Halloween 2020 – Free Book Promotion

Halloween is upon us! To celebrate, e-book readers will be able to read Tenebrae Manor and The Will of the Wisp for free! This promotion runs for 5 days from 27th October to 31st October 2020.

Don’t miss out! Click the links below:

Tenebrae Manor on Amazon

The Will of the Wisp on Amazon

A (F)Unemployment Survival Guide

Or

10 steps to coping with a pandemic job loss.

One month ago I lost my job; one month later, I have started a new one. Others are not so fortunate in this dumpster fire of a year that is 2020. When a pandemic rips the carpet out from under you it can be a terrifying ordeal, particularly for folk who may be, shall we say, as mentally unstable as myself.

Fear not! I have the answers – credible or no – on how to deal with such misfortune. And should these in fact be more of a subconscious rambling than a productive precept, well, hopefully you get a laugh out of this piece. Ahem, let us begin:

1. Commiserations! You’re not ‘usefully employable’ anymore (I kinda think Jobkeeper should change their lingo to something less belittling). The first thing you’ll need to do is try not to cry.

2. Cry anyway. Stay in bed for days lamenting how worthless you are. (I only did this for a few days, promise). Clearly you were expendable. Clearly nobody liked you and they all just played nice to your face. There is absolutely NO other explanation.

3. Follow the Kubler Ross stages of grief. You will probably do this without even realising – I know I did.

-Denial: I was having a busy week, now I’m told not to come to the office anymore? But who will finish what I was working on?

– Anger: how could anybody do this to a person? The business world can be so mean!

– Bargaining: look, maybe if I beg, make myself look as pathetic as possible, they’ll feel sorry for me and invite me back?

– Depression: nope, you’re out in the cold. And you know what? This pandemic will probably last forever and you’ll never have a job ever again.

– Acceptance: I am more than my work. We are given one fleeting, whimsical life. Perhaps moving on is a good thing.

4. Resist the urge to do any of the following:

– burn bridges.

– go completely postal.

– hold up a liquor store.

– complain about the price of blueberries at the grocery store.

(I only did one of these things; try to guess which one).

5. Check your old email account! No seriously, it was still there for a bit… Message your work friends and tell them what’s going on. They might be wondering where the hell you’ve been. Tell them you’re busy solving all the world’s problems when in reality you’re playing video games in your underwear.

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6a. Take up new hobbies. Rekindle old ones. I rediscovered the simple joy of sitting in a cafe. I realised how much I missed tinkering with my guitars. 

6b. Connect with old friends and colleagues. It’s probably where you’ll find the bread crumb trail to your next job.

6c. Watch your little children prattle around, their tiny minds oblivious to the stresses of life thanks to you. Then panic a little when you realise you still need to provide an income for them. Time to take action…

7. Get a vasectomy. Realise you can’t afford anymore blessed little darlings (especially now!) and remove yourself from the gene pool. I did! I hadn’t planned on being unemployed while doing so, but here we are. 

“Hey Pat, what was the worst thing that happened to you in August – losing your job or losing your nuts?”

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8. Consider other options. I nearly sewed myself to a university degree before realising I’m a time-poor father of two who hates studying. Maybe I should travel? Oh wait, pandemic… Plant flowers? Only if they’re 1.5m apart and wearing face masks. Hrrmmm. 

9. Clean your house. Rearrange shit that has bothered you. Shave your lockdown beard. You’ve got interviews, damn it. Nobody will hire you if you look like a nineteenth century bush ranger.

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10. Land that job. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s hard starting again, and you will doubt yourself and everything around you, but change is often for the best. Lean on your friends and family. Someone always cares, and someone will always want to help you.

The month was a rollercoaster. I saw happiness nestled amongst some of the most despairing sadness I’ve experienced. But I did realise I was a barnacle rusted to a ship. This is my personality, and I don’t believe there’s too much wrong with it. I was comfortable and I didn’t want change; a happy little limpet in my introverted shell. I needed at least one part of my life to be predictable (because parenting certainly isn’t, and neither are pandemics!). Don’t be a barnacle. Be a squid. They can at least swim as well as stick themselves to things.

