Bill

 

Let me tell you about Bill.Bill

Bill was a genius. I met him soon after I was born. I don’t remember it, but my mum assures me I was there when the meeting took place. No-one took minutes, so I don’t know what was said. He was my brother.

I have a much loved sister Vikki, in between us in age, making me the unplanned number three.  I owe Bill so much, for so many things, including my name. Bill was 5 & 1/2 years old when he named me. My parents couldn’t agree on a name until he came home from school and said he’d told all his friends about his new baby brother, Christopher. And so, I was christened.

Bill is responsible for more than just my name, also moulding my sense of humour, my love of irony, feeding his little brother a steady diet of the Goon Show, Monty Python and Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. He introduced me to 2JJ, ABC’s new youth radio station, that became 2JJJ. Music by the Animals, Skyhooks, Tangerine Dream. I stole his tape of War of the Worlds, and played it until it died. He also taught me how to blow shit up, though I taught him a thing or two, I suspect. I gave him the formula for a highly unstable rocket fuel that I learned from a friend named Stephan Elliot, (Yes that Stephan Elliot). He and my step brother were mixing it on an old dishwasher my mother had hoped to sell as we were broke. The subsequent explosion destroyed the resale value of the appliance. The boys pleaded to mum, “Chris gave us the formula.”

Her reply sticks with me, “Well if you two are silly enough to listen to what your 11 year old brother tells you, you deserve what you get.”

Thing’s were tough at that time, and by Christmas we left my childhood home and my childhood behind.

He was 15 when my father (Bill senior) left, and the anger and bitterness hit my brother hard, as he knew of the abuse that our mum endured.

He’d spent my first 10 years, along with my mother and sister, protecting me from the awful things going on behind closed doors. My brother bore the burden and he bore it well.

He would prank me, from the first time I could understand April Fools, to trying to convince me bananas grow straight, but in Queensland, they have a machine that bends them, “And that’s why we call Queenslanders, Banana Benders.” Even now, his disinformation campaign bears fruit, as facts he gave me are disproven.

By age 18, he’d cut dad off completely, and my father, in-turn cut us off soon after. When I was 12, Bill senior sent us back home with an angry rant about things I didn’t understand. I still don’t.

It’s 6 month’s later when I next heard his voice, over the the phone. Mum had enough of his absent father shit and said, “Don’t you want to wish your son a happy birthday?” Restraint was in her voice. I believed it was a phone call for my birthday, protected from the hard truth again. He’d really rung to plead with mum for money. His new wife had left him, he was bankrupt, drunk and full of empty promises.

For the brief time we spoke he ticked the boxes, Happy Birthday, talk soon, get together later, bullshit, bullshit. See you soon was the last thing he said to me. It was the best thing he ever did.

Living with mum, sister and future Father inlaw in a unit in Artarmon, brother Bill and I shared a room. He put up with my somnambulism and I got to absorb his interests. We did science, abseiling and bushwalking together, though on hikes he would say sternly, “Keep up or get left behind.” Along the way he introduced me to the wonder of nature, as a rock hound and a lover of the Australian landscape he taught me a lot, some of it true. In every sense he was the father figure in my life, even after my mum remarried.

Did I mention Bill was a genius. After blitzing high school, he went to the Australian National University to study computer sciences, proudly declaring “I’m an ANUS (Australian National University Student). It sounded all very exciting, the stories he shared of Bush Week in Canberra and the pranks the students did, . There was a quiet, thoughtful rebellion in the things he said and did. His humour was shaped by the great British absurdists, and semester breaks, he would share them with me, his annoying little brother. I remember him bringing home Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy on cassettes, the original radio play, each episode stolen from the radio. We listened to the whole thing in the dark of our shared room, he on the top bunk, me on the bottom, both of us laughing at Douglas Adams’ genius.

The humour took a darker turn in the summer of 1976-1977. Having done so well in his first year, Bill was offered a bursary from the Commonwealth Bank, who saw the potential of his gift for programming. All he had to do was pass a medical and his uni costs would be covered for the next 3 years.

They took an X-ray. They found a shadow.

What did that even mean? To my 13 year old brain, shadows were the stuff nightmares were made of, but he reassured me with stories of x-ray errors. It was probably just something in his pocket. It’d all be okay.

It wasn’t.

Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The words may as well have been Latin for me, and I can only imagine what went through Bill’s head. The choices were radiotherapy, which was a hard no, a school mate with Hodgkin’s Disease got leukaemia from radiotherapy and died from that. Option two was experimental. Chemotherapy. Jungle juice, he used to call it, owing to it’s lurid colour.

All through the ordeal he maintained his wit, sharpening it to a razors edge. When a surgeon accidentally pierced Bill’s lungs 3 times during minor exploratory surgery, a semi conscious Bill said, “Why don’t you get someone really qualified in here, like the janitor.”

