Spotlight: Auther/Playwright Damian Trasler

Damian Trasler:

Honoured to appear on Zoe Ambler’s blog and website today! I’m here all week! Watch out for my return questionnaire appearing soon!

Originally posted on Zoe Ambler - Author:

We welcome our first playwright this week! Exciting for me!

Dim reads

Welcome Damian Trasler!

We’re going to get my silly questions out of the way before digging into the good meat of things!!!

10 Questions, Zoe style…
1. What is your writing process?
I sit at the keyboard and then make coffee. Then I sit at the keyboard and drink coffee. Then I look at the internet and drink coffee. At some point, usually while one of my kids has required me to go and sit in a cold ice rink for an hour, I write the words that are pounding round my head and then feel ridiculously pleased with myself. Sometimes those words are a play script that I send to my publisher, www,lazybeescripts.co.uk

2. What do you read for pleasure?
I love Science Fiction, and am a particular fan of John Scalzi, but any well-written book is good. I…

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Doing everything right and STILL not rich…?

Why do you want to be a writer

Some of the best advice I’ve heard about writing comes through my friends on Google +. I know, I know, you’ve heard it’s a ghost town and everyone’s on Ello this week, but seriously, no. They’re there, they’re active, and they have created a busy and self-supporting community.

Amongst the many writers I follow, there are some who work as developmental editors as well as writers. One of these, until recently, was R.J.Blain. In her latest blog post, she explains exactly what happened when she decided to go full-time as a writer, and what the financial implications have been.

If you are thinking of becoming a writer, read this post. If you are currently writing and dreaming of riches, read this post. If you have ever been jealous of someone who is a writer, read this post.

http://rjblain.com/2015/02/transitioning-from-part-time-to-full-time-writing/

You don’t have to be depressed or downcast as a result, but I hope it will help people understand that the E.L.James’ of this world are few and far between. You CAN make your book look professional with a good cover. You can ensure the content has been finely edited and thoroughly proofread. You can work every contact you have in social media and whatever is your equivalent of real life, but you still cannot guarantee success.

I want to stress again, R.J. Blain is not posting this to say “Hey, look, what a car crash!” She’s putting all her effort into producing some damn good books, and I believe things will turn around for her soon. But the effort she has put in so far is way, way beyond what 90% of writers would be willing to do, and she has continued beyond the point where many many others would have thrown in the towel. So as well as professional standards, native talent and a passion for writing, add grit and determination to your writer’s armoury, or admit you’re just a hobbyist.

What type of self-publishing author are YOU?

(Clockwise from top left) The NYT bestseller, the slow-but-steady, the Hobbyist, the...other guy.

(Clockwise from top left)
The NYT bestseller, the Slow-but-steady, the…other guy, the Hobbyist

1: Do you have a completed manuscript?

a. Yes. Three published, two drafts and four notebooks of ideas and outlines.

b. One. Edited and professionally covered, uploaded and on sale.

c. Several. None are really as good as I hoped, and sales are miniscule, but I keep trying.

d. No. But I have a great idea for a book. How about I tell you what it is and YOU do the writing, then we can split the money fifty-fifty?

2: Have you paid anyone else to produce any aspect of your book?

a. Yes, I used a professional editor and cover artists for all of my books. I also have an SEO and marketing consultant to help me co-ordinate my sales plan.

b. Yes, editor and cover artist. I’m managing publicity and promotions myself, though, through my blog and other social media.

c. No. I got a friend to read through the draft and I did the cover myself. I think it’s pretty good.

d. I’ll just use some photos from the internet when I need a cover. I mean, once they’re online, they’re free to use, right?

3. Have you considered book signings and public readings to promote your work?

a. Of course. I’ve done many of each, and these days I get requests to do guest blog spots too.

b. I’ve done a couple of local readings, but no signings because my book is an e-book. I did do a blog tour though, and that really helped sales.

c. No. I don’t feel my books are good enough yet. Maybe for my next one I’ll talk to the local library about doing a reading. Perhaps.

d. Are you kidding? The press are going to come to ME. How are you getting on with the writing, by the way?  Because I could really use the money sometime soon…

4: Do you have a plan for your next publication and sales strategy?

a. Yes. I have plans in place for my next two publications, and one already has a chapter included at the end of my last published book to act as a trailer. The e-book versions all have hyperlinks to my Amazon author page, so readers can quickly find my full list of books and order without putting down their e-reader.

b. I’m still working on my second book, but I’ve been blogging about it and sharing the process with a number of friends and other blogs online. There’s already a lot of people asking about it, so I’m hoping that will result in good sales and reviews.

c. No. I keep meaning to work things out in advance, but then I get wrapped up in writing the book, and once it’s done I just rush to throw it out there. I don’t really have the time or patience for a big orchestrated “event”. That’s for real authors.

d. What? Oh, books. Man, I’m done with books, there’s too much, you know….words! I’m writing a screenplay now. Well, I say I’m writing it, I’ve emailed Joe Cornish because I saw one of his movies and thought it was rubbish, so I’ve sent him a great idea for a new one and told him he can send me the money… You don’t think he’ll steal my idea, do you?