And guess what: you’re ok. So is your previous place of employment. So is your new digs. I loved my old job. And I’ll love my new one too. And if you’re still in a pickle because of the pandemic, don’t fret. We’re all going through it, and everything will pick up soon. Don’t hold grudges. Be thankful for what you had, have and will have. Swim off into the sunset, noble squid.

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White Ribbon Australia

Across the next month I will be fundraising for White Ribbon Australia – which works towards the prevention of men’s violence against women.

In-Support-of-White-Ribbon-Logo-1

From their website:

White Ribbon Australia is a part of a global social movement working to eliminate gendered violence. We strive for an Australian society where all women and children are safe.
 
White Ribbon is the world’s largest movement engaging men and boys to end men’s violence against women and girls, promote gender equality and create new opportunities for men to build positive, healthy and respectful relationships.
 
The White Ribbon Australia movement works through a primary prevention approach in communities, schools and workplaces across the country. Through our programs and campaigns, we engage with men to become active in the social change needed to stop men’s violence against women and children.

This is an issue very close to my heart, and as such I am excited to be helping in my small way to help raise awareness. If you’d like to donate to my fundraising page, Click Here

 

“The standard that you walk by is the standard you accept.”

– Lieutenant General David Lindsay Morrison AO

Amygdala

Yggdrasil –

Her full-bellied wax turned to wane

Amygdala –

The shattered shale shifting underfoot

Holding blackened secrets too much for one to bear

Yggdrasil –

Her leaves wilt, her roots rot

And I only helped in cutting the branches

Pruning happiness and throwing it to the pyre

Amygdala –

While fruit and flower were ripped before ripe

And cried out on the ground just out of reach

A broken home with ghosts in its hallways

With poison in its veins

Yggdrasil –

A baby cries in darkness for fear and confusion

Photographs and memories are shoved into a drawer

I’ve lost all control

I feel nothing

Not even pain

Amygdala –

Those aren’t your eyes

-2020

yggdrasil

Outer

Like the ninth, I watched from outside looking in
And flung towards you through Neptune’s cobalt.
The seventh, on its side paid little heed
On Saturn’s rings I skate and pick up speed
And shoot past the pregnant pull of Jupiter
To smash through belts of rock and ice
Inward now past Mars – the only red that’s cold
Ignoring home despite its patient worry
Into the reckless heat of Venus I yearn
To knock the first from its perch within your sight

We burnt bright and died fast.

My wayward turned head eclipsed the light
And outward bound my course then took the turn
Past home, I won’t return, I need not hurry
Even if I wanted, there was nothing I could hold
And purpose sheds its skin and precedes vice
My course but one pulse from the quantum arbiter
And without root I am a useless seed
On the wind of space with vagabond lead
Only faster, no hope of halt
Beyond the ninth into oblivion.

– 2020

outer

Christmas Letter 2019

The decade is done. It was a quiet year for me on the writing front, mostly due to the arrival of my gorgeous little daughter in June. Two kids is insanity! But it is wonderfully rewarding, especially when my 3 year old shows such a vigorous interest in his own books; reading stories to him is one of my favourite things to do.

As always, I thought I’d like to share the best books I read during the year, with hopes that you might discover something that interests you!

  • On Being Blue (William H. Gass) – a beautiful little essay of sorts that celebrates the brilliance of words and language.
  • Diary of a Nobody (George and Weedon Grossmith) – the hilarious diary of Mr. Pooter, a optimistic yet delusional everyman.
  • The Oblique Place (Caterina Pascual Soderbaum) – this was a moving novel that focused on the horrors of World War II, specifically the Holocaust and the dramatic effect it had on humanity. A challenging but excellent book.
  • The Art of Reading (Damon Young) – similar to On Bring Blue, this was an essay about what makes for great reading. So much of literature is squared on the art of writing, this book flips that notion on its head.
  • The Other Side (Albert Kubin) – a creepy surreal story that evokes the haunting style of the author’s artworks.
  • The School of Life (Alain de Botton) – a self-help book, yes, which I’m normally a bit ‘meh’ about, but this book taught me some excellent things.
  • The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka) – famously sad tale of a man who wakes up one day and has transformed into a giant insect.

