the gate horizon to the port authority. The gate itself comprised of a large ring with two outgoing departure lanes stacked either side of two incoming lanes. Each of the lanes could hold several small fighters, or up to three stellar freighters at a time. For larger vessels the gate could be switched to transit mode to accommodate their sheer size, although it was a rare site at Proxima these days as most large ships had their own long range jump capabilities.

The inside of the Doubletree grew darker, shrouded by the shadow cast from the gate as it approached the inspection dock. Through the smokey plexiglas of the inspection dock Silas could only just make out the silhouette of a few of the largest vessels hanging in Proxima space. The Doubletree sat motionless for a moment, still... calm. Silas picked up his hat, placed it on his head with practiced ease, and stood up. He moved toward the entryway door, grabbing an overhead rail with his left hand and prepared to be boarded by the maintenance crew.


Love it? Hate it? - Tell me in the comments!


What Motivates Me To Write?

What Motivates Me To Write?

I’ve been asking myself this question a lot lately. What is it that acutally motivates me to write?

It’s not something that I’ve been able to easily answer in the past, and it’s still something that I struggle with regularly.

More recently, I haven’t written a darn thing, I can only surmise that its because I’ve been spending more time navigating the slings and arrows of my day job. So it’s safe to say that I haven’t been motivated much at all of late.

On a good day, when I feel motivated to put fingers to keys, the reasons I write can vary from the exploration of a single thought right down to the simple basic premise of telling a really good story.

I truly love the ‘flow state’ I achieve when motivated to write, like its the fresh air I’ve been looking to breathe all my life. In that moment, be it one-thousand or twenty-thousand words, it feels achievable.

Its the state that I want to strive for one more word, one more sentence, one more chapter… and its something that I long for every day.

The flip-side of which is when I’ve been spending my time thinking about my day job, where it’s going, what I’m currently doing, the deadlines, who I need to talk to, when can I do a certain thing.

The result is basic mental burn out, and that I find is the utter death of my flow state. Where everything you have to think about gets in the way of actually doing the thing you love, which for me is writing.

I’m at my happiest coming up with things to write. Sometimes its characters, where that character lives, and how they interact with the people that occupy their environment. Often I could spend whole weeks writing backstory elements full of amazing technologies, and settings to fill entire universes, and have done so in the past.

A few people have asked me if it’s the thought of monetary reward. Sure, I’d be an utter liar if I said I haven’t imagined what it would be like being a ‘best seller’ or some kind of literary award winner (Hey Nebula Awards, I’m coming after you!) but it isn’t my motivation.

If I had to set a goal in stone, the future would allow me to support my wife and I with my writing, ultimately writing a book or two a year with articles and short stories in-between. But it’s not the only goal, and it shouldn’t be, doing it for the money is fine for a while, but if you don’t love it then kiss your happiness goodbye.


Have any thoughts on your motivations to write? 
Feel free to drop a comment on this post!


Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman

Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman

 Beautifully tragic, but marred by a rushed ending.

I came to find Planetfall through a recommendation from the Writing Excuses Podcast (Season 11 - Episode 29)

This is a very different kind of science fiction novel. Definitely not hard SciFi, it taps into something a little more human than most others (though it is very dependant on detailed description of the technologies present in the world they inhabit).

Even though it has forty chapters in total, end-to-end Planetfall feels more like a short story, rather than a novel.

Emma keeps tensions building throughout the events, heightening the anxiety felt by the primary character Renata. Allowing her to slip into hysteria as the pressure of keeping secrets from the members of the colony she inhabits, while the burden of guilt plays with her emotional, and mental well being.

I applaud Emma at being one of the few writers I've recently read who truly understands the benefit of the chapter hook, leaving you just breathless enough to want to turn the page and indeed dive into the following chapter.

I am pleased that Emma Newman has written this novel from Ren's point of view, the emotional and mental states are well conveyed, adding to the tension, though I wonder if it would have been as stronger novel had we had the chance to see the colony, and indeed God's City, from the viewpoints of Mack, or Kay, or perhaps even Sung-soo.

The pseudo-religious overtones in Planetfall stand out frequently, not being religious myself I found it to be non-confrontational, adding catalyst to allow the books events to unfold. I feel that it wasn't an entirely necessary inclusion, and seemed to serve little more than a justified distraction where an equally different, or stronger idea could have taken its place.

Which is perhaps why I'm a little disappointed with the ending, it all just feels too rushed. The threads that are woven together so well in the beginning unravel at its end, with many loose ends left hanging. Sung-Soo becomes a stereotypical ulterior aggressor with banal motives. Mack is emasculated by the events of colony secrets becoming public where he shrinks into the background, strange for a character who began stalwart and resolute. Kay is conveniently lost between a line of dialog and an obscure reference.

Even the final journey that Ren makes into God's City is punctuated by a few disappointing events, exposition taking place where narrative and plot should have been instead.

All in all, Planetfall is an enjoyable novel, albeit with a frustrating ending.

Pokémon NO

Pokémon NO

The last few weeks the world has been gripped by Pokémon Go fever.