Results

Mostly “A” : You’re an established author who’s likely to do reasonably well, treating writing as a business and keeping your eye on the future, not just the end of the sentence. Good job.

Mostly “B”: You’ve got a good grasp of the essentials, but it sounds like you lack confidence. Push yourself forward a bit, make some more noise about what you’ve done, and don’t get discouraged. Slow and steady may win the race in the fable, but you can do better than that if you look at the “A” authors and do what they’re doing.

Mostly “C”: Gee, I really hope this is just your hobby. Writing to please yourself is the best place to start, but if you’re planning to have writing as a career or a decent second income, you need to pay more attention to the business side of things. Your books may start out as your babies, but when you publish them, they’re your product, and how they look and sound is how other people see you. Be the best you can be.

Mostly “D”: I wish you the best with the next crackpot money-making scheme you latch on to. And the one after that, and the one after that. Because you’re not even reading this anymore, are you? You lost interest around question number 2….

75 or over: You are the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey! And you’ve been doing the wrong quiz!

Outrage of an angel

Traffic

It was kind of a crazy coincidence that I saw her at all. Daytime tv is something of a mystery to me most of the time, but the night before I had taken a hard tumble at a softball game and my ankle was swollen and angry. The Doc had said to keep it elevated and use cold packs from time to time, and I had told my boss (who happened to be waiting for his turn to bat) that I wouldn’t be in the next day.

I’d made a comfortable nest on my couch with drinks and snacks within reach, but that meant I wasn’t in a hurry to get up when the dvd I’d been watching came to an end. I switched off the dvd player and the tv leapt back into life with some moronic mid-morning talk show.

The hostess was a plasticated Barbie Doll who had to keep saying “That’s sad” or “That’s so funny” because her botoxed features couldn’t form the relevant expressions. She rounded off her chat with a comedienne who was promoting her latest movie and turned to the camera. She lowered her tone to indicate this was a serious segment.

“We’ve all experienced them.” She said, her painted eyes solemn and unmoving. “Those moments of desperation and despair when we feel we simply CANNOT go on. Those are the times when we cry out to a higher power for help, and sometimes…”

The camera cut to the audience, entranced and a little fearful, then back to the host.

“Sometimes… those prayers are answered in a truly physical way!”

I snorted and began to root around under the debris of chip packets and candy wrappers to find the tv remote so I could change channels.

“For our next guest, her moment of despair came during a dark and snowy winter’s night on the I-99. Her car had died, and she and her baby daughter had no phone with them. They were miles from the nearest house, and neither of them had clothing that would keep out the bitter cold.”

Now, I drive the I-99 every day. I would have been driving it that day too, if not for my ankle. The truth is that you’re never more than a mile from a house the whole length of the road, but I did remember it getting pretty snowy last winter. I stopped searching for the remote and watched the host introduce her guest. The slight blonde woman looked nervous, in sharp contrast to the comedienne who had been on earlier. The host established that the baby girl was safe at home that day, and then invited the mother to explain the course of events as they unfolded in the snow.

“The car was toast.” said the woman, “The engine shut off and there was smoke coming out under the front there. Casey and I were warm enough inside, but without the engine running I knew it would get cold pretty fast. I put the emergency flashers on and the other cars were just driving past me.”

“No one stopped?” asked the host, trying to twist face into a mask of concern.

“No one stopped. And I had no phone because it had run out of charge. I was feeling pretty desperate.”

The host nodded sympathetically.

“That must have been so scary. And what happened next?”

“Yeah,” I asked the tv, “What happened next? Did you die of exposure?”

The woman had taken a moment to compose herself, but her eyes were glittering when she looked up again.

“I just looked out the windscreen and I saw this figure walking towards me. They didn’t seem bothered by the wind or the snow and they were carrying something.”

“Were you scared?” asked the host.

“I don’t think so.” said the woman, “I mean, I had been scared, but I think I started to calm down almost as soon as I saw him coming.”

The camera cut to the audience again, some of them smiling, some nodding encouragement. Back to the host.

“Just seeing him brought you a feeling of calm, of security?”

The woman was nodding herself.

“And he just came straight up to the front of my truck and waved at me to pop the hood. I don’t know what he did, but in no time at all he slammed the hood down and I could start the engine again!”

The host leaned forward again.

“You said the mysterious figure seemed to be carrying something. Was it a toolbox? A bag of wrenches?”

The woman shook her head.

“No it was something smaller, like a flask or a bottle.”

The host turned to face the audience.

“So he fixed a dead engine with no tools. He appeared just when you needed help, even though you didn’t call anyone. And when he had fixed the truck? What happened then?”

The woman shrugged.