Then there’s the big one – I spent the entire year reading the Bible on a daily, and have just recently finished reading the whole thing. It’s been wonderfully rewarding and insightful to have God’s word as part of a daily routine. I’m a bit sad that it’s all over now, but I guess I’ll just have to read some of it again!

If you’re looking for a free book to read over the holiday period, both Tenebrae Manor and The Will of the Wisp are free to download for the next few days.

My plans for 2020 are loose and a little directionless. I would like to write a bit more than I did this year, but here’s to hoping that both time permits it and that inspiration strikes. After a difficult 2019 for myself on a personal level, I’ll just be hoping 2020 holds bluer skies (literally – Sydney is choking on bushfire smoke right now!).

But anyway, Merry Christmas, merry decade. Keep reading, keep writing. Bring on the roaring ’20s.

PSC xx

Wax Lyrical – Metroid Prime

When Metroid Prime was released for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2003, I had never owned anything quite like it. Granted as a child I was predominantly playing Mario and Pokemon games, and my only foray into ‘first person’ was in games like Goldeneye and Doom that I would play at friends’ houses. Something about first person perspective didn’t sit well with me – it sounds juvenile, but I liked to be able to see the character I was playing as. But when the reviews everywhere were telling me that Metroid Prime might be one of the best games of the generation – if not all time, there stood more than enough justification to buy it with my pocket money and add some prestige to my Gamecube library, which at the time only contained Sonic the Hedgehog and Starfox. Maybe there was some merit in the game that starred that strange robot from Smash Bros; what’s that? He’s not a robot? He’s not a he? Yes, the protagonist Samus Aran was a woman, which added even more mystique to the game in a media form populated with mostly male characters.

Even the title screen was creepy

Always one to read the instruction manual first, my initial impressions of the game carried a degree of fear; “Evil waits beneath the surface” was stated on the back of the box – this game looks scary! Granted it’s not much compared to other Gamecube horrors like Resident Evil and Eternal Darkness, but for a teenage me who relished the colourful worlds of Mario and Pokemon, apprehension continued to abound. Even the title screen was creepy – I’d never heard the isolated piano notes of the Metroid theme before, and hearing that alongside an extreme close up visual of the inside of a Metroid (parasitic jellyfish-like creatures from which the series gets its name) had me reconsidering my purchase – was this game for me? The game begun, and when Samus leapt off of her ship onto the cargo dock of Frigate Orpheon, the eerie silence that I was met with stunned me. The first section of Metroid Prime is a tutorial setpiece; Samus begins with all her abilities and this opening stage gives the player a chance to play around with all her weaponry and learn the controls.

Samus arrives at Frigate Orpheon

The space station had been recently left in ruins

The attention to detail was incredible; this trashed space station wept with minor touches. Electricity snapped from broken circuitry, the lights blinked and failed, and some machinery smouldered slowly in flame – what happened here? The game taught me about Samus’ scan visor – an ability that allows the player to gather information from the world around them by scanning various objects. Seemingly everything can be scanned, with some of the information less important than others, but all of it adding more and more detail to the world of Metroid Prime. With a mindset of ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ I paraded around the space station scanning everything I could, until I analysed a certain computer screen which prompted a little robotic voice to say ‘recording to logbook’. Woah, this one must be important. ‘Zebes has fallen. All ground personnel are presumed dead, exterminated by the bounty hunter clad in metal’. Woah, what is Zebes? Who was the bounty hunter in metal? Surely it wasn’t Samus? The unsettling traversal of the Frigate Orpheon concludes in a dramatic fashion – Samus fights the Parasite Queen, a grotesque alien monster that sets off a self-destruct sequence of the space station – Samus has seven minutes to escape! It is during this escape that Samus is stripped of all her power-ups (this video game trope is called an ‘Abili-tease’). The fallout results in Samus evacuating the station and finding refuge on the surface of nearby planet Tallon IV.