For two years he endured being the guinea pig for the cancer researchers and he did go into remission for a while, but at a terrible cost to his health.  Come 1980, he had a relapse and when they suggested radiation again he told them to take their isotopes and the chemo and shove it as far as they could into their orifice of choice, (or words to that effect.) The specialist gave him 2 weeks to live. The prognosis was dire.

The prognosis was wrong.

During the hell of chemo, he married his fiancee, changed his diet and continued his degree, this time in Sydney. In that time he built a computer from scratch, wrote a lunar lander game for me and developed really interesting AI software working with a linguist for voice recognition.

Even through the shit storm that hit his life, he kept going and kept laughing. Even when smoke would rise from his fingertips as he soldered a circuit, the chemo having killed the nerves in his fingers, he’d joke about it.

He also knew how to cut to the core. He spoke the truth when the truth needed to be said. After I left home, in 1983, I was not looking after myself, smoking, drinking, smoking, sleeping around, sex and drugs and rock and roll. One day he said to me, “I don’t get it. I’m fighting to stay alive and you’re trying to kill yourself.” Those words stick with me to this day.

I learnt so much from him, at least 40 percent of it bullshit, but he never misled me in malice. If there was one phrase he beat me over the head with, whenever I would ask some stupid question he would say, “Look it up.” I spent hours with my head buried in an encyclopaedia, learning to learn for myself. Still, his lies come back to bite me, as I state a factoid and my eldest shoots it down. Thanks Bill, apples don’t get picked early and then get dyed red,

By the late 80’s Bill’s health began to deteriorate again, not from the lymphoma, but from the damage the chemo had done to his lungs. By then, I was living my own life, deep in a religious sect and afraid for his mortal soul. He was dying, and I wanted to preach to him. It did not go over well. “I don’t let atheists preach to me either,” he said.

The last time I saw him, he was seated on the lounge with an oxygen mask, exchanging quips and political opinion with our step father K. To watch the two of them debate was a thing of beauty, both masters of words and able to take on an argument from any side. Sometimes, you would listen and realise that they had swapped sides, now arguing for the opposition. His mind was sharp to the end and whilst he allowed his GP to track the decline, he refused all attempts by the cancer specialist to get anywhere near him. He’d survived ten years without them, 9 years and 50 weeks longer than they gave him credit for.

In 6th January 1990, William Kenneth Kneipp died of respiratory failure. He went out on his terms and when he was ready. He left an indelible mark on my life and I like to think, the way computer code is copied and replicated, that out there, in a million voice recognition apps, is a little piece of his code. Like graffiti scrawled on the virtual world for as long as we have computers.

He haunts me in so many ways. I see him in my eldest, in my nephew, and in myself. His life ripples on through others and I take comfort in that.

Sometimes, I dream he is alive, from time to time. We talk, discuss things going on in my life, things in the world, stories.

It’s been 30 years.

I miss him.

 

 

 

 

How to Write, and Fight a Black Dog at the Same Time.

Or How Did I Get Hereimg_0649Depression is a funny thing. (Funny weird, not funny haha.) It hits you at the weirdest times, coming and going when it can do the most damage. This post is kind of a continuation of several conversations I’ve had about  the old Black Dog, depression, on this blog.

I’ve been struggling with bouts of depression since I was ten, which anyone who knows me will recognise correlates to the first major emotional crisis in my life. Before that, my life was pretty much sunshine and rainbows, with the occasional Night Terrors to keep things interesting. Standard upper middle class nobody living in Sydney. There was a lot of shit going on in the background that my tender little heart was shielded from. My mum was that battered shield.

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When the darkness hits, writing becomes like swimming through molasses and it’s a chore just to make it through the day’s necessities, let alone drag the words, kicking and screaming from my head. Not that I don’t write all the time, mostly poetry, lyrics and scribbles in one of the many notebooks I have on the go at any given time. These include dialog, scene ideas and mind-maps, all of which become useful once the Black Dog gets his teeth out of my arse.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

My advice to writers who struggle with the deep dark blues is don’t edit your work when you’re down there. Editing whilst suffering depression is dangerous and you’re just as likely to burn every copy in existence. Been there, done that. Back in the 8o’s, I destroyed every copy of Parallel, 125,000 words worth, burning the paper copies and literally blowing up the floppy disks with fireworks. (Yes I’m that old!)

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Photo by Eugene Shelestov on Pexels.com

Luckily, I couldn’t destroy the copy in my head. Memories are more persistent than a digital format and more than twenty years later I rewrote it.  (It’s in rewrites at the moment.)

