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.

 

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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Merry Christmas and a great New Year.

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It’s been a while since my last post, as I prepare for what I hope will be a great New Year, I think back on what I’ve been doing this year. 2013 has been a year of preparing for 2014. This year I have recieved my first payment of money made from sales. It’ll buy me a couple of coffees, but it’s the moral victory that counts. I’ve been blogging for Marianne De Pierres. The ever gracious author  lets me hone my blogging skills doing Reviews of Tech

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and movies.

I’ve learnt so much, bounced ideas around with the talented authors of Vision Writers group. Looking forward to bringing great things out in the coming year but more on that later.

Along the way I’ve re-edited Parallel and reposted it and am working through a revise on The Immortal Darkness. Four thousand people have downloaded Parallel and it keeps me going watching the download counter go up. I’ve also made headway on the third book, though its going places I did not expect.

At this time, when we review our years and consider our futures I hope that you all have a wonderful, enlightening and above all else safe New Year. Thank you to all those who have encourage me and kept me going.

Let Peace be your religion and love your incense. Thanks for the words folks.

Chris K

Poss and son

The Great Aussie Women of Spec Fiction.

Following a discussion with my wife we’ve decided that Australia is blessed with so many excellent female speculative fiction writers. Must be something in the water. Not only are these women fabulous at the craft, but I have always found them to be gracious in their support of the Australian Writing community, and have helped put our little country on the world literary map. In so many countries around the world I hear the complaint that Spec fiction is a male dominated domain. With talent like this as an example, perhaps it is time the rest of the publishing world took a look at what’s happening here.

Here are some of the names we’ve came up with, (With assistance from Facebook friends, thankyou). Care to add any…?

Emily Rodda, Isobelle Carmody, Marianne de Pierres, Kate Forsyth, Kylie Chan, Rowena Cory Daniells, Kylie Fox and Amanda Wrangles (Had to put A.K. Wrox together 🙂 ), Nicole Murphy, Gillian Polack (One L), Kim Falconer, Sara Douglass (RIP and a great loss), Kim Wilkins, Juliet Marillier, Sophie Masson, Alison Goodman, Alison Croggon, Lian Hearn, Pamela Freeman, Karen Brooks, Belinda Murrell, Kate Constable, Jennifer Fallon, Fiona McIntosh, Angela Slatter, Margo Lanagan, Keri Arthur, Kylie Scott, Kylie Griffin, MJ Scott, Karen Miller, Anita Bell, Janette Dalgliesh, Tracey O’Hara, Valerie Parv, Cheryse Durrant, Glenda Larke, Kirstyn McDermott. Felicity Dowker, Jo Anderton, Kaaron Warren, Trudi Canavan, Cat Sparks, K. S. Nikakis, Traci Harding, Louise Cusack, Erica Hayes, Rhonda Roberts,
KJ Taylor, Maxine McArthur, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Sara Creasy

I believe that a huge part of Australia’s success in turning the world’s statistics on their head is because of the support of the writer community here. In interviews, blogs and social media it is normal to hear reference by one Author to other Australian authors and that sense of community is building a thriving creative environment. (This is my belief anyway.)
In creative industries, seeing each other as competition is counter-productive. All it does is makes it harder for all those incredible minds to find avenues that are open to creative expression.
What a terrible shame it would have been if we had never had the words of these great authors to share because of their gender. So to all those fabulous women Author’s worldwide, take a leaf from the Aussie experience. Support each other, celebrate each other and promote your fellow writer’s of the female persuasion. Maybe this will help to level the playing field worldwide.
A world that only hears the Male voice is a world that only has half the story. What a terrible shame that would be.

Christopher Kneipp

Addendum… For a collection of fantastic interviews with some of these great authors and some excellent male authors as well. They are well worth a read if you want an insight into the authors’ minds. (Thanks to Rowena Cory Daniells for the wonderful work she did on collecting them.) CLICK HERE

Into the deepest darkest AMAZON (.com)

For five days I am offering Parallel, the complete first book of the Kasdtien Cycle trilogy, for FREE (HERE) on Amazon.com. This is an extension of my experiment in self publishing and we’ll all just have to see how it goes.
So far, (In the first twenty hours) it seems to be moving along quite nicely, slowly clambering its way up the best sellars lists (for free books on Amazon anyway). I will be posting the results when it’s finished and I will be describing the mechanics of the Kindle Direct Publishing system in more detail in future posts. Until then I will continue to obsess over the stats during every writing break.
Book 2, The Immortal Darkness, is coming along nicely, and the expected release date will be in the second half of the year.
Thanks all of you have already downloaded the book from Amazon and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have creating it. Any comments or reviews, questions and the like are always appreciated.