Look skyward and the raindrops bounce off the visor

The contrast couldn’t be more stark; Tallon Overworld is a quiet, sombre forest, drenched in water and under a constant stream of gentle rainfall, and there is the player, the protagonist, Samus Aran, all but defenseless except for her most basic weapon – her arm cannon. As the player takes this quiet moment to explore the forest, once more the little details of the game shine through. The game’s HUD (heads-up display) gives the impression of looking through the eyes of Samus herself; the edges of the TV screen are housed in the shape of Samus’ visor, which reacts to the environment around it. Looking skyward, the drops of rain spatter off the visor, and passing through streams of heat or water will see condensation build up on the glass. The enemies here are little more than bugs and fungi – no match even for an underpowered Samus Aran – and destroying these creatures at close range sees their blood splash onto the visor for yet another touch of detail. Close by the landing site, Samus discovers the Impact Crater, where an ancient temple sits atop. The temple has been built by the Chozo, the extinct avian inhabitants of the planet, to seal off a ‘great poison’ that struck the planet in the form of a meteorite decades earlier. The Chozo are long gone, presumably destroyed by the great poison known as Phazon, and their history is revealed in logbook entries stating that twelve artefacts act as key to the temple. By this the player is subtly told that Samus must collect the artefacts, open the temple seal and defeat the source of the Phazon, and from here the game opens up to a wonderful traversal of exploration through the environs of Tallon IV.

Even the largest enemies won’t phase Samus Aran

The player could easily be forgiven for not knowing quite where to go or what to do in Metroid Prime, due to this obtuse form of optional storytelling, like reading one page of a book only to find that the next page has been ripped out. Thankfully Metroid Prime has a hint system that, like most video games, can nudge lost players in the right direction. Even this is given a special touch – a cryptic clue will pop up on the HUD, and Samus’ map will zoom out to show an unexplored area marked with a large question mark. Some players don’t like being told exactly what to do in a game, but in this case I think it adds to the mystery of exploration. I recall the tense anticipation that would build as I’d venture ever closer to the destination, and the result was always a new power-up for Samus’ suit, usually hidden behind a tough boss monster. More and more logbook entries litter the game as you explore the crumbling Chozo Ruins, the molten lava of Magmoor Caverns and the snowy shorelines of Phendrana Drifts; these entries are a balance of excerpts from the Chozo’s history or research notes from the Space Pirates who are trying to harness Phazon for their own evil deigns. The picture becomes clearer as Samus grows in power and recovers her lost abilities; by the end of the game, Samus feels next to indestructible.

The hint system reveals just enough detail on the map

Above the aforementioned attention to detail, where the game excels best is through certain theatrical set-pieces that happen in such an organic manner that the player can experience them in real time. Too often a game will rely on cinematic cut-scenes to divulge story or set up a plot point, but in Metroid Prime they happen right before Samus’ (your) eyes. One hallway in Chozo Ruins sees you enter, only to see an emaciated apparition disappear through the wall before you; entering the room beyond gives you a frantic fight with the apparition – a Chozo Ghost. The anticipation in the lead up to this fight – the careful walk down the hallway, the double take (did I just see a ghost?) followed by the climax of a frightening battle with a true horror, is just another example of how Metroid Prime builds its world and immerses the player. Another moment sees Samus infiltrate the Space Pirate base in Phazon Mines via a secret door, out of sight from the Pirates. From her vantage point she disables a forcefield that was holding back deadly metroids, which proceed to wipe out the Space Pirates present before turning to Samus herself. Later in the game Samus even returns to Frigate Orpheon – the opening stage of the game – only this time exploring the flooded ruins of its crash site from where it impacted the surface after its original introduction. In this beautifully ruinous underwater level, darkness reigns, but when Samus fires her beam cannon at close range, for a slightest second the player can see Samus’ eyes reflected back at her; I must admit, of all the little moments in the game, this one was my favourite.