More than a decade after burning the novel, I began to write again. The first thing I wrote was a rock musical called Tug Of War, all about the inner voices that pull us from side to side. The words seemed to flow, bursting from my heart and splashing onto the pages, the melodies filling my head, though I have precisely zero musical ability, the tunes still rattle around in my skull today. Whatever it is that drives my passion to create pictures with words, it was in full flight. Songs of love and loss, doubt and guilt, it all appeared effortlessly, perfectly expressing all I wanted to say about the redemption of reaching out to each other, and the tragedy of isolation.

At the time I was part of a church and the script had a strong Christian theme, however the deeper theme was depression and struggle against those accusing voices in your head “Useless, hopeless, different”

Soon after completing the script, the church imploded and Tug Of War, the musical, was shelved. Depressing as this was, it paled in the face of the existential crisis that followed. The upheaval which followed the theological micro-wars saw myself and my family ignored by both factions, at a time where I was having a nervous breakdown and my wife was having to live with me.

Of both factions it can be said, “You can tell a tree by its fruit.” I’ve struggled to find a church ever since. It taught me to take every person at face value, once I dealt with the initial separation anxiety. I saw that everyone had their own shit to deal with and when push came to shove, most people are doing the best that they can with the equipment life’s given them. I don’t judge people. I’ve learned that the road in life everyone takes is dependant on a million little things and thousands of big things that teach us all how to survive in the world we know.

After that, I rediscovered my love of the Australian bush, and it was during this time I began to grow up.

So another decade goes by and while struggling with the usual demons, I fight back the depression and begin writing Parallel again. Twenty something years on and I still remember the whole thing. I finish the first, very rough draft in three years while working a day job and learning to re-enter society as a productive member. I joined a writers’ group, Vision Writers. I submitted the first couple of chapters to what is now affectionately referred to as, The Bitter Sweet Table of Judgement. They didn’t hate it, the 8 other authors giving advice and corrections, pages came back covered in red marks and comments. In that moment I learned more than I had in the decades of writing before.

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So now, more than ten years after joining Vision, 45 years since I banged out my first story on my sister’s toy typewriter, where am I on the whole epic 55 year journey in this meat chariot.

Well, the writing’s improved, though the crippling fear of rejection is still a constant struggle. Over the years I’ve managed to hide it’s more inconvenient effects, more or less. This would, of course, not be possible without my wife and partner of 30 years, Julie who has seen me at my very worst and yet miraculously still says I love you.

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I’ve written a sci-fi novel and nearly completed the 5 novella rewrite of the whole Parallel series, (about 270,000 words). I’m having fun writing a travel blog called Travels With An Old Fart, where I get to practise the lost Australian art of Telling A Yarn. I write of my adventures and misadventures, travelling around Australia with my patient wife and caravan in tow. I’m mostly happy, in between wrestling with the old black dog, and I’m getting help with training the bitch.

So as for those writers, or anyone struggling with depression, my advice boils down to this. Let people in. Find your person. They’re out there.

For everyone else, look out for each other and treat strangers as though one day, you might be friends.

Black Dog Institute has lots of resources if you want to know more.

Lastly, if you can’t cope or just need a chance to vent, contact someone like

·         Lifeline 13 11 14

·         Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

·         Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

·         MensLine 1300 78 99 78

and talk.

Alternatively, or additionally, find you’re people.

I did.

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My main person ❤

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My peeps

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Another of my people. The bloke, not the goanna.

Also, if you feel like this might help someone else, why not share it on one of the links, below.

 

Black dogs, rejection and getting back on the publishing horse.

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Hi all, it’s been a while. This blog has suffered from a bit of neglect, as engaging with people can be tiring for an introvert with depression issues. When I’m not dancing with the black dog, I’ll be writing, editing or blogging on my travel adventure site Travels with an old fart. I’m currently searching for a publisher for my novel, Harmony. The beta readers loved it so, come on Publishers and Agents, where are you? Finding publishers for a novel in Australia is no easy feat. It has been rejected by an English publisher, Angry Robot, which was a long shot as it was up against hundreds of other manuscripts.

The characters are very Australian,  the Main character, Key, is a kickass female cop in a sleazy Kings Cross. Other players include an 18 year old Asperger tech whiz, a cross dressing leader of a bike gang, a pot smoking telepathic woman, and a young Koori man of the Guringai people from where I grew up.  I’ve crammed its pages with drama, intrigue, comedy, everything a reader could want. Set in Australia in a climate ravaged 2099 Sydney, it has a whole new lexicon of slang. I have high hopes for it, when I’m not dancing with the black dog.

I’ve begun work on the followup novel, tentatively called Destiny. Stay tuned for that.

IMG_2228.JPGAs for what else I’ve been doing since last year, taking a life changing and life affirming trip through the middle of the country. I’ve watched my daytime job’s hours dwindle away to nothing, and we battle on with the day to day struggles that I’m sure everyone goes through. Mostly my life is good.