Till next time.
Chris K
Part Time Lunatic

Children of the Teller

The iron grate gave a grinding squeal before clattering onto the cobblestones. Chez climbed from the stormwater drain and into an alley that was bathed in the pre dawn darkness. He had seen much in his thirteen years; perhaps more than any thirteen year old before him.
He walked with caution down the alley sliding his fingertips along the old brick wall as a guide, until he came out onto George Street and the glow of the transients’ fires. Burning garbage cans lined the cluttered footpaths, lighting the way North and South. As soon as he had that light he began running north, towards the harbour and the Circular Square.
The air was cold against his face as he sprinted down the broken street, past the rusted car bodies and the shattered shopfronts long ago looted of anything useful. Past the grand old Town Hall where the Vols hung out sniffing glues, solvents or anything else they could scrounge from the corpse of the city. Past the fallen dome of the Queen Victoria Building, the once beautiful landmark now a burned out skeleton. Chez kept running, ignoring these distractions and the burning in his chest. He had to make it to the top of the square. They were all depending on him.
Nan had told him, “Today is the day, Chez, I can feel it. You have to be our eyes now. Run and don’t stop until you reach the top of the Circular Square.”
Chez ran down the length of the shattered streetscape, passing the empty buildings that had made up the, once proud, city of Sydney. He could not imagine what those days were like. How these glass and concrete ghosts were filled with people. There was plenty in those days and people either thought or pretended that it would last forever. It didn’t.
“It was foretold that there would be terrible times in the last days and they were terrible times indeed,” Nan had told him.
“Today is the day, Chez, I can feel it.” Nan’s voice in his mind strengthened him and soon he could feel the others.
As he ran beneath the starless sky, others entered his thoughts, like guests arriving at a feast. Each arrival brought with them a recollection, a moment in time that they had shared together, and by it he recognised them..
There was Dredge and Stalk who had recently managed to raid a stash of old canned goods from the Hyde Park Rangers. None of the cans had labels but most of them had rip tabs on top making them easy to open. The group sat around a fire on the underground platform at Museum Station, opening tins and exchanging contents until everyone had eaten their fill. Then Chez had opened one more can, just to see what was in it, and there were these orange balls chopped in half, floating in thick yellow liquid.
“What’s this?” he asked Nan.
Her eyes lit up at the sight of the apricot halves. She insisted he share them with everyone else but there was not enough for Nan or himself.
“That’s okay,” she said with a smile. “You have the juice.”
He had sipped the nectar of the apricots and it was like heaven. He drank it slowly, savouring the sweet draught until it was all gone and he cut his tongue trying to lick the last few drops of syrup out of the tin.
As each new mind arrived they took the place around the memory.
There was Darl whom Chez had a crush on, but he kept those feelings hidden from the others. She smiled at him as she had that day and he blushed.
Nan’s voice in his mind suddenly brought him back to the ravaged streets. “You’re nearly at the Square.”
Up ahead stood Australia Square, the cylindrical tower silhouetted against the lightening sky. Leaping over a low wall where a long dead garden had been, he cut across the courtyard to the foot of the old cylindrical skyscraper. Moving swiftly through the vacant window frames and over the debris in the circular foyer, Chez bypassed the defunct lifts and headed to the centre of the tower. Forcing open the fire door, he slipped inside, feeling his way around the walls of the pitch black, musty stairwell. He didn’t have long before dawn and he still had the stairs ahead of him. Forty eight floors to negotiate, one step at a time.
Floor by floor Chez rose, using the hand rail to haul himself up. He felt the collective mind of his family and he drew enough strength to keep going. He had to get as high as he could if he was going to see it. It was hard going in the dark and by the time he counted the fortieth floor he began to question whether he had not gone high enough. Nan’s voice in his head and the expectations of his peers drove him on anyway.
They were all there now, a dozen minds as familiar to him as his own, and all seeing through his eyes.
Finally he reached the observation deck with its panoramic view of the city. The dirty grey sky had lightened enough for him to make out the harbour and its landmarks. The rusting Bridge, supported on its stained sandstone pillars. The grime covered sails of the Opera House, now an island seemingly afloat on the risen tide.