Being the well connected digital citizen I am, I have been far from immune. Catching Pokémon left and right throughout my day, comparing them to colleagues efforts, reminiscing of the halcyon days playing Pokémon Diamond on my Nintendo DS.

But today I’ve crossed the unimaginable line, walked the path few are yet to tread. That’s right folks…

I’ve requested my account be deleted.

*(pause for shock and awe) *

Done yet? Need some more time? I’m sure you read that in horror.

Time to pick your jaw up off the ground and listen closely to the reasons why.

It’s not actually that great

Yep, I just said it. Pokémon Go just isn’t that great.

From the initial launch, servers going up and down like a thirty-cent yo-yo has been hard to endure. Additionally the game breaking bugs during loading/catching/transferring/almost any other thing you attempt to do just chip away at any nostalgia that you may feel while playing the game.

But my hat’s off to Niantic, they’ve had a monumental task launching what is arguably one of the most popular, and wide demographic-reaching, brands in the world today.

Riding the adoption curve, while a little naive, can’t have been an easy task. Just a pity the entire player-base was used as their beta testing group.

It’s an enormous waste of time

Yeah, yeah, I know, killjoy.

I’ve looked at the amount of time I’ve spent in the last few weeks playing the game… and, well, I’m a little ashamed.

Sure, it’s not the kind of hours that other people have sunk into it, but it’s significant enough that I can see an alarming trend towards managing, catching, and pontificating about Pokémon that is anything that could be called healthy…

…and while I’m playing it I’m not writing.

I’ve witnessed the end of society as we know it

Ok, yes, a little inflammatory, but let me run you through it.

Recently I’ve been walking home from my day job, specifically through a part of town where there are several Pokéstops that constantly have lures placed on them.

Initially I thought, Great! I’ll be able to catch some more types of Pokémon! and while that was certainly true, it was only yesterday that I decided to close the game and look at what was going on at that location.

There were around sixty people standing, sitting, laying about and generally congregating in the space.

  • Not talking to each other.
  • Not listening to each other.
  • Not being present.

It was eerily silent.

Apart from the odd cough, and the sound of another can of soft drink being opened, it might as well have been completely devoid of human life.

The Pokémon I remember, both through playing the video games and watching the cartoon television show, was one of collaboration, acceptance, and unity… not the plugged-in wasteland I saw before me.

It adds almost nothing to my life

Apart from some quickly won nostalgia, the game just feels like grinding away at the virtual mount, expecting one day to make a molehill.

I just don’t have the time to put into something that doesn’t add value to my everyday experience.

Am I happy that I played it? Sure am, in fact, the time spent with friends initially discussing the game has been quite rewarding. But there has to come a time where it no longer holds any kind of reward. For me this has come much faster than I anticipated, but I’m pleased that it has.

If anyone needs me, I'll be writing...

New cards ordered!

New cards ordered!

Upcoming on August 12th, 13th and 14th 2016 is the Bendigo Writers Festival. Since this is my local writing event, I thought it was high time I splashed out and picked up some new business cards.

I've opted to go with the excellent product range from Moo.com, in particular their Rounded Corner Business Cards with a silky matte finish.

For the card design I've gone super minimal. My name, website and twitter / instagram handle on the front, with a few lines from some of my favourite pieces so far on the back.

Can't wait to receive them, incredibly excited to attend the Bendigo Writers Festival and hand them out. If you're also going along to the event perhaps you'll see me, or my cards, there!

11 quick tips for writing great content

11 quick tips for writing great content

Writing content for the web is very different than writing for a business paper, technical document, novel or essay.

Getting it right can take time and effort but can make all the difference. It can often be the dividing line between deeply engaging with an individual or causing them to become disinterested in your information.

Below are a few tips to help you shape your content to better engage and inform, while still conveying your key message.


Understand how users read on the web

Users read differently on the web – unlike when they are reading a book from cover to cover.

On the web, users don’t read word for word. They skim content, trying to get a quick impression of what it’s about. They scan for the bits they are interested in and ignore the rest.

You need to understand how users read on the web, then write content in a style that makes it easy for them.


Write content that is easy to skim & scan

  • Be direct.
  • Limit each paragraph to one key concept.
  • Use meaningful headings.
  • Use bullet points and numbered lists.
  • Include summaries or overviews.

Write effective summaries, sentences and paragraphs

An effective summary is who, what, when, where, how. It’s about getting the information across in 50 words or less. Keep your summaries short and factual. Make sure they encourage your reader keep reading.

Remember, keep sentences to between 15-20 words. Paragraphs between 40-70 words. Make your first sentence grab your reader’s attention or they’ll move on.


Keep your wording short & simple

Be brief and concise. Reduce your word-count to a minimum. Write clearly and simply. If you are writing for an expert audience explain your terms. Provide easy ways for non-experts to find out what your acronyms and difficult expressions mean. Give your users links to simple background information, so that the most casual visitor can work out what you are talking about.


Put your most important information first

Writing for the web is completely different than writing an essay or a paper.

Information that’s most important to your web visitors is often a simple statement of what you do. Once they understand what you do, they might want to know some important details. And then – maybe they’d like to know some background information.