So I hope to be more active again, now the fog has lifted. I’ve had a good think, and sorted out some of my shit, and now it’s time to get back into it.

PS. Any publishing suggestions or put in the good word with an Agent you know, feel free.

 

Travels with an Old Fart.

This is less of a blog post and more spruicking a new blog I’ve started, full of  my travel adventures through Austrlia. My first tale is about Mullumbimby, synonymous with the hippy movement in Australia that, a beautiful and funny little town near the Northern New South Wales border. Read about the town and then share on the adventures of my latest journey there. read more here (Opens in a new tab)

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This is not my Combi, just so you know

More posts will follow in the lead up to my big Uluru trip in September. Come and have a laugh with an old fart as he explores this amazing country.

Last time I checked, I was definitely Me

An interesting thing happened on the way  to filling out US tax forms for Amazon. Old farts and  Technology… What could possibly go wrong.

I’ll try to keep the dry and dusty details to a minimum so I can get to the sheer frustration.

While doing said forms, I somehow created a new account, under the same email address, as my original account but with different names, the new one Chris, in line with my more chilled attitude and the original one, Christopher with all that I’ve published for the last five years.

Now I admit I should be better at keeping passwords, but I’ve had everything wanting new passwords lately and I can’t remember exactly how to access Christopher.

Of course I have no idea how I managed to open the new account in the first place and now it seems there’s no undo button on Amazon. What I need is someone to talk me down from the ledge, tell me I’m not going to lose control of my last five years work and walk me through untangling this mess. What I’m getting is stressed help desk workers who seem to reach a point of impasse and hang up. Neither were rude, though the first was kind of like talking to a wall.

All I want is to delete CHRIS and access CHRISTOPHER, if you catch my drift.

Seems that could be impossible. I’ve just sent a third email response to continue this circular dance of depression, and I await the response with some trepidation bordering on panic.

The saga will continue in the comments.

 

Chris K

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Future Swears

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Okay, this is my game face. The feedback has come  back, mostly positive,  yay, and so the next round of edits and rewrites begins. A full rewrite of the Prologue, a few hours of edits and sifting through the feedback, (sincere thanks to Meg, Talitha and Russell.)

One thing that’s come out is how the first couple of chapters has been polished to within an inch of it’s life, only needing a few minor things, but it’s been pointed out that the use of 2099CE slang is strong at the beginning but tapers off. The upshot is a bunch more slang is needed to season this world  of words.

Now I have always been fascinated by the evolution of common language. Some words come into use and never leave, for example the ubiquitous F-Bomb, whilst others fall by the wayside like Groovy, Ace and Choice. (What you still say that?!) So with this novel it’s been fun inventing new ways to call someone an Arsehole. (Yes Arsehole not Asshole.)

So come on a little journey to where someone might call you a Sphinct, Triangle or Whack, where something can be completely Fracked Up, and only Westies say  Wuks.

When creating a language, any language, whether it be for Sci-Fi or Fantasy, you should bind the vocabulary with rules, give a sense of logic to what your characters say. Every word should have a reason for coming into that particular use.

In Harmony, I’ve attempted to weave the words into the dialogue, to have the characters speak  in the tongue of 2099 Australia, and Sydney specifically. One thing you realise as you study how languages grow and change, is the more isolated the place, the more the local lingo becomes unique.

In the present day, mobile phone/internet obsessed  world, the language is slowly homogenising to an extent. What I’ve done with the story is created a logical timeline of language (much of it swearing or insult). I’ve thought long and hard on what would happen if there was a major catastrophe in 2048 and that inter-connectivity we take for granted today was lost for the next 40 or fifty years. Every word or expression needs a reason.

Fracking for fuel through the 2020-30’s caused major toxic problems, ie things can be really, really,  really fracked up.

This is the letter A, note the hole in the middle is a triangle,  therefore an A_Hole is a triangle. Sphinct should need no explanation.

Drug users,  like the small packets of Happy available from a licensed Spence, have their own labels. A good Spence will have a wide variety of merchandise, servicing the pharmacological needs and desires of those who partake in such pleasures. Skank to ease the pain, Scream to touch the sky,   Kick to keep you going and Bluies ‘fore you party. Pay the Spence and it’s yours.

And the people of Sydney and Kings Cross, they all have their labels, Head-Kickers and Night Walkers, Ragers and Ravers and Toolies, all are welcome if they’ve got  the Creds to blow.  The Trogs and the Roaches, inhabitants of the desolate old business end of Sydney, barely ever come to the Cross. It’s no place for the poor.

As you can see, language tells a lot about the world of Harmony. I look forward to you all getting to read the finished book.

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 Chris K