The sky was brightening still further, revealing more of the cities decay. Buildings that had once blocked the view of the eastern horizon were now fallen, the result of catastrophic fires before Chez was born. He could see all the way to the silhouetted Sydney Heads, like dark lions guarding the mouth of the harbour. He waited and watched the eastern skyline, as more and more detail was revealed.
Suddenly there was a green flash, like a distant signal light over the ocean. A slash of red-orange light grew from that place, splashing colour across the clouds, painting the sky with crimson brush-strokes. It was beautiful beyond his ability to articulate. Had the others not been there in his mind he would have experienced it alone.
The bright rent grew wider but no higher as the sun emerged, passing through the slit between the horizon and the permanent cloud cover. Nonetheless, the sight was irrefutable; there was a gap in the cloud, a break that allowed that hopeful splash of colour to escape.
In his life, Chez had never seen beyond the Earth’s constant grey shroud. He had never seen the sun, the moon, the stars. His whole life had been lived in a monochrome world of asphalt and concrete.
When the dirty rain fell, which was often, it was unwise to go out, the drops raising ugly welts on the skin.
“I told you this day would come, didn’t I children. At last the earth has forgiven us,” Nan’s voice echoed through his mind and through the abandoned rail station where she was gathered with the others.
As quickly as it had appeared, the sun hid itself behind that grey sheet and Chez felt a momentary desire to weep; He resisted the urge.
One by one, just as they had come, the minds of his peers began withdrawing until he and Nan were alone with his thoughts.
“My dear boy, don’t be troubling yourself. There’ll be plenty more sunrises like that to see,” she promised. “The story doesn’t end here. No, this is just a breath taken by the Great Teller before he continues the story of his grandchildren. Thirty years I’ve been waiting for him to pick up his pen again and write.”
“Why did he stop writing?” Chez asked.
“Ahh, well to understand that I’ve got to tell you about the Tellers children.” Chez sat on the moth-eaten carpet and listened as Nan explained.
“Long before my mother’s, mother’s, mother, the Teller created the world and filled it with his children. All the children of the Teller had warred bloodily over the world until the Teller could take it no more. He divided the world of his children into three kingdoms, giving each an animal spirit to watch over and guide them. These spirits were called Uussar, Usay and Chin.
Uussar was a beast, covered in fur befitting his kingdom in the North. In the winter the rain falls like ashes and the water grows hard. He treated his people harshly, working them until they could work no more, and his kingdom grew.
Now Usay was an eagle and lived in the west. He offered his people anything their hearts wanted, he fed their greed and grew fat on their excesses.
One day, the people of Uussar’s kingdom could take no more and tore down the wall that the bear had made around them. Beyond the wall they saw the wonders of the west. The freedoms and allure of the lights that shone so bright beyond that wall.
But Chin was a dragon and lived in the east. He had trusted in his brother Uussar’s advice and many died trying to live up to his brother’s example. In the end, Chin took on the making of things for the children of the Teller, and grew rich.
When the Teller saw how Usay let his children run amok, he drove his pen into the earth and called forward the fire from beneath. Usay died in the plains of Yellowstone and the smoke of her burning reached the heavens, and the sky went black.
Many mourned the fall of Usay, but some of the Teller’s children rejoiced saying, see how he corrupted the world. His deeds have unmade him.”
Chez heard the great peel of thunder that had rolled around the world, saw the pictures in his mind of the creeping black sky.
“Chin saw the fall of the Eagle and began to war upon the children of the Teller. All those who had allied themselves to Usay felt lost and they turned to the dragon, saying save us. But the old world was broken and could not be fixed. The dragon enslaved almost all of the teller’s children, those that had not fallen to the terrible days of that story’s end. Of Chin’s fate, we know nothing.”
Chez felt the chains of the people, chains of knowledge, chains of exposure. The dragon knew everything about everyone. It was a world of eyes, without secrets or refuge.
“Here,” She continued, “in the kingdom of Auz, we had our own problems to contend with. The Teller’s pen had driven through the earth and brought hell-fire up on the other side of the ditch. The Kiwi’s were gone and their screams made a wave that baptised the east of our land. It washed away our greed, and bathed our eyes that we could see our madness..
“Since then, Chin has been silent, the north lost to us in that great Crash.”
“Now the Teller will write the world once more. His scattered children will hear his call and will come to be a part of the story. They will come to chill at last and live with what they still have.”