Speak in a common language

Unless the acronyms are very widely used, I wouldn’t go for the idea of short forms. We know what SMS is but what if there is more than one meaning for SMS? Furthermore, always use words that users know. You don’t need bombastic and fanciful words to impress people. Impress people when you could use simple words to get a complicated idea across.


Make your copy easy to read

  • Use short paragraphs – four sentences max.
  • Use short sentences – twelve on average.
  • Skip unnecessary words.
  • Avoid jargon and gobbledygook.
  • Avoid the passive tense.
  • Avoid needless repetition.
  • Address your web visitors directly. Use the words you and your.
  • Shorten your text.

Know your audience

Who are you are writing for? What are their needs? What will they come to your web page to find or achieve? What is their level of expertise? Build a profile of your various audience groups. Focus your content around your users’ needs and tasks, not around yourself or your organisation (user-centric content writing).


Build trust

  • Be factual and accurate.
  • Include only content which conforms to the purpose of * your website.
  • Protect privacy and respect copyright.
  • Keep your content up to date.
  • Publish your contact details. Provide users with a sense of knowing who is behind the website.
  • Spell-check your content.
  • Invite people to report errors, then fix them.

The challenge is to make your links communicate “click here” without actually saying “click here,” and there are many ways to do this. It will take some thought and effort on your part, but in the end, users will benefit with a better experience.

So, either take the easy way out and just say “click here” or spend some time finding phrasing that really clicks with users. The choice is yours.

A great way to do this is to add links to the relevant words and phrases within your content. This way the link remains contextually relevant, and you avoid the notorious "Click Here".


Test then refine your content

Testing is perhaps the most important part of writing excellent web content.

First test it yourself – review each web page while imagining how it reads to a new user. Then test it on users to learn what works and what causes difficulties. Test your content on different audience groups with different levels of knowledge. Test web page performance in all common browsers. Test, refine, test, refine, test … (You get the idea).

What is the best writing software?

What is the best writing software?

Personally I’ve been grappling with this issue for a while, here are the things I’ve learned:

  • There are some really beautifully designed writing apps with completely shitty features.
  • There are some dog ugly writing apps with mind-blowingly good features.
  • You’ll never find one that is both to you.
  • Shut the fuck up and just write.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you write in. A good workflow, YOUR WORKFLOW, doesn’t come from a tool… it comes from you.(world-shattering I know, right?)

But Why?!? I hear you moan into the void.

It’s because sooner or later you’ll probably have to punch out a double-line, 12 point font, all-the-whitespace version in Word doc format anyhow for submission.

So the beautiful software you pontificate about while sipping artisanal double-shot ristrettos in the cafe down a back alley with the shipping pallet wood-top tables run by that hipster couple with matching tattoos of their cat in watercolour style MEANS FUCK ALL.

My advice to you is just fucking pick one, you’ll get used to it, or it’ll get used to you, you’ll bitch and moan about it all the same but at least you’ll have written something.

iA Writer - How to set the default file type

iA Writer - How to set the default file type

It’s no secret that I love distraction-free, markdown flavoured writing environments. I’ve tried a heap of them but always come back to those that don’t offer me a thousand preferences and require me to configure the bridge of a starship before getting any real writing done.

For my latest writing escapades I’m using iA Writer.

But… there has always been one little issue I couldn’t solve, I like the files I write in to have the .md extension.

How to set the iA Writer default file type

See, by default, iA Writer saves your markdown documents as a .txt format.

Now there are those amongst you that will surely scoff and yell at your screens:

“You fucking simpleton! An .md file is just a .txt file with a different extension!”

And you’d be absolutely correct, no doubt about it.

But when you have a slick writing / online publishing environment that hinges on your files having an .md extension, it becomes a hassle to always be cognisant of the issue and change it overtime you start a new file.

So here goes, after trial and error, I’ve come across the solution.

  1. Open iA Writer
  2. Start a new file (⌘N)
  3. Write something in the file
  4. Save the file (⌘S)
  5. Open the library (⌘E)
  6. Right click on file in library (Control + Click)
  7. Select Rename
  8. Rename the file from
    .txt to .md
    (or whatever you wanted it to be)

This will change the default extension behaviour in iA Writer from the default (in this case .txt) to .md.

Now go forth, frolic, and rejoice… or you know, go get some writing done.

Once more friends we begin anew.

Once more friends we begin anew.

Now that I've had some time to sit down and put effort into creating a decent presence online once again, and that I've configured it with a blog...

I suppose that I should write something here in honour of the occasion.

For those that don't know me (and that's most probably the vast majority of people reading this) I've been a writer for some years now, yet I've never, well not really, put any effort into getting my work published.

Sure I've had blogs and websites before, words strewn about the interwebs without nary a skerrick of notoriety, nor good fortune to rise to the lofty heights of word-smithery (surely, case in point)

It’s high time I get off my ass and do something about it, poncing about, kidding myself that writing something poignant and witty on Medium.com will lead to anything more but giving away the inner sanctums of my brain.

So here I go, embarking on a new avenue, this time I’m not giving in to concessions of failure.

Fuck that, life is too short.