Of all the little moments in the game, this one was my favourite

Beyond the Scan Visor, Samus also picks up Thermal and X-Ray abilities along the way, and again they are organically introduced for the player to be thrust into learning their capabilities immediately; the lights go dim when Samus collects the Thermal Visor, and she must rely on the heat signatures given off by different platforms, doors and even enemies to navigate her way around. Likewise the X-Ray Visor allows her to see invisible platforms, but the keen-eyed player may have already noticed raindrops bouncing off seemingly nothing. Applying the X-Ray Visor reveals a hidden platform – brilliant. The X-Ray Visor even goes so far as to show Samus’ finger bones when she raises a hand to her face, and the Thermal Visor won’t pick up any heat signature from her Ice Beam – seriously, the developers thought of everything.

Condensation builds up on the visor

Thermal Visor

X-Ray Visor

By the games closing stages, Samus is fully powered up and ready to tackle the Impact Crater and whatever it may contain. But there is still the little matter of those Chozo Artefacts that unlock the entrance. The player may have found a few during their adventure, but no doubt a few artefacts will remain undiscovered, prompting a treasure hunt through all the areas of the game and following cryptic clues to uncover them. Some people hated this part of the game – saying that it padded out the ending unnecessarily, and I see what they mean. Myself, however, see this section as a chance to fully show off how powerful Samus has become in this adventure, a sort of victory lap around the game world where previously difficult areas are just breezed through with ease. The finale goes full circle with the game’s introduction – a quiet creep through the Impact Crater, before a phenomenally tough boss fight against Metroid Prime itself – a gigantic spider creature that mutated on the Phazon poisoning the planet. Samus destroys it and escapes as the Chozo Temple crumbles atop the collapsed crater, and Tallon IV – what’s left of it – is saved. Samus looks on from her ship, before giving the player one last surprise. She removes her helmet, and player sees her face fully for the first time. She closes her eyes, melancholic, before disappearing back into her ship and flying away – mission complete. Other Metroid games ‘reward’ the player with a shot of Samus in skimpy clothing – but Metroid Prime has more respect and subtlety than that – Thank God.

For one moment at the end of the game, you see Samus’ face

Ok, a few final praises and comments; Metroid Prime is a game that builds its world through so many discreet design choices, and it is this artistic commitment to detail that few other games achieve. Many praise Dark Souls for a lot of what I’ve just mentioned about Metroid Prime – and I agree – but Metroid Prime was released a decade earlier! No work of art is universally perfect – be it a video game, music, movie, what have you – but to the individual who experiences it, perfection is undeniably attainable. Think about your favourite song, or maybe the best book you ever read – that’s what Metroid Prime is for me. And if you need any further excuse to play it yourself, consider this – Samus Aran’s Ice Beam weapon becomes encased in frost as it is charged, only for tiny shards of ice to shatter and scatter when the shot is fired – genius!

A fully charged Ice Beam becomes encased in frost

Sower

Little lights on the narrow path
linked together in one place.
See your profile in the shadows cast
never turning to my face.

Shattered nothings falling fast
on a deafened ear.

Pressing flowers in an old book
catching moments that are lost.
Don’t you know that they’re dead though?
Death for beauty is the cost.

Crumpled under weighted page
in a heavy tomb.

Scattered seeds on the pathway
under swooping of the bird.
Blinded crying in the harsh sun
wishing only to be heard.

Bone broken on the hardened soil
cast upon the floor.

Weakened roots in the shallow ground
seeking purchase in the rock.
Affronted by an indifference
that kept hunger under lock.

Praying for receding tides
and pursuit of sun.

Tangled vines and the sharp thorns
clinging tightly in a web.
Blood pouring and the rust scars
joy of living in an ebb.

Bleeding until hearts run dry
before blinded eyes.

Aching cries in the black sky
only echoes here reply.
Screaming inward from an awful place
where any hope can only die.

Salvation is a lonely writ
in an oblique place.

Little lights on the narrow path
linked together in one place.
See your profile in the shadows cast
never turning turn my face.

Salvation is a lonely writ
in an oblique place.

Salvation is a lonely writ
in an oblique place.