“I was just so relieved, I started crying. With the engine going again I made sure Casey was safe in her car seat, and I put my seat belt back on too. Then I looked out of the windscreen again, and he was gone.”

“He disappeared?” the host whispered.

“Like he’d never been there. Except my truck was running and Casey and I were home safe ten minutes later.”

The host probably said something, but I missed it. There was a hollow roaring in my ears, and I was struggling to close my mouth. It had been hanging open for the last five minutes, from the moment I recognised the woman’s story. While I struggled to get control of my head, the host set up the line that finished me off.

“So, tell us, do you know who the mysterious stranger was who helped you that night?”

The woman nodded and faced the audience for the first time.

“I believe I do. I think he was an angel. He answered my prayers, and he saved my life and the life of my baby!”

This bizarre pronouncement was met with whoops and cheers and a storm of applause. It was also met with rustling and curses as I finally unearthed the remote and snapped off the tv. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life. Some of them were complimentary too. But I’ve never been called an angel.

I’d been driving home slowly, cursing the snow that was making a regular journey into a slow motion epic, when I passed a truck in the inside lane, flashers on and steam still erupting from under the hood. I didn’t need all the time I spent working on my uncle’s old truck to know that the radiator had blown its cap. I had a big water bottle on the passenger side, relic of a rained off softball game. There wasn’t space on the shoulder until I’d crested the hill and the truck was out of sight. I parked up and grabbed the bottle of water, then pushed out into the night.

It was cold, and the wind pushed the snow right into my face and down the back of my neck. It took at least five minutes to reach the truck, and I waved at the woman to pop the hood without wasting time going to her window to talk to her. I mean, I knew what was wrong, knew I could help, so why waste time yakking? She’d probably feel more threatened by a stranger approaching her window anyway. Besides, I was already half-frozen, so I wanted to get this over with.

The hood was still hot to the touch from the gout of boiling water that had hit it, but the radiator cap hadn’t fallen out of the engine compartment. Huddling in under the hood kept the worst of the wind and snow at bay, and I was able to absorb some of the heat streaming off the engine. I dumped the contents of the bottle into the radiator, and the fact that there was only a minimal hiss told me that things had cooled off sufficiently. With a couple of minutes to get the whole bottle in and re-seat the cap, I figured the engine would be good to go. I slammed the hood and made twisting motions with my wrist. She got the idea and the engine started up. The water I’d put in should hold long enough to get her wherever she was going, and if she had any sense she’d get the damn truck checked over by a mechanic ASAP. Now the cold was getting to me again, so I didn’t hang around for tea and medals, just ran back over the hill to the warm sanctuary of my car. I was home inside ten minutes too.

Having a duff ankle meant I couldn’t stomp around my living room, kicking the furniture, but that was certainly what I wanted to do. I picked up the phone, determined to call the studios, get through to the stupid host and tell the truth about what happened that night, but I stopped, and not just because I didn’t know the number.

What did it matter? Well, to me, it shouldn’t matter at all. Had I not seen the stupid show, I would have gone on my merry way, neither knowing nor caring that someone viewed my amateur mechanic moment as heavenly intervention. Did it matter to that woman? Since I’d shut off the program, I couldn’t be sure. What I hoped was that this experience had encouraged her to do a basic car maintenance course, to prepare better for inclement weather, maybe even just check the damn weather forecast once in a while. But I think what was making me angry was that she probably wouldn’t. My miraculous appearance was confirmation that the helpless have a divine protector, and they never need to take care of themselves. Well, I would have been sorry to hear that little miss meek there had frozen to death in her truck that night, but her kid… For god’s sake, she had her kid with her. Casey ought to grow up knowing her parent can stand up for her, not expect them to stand by and hope for rescue.

In the end, I put the phone down. Call me a cynic, but I had more than a little suspicion that if I had got through to the host herself, she would have assured me that, yes, I was the one who helped, but my decision to stop and help was prompted by another angel, one I couldn’t see. And little miss meek would go on believing that the universe will care for her regardless.

I limped into the kitchen. I needed a cold pack for my ankle, and you know what? No one was going to appear mysteriously and bring it through to me. I sat back down, the cold seeping into my ankle and bringing a measure of calm with the reduction in pain. Maybe I would just print up some cards for the next time I rescue a damsel in distress:

“This aid has been brought to you by an entirely earthly entity, unbidden by any ethereal figures, visible or invisible.”

This is Blue Monday?

The Terry Fox statue at Simon Fraser University BC. When you think you're struggling with an overwhelming task, read about Terry Fox and find a little perspective there. (The scarf and hat are later additions to the statue, but I like to think they show people care.)

The Terry Fox statue at Simon Fraser University BC. When you think you’re struggling with an overwhelming task, read about Terry Fox and find a little perspective there.
(The scarf and hat are later additions to the statue, but I like to think they show people care.)

My wife told me about Blue Monday a few years ago after hearing about it on the radio. It’s generally reckoned as the third Monday in January, the point where people’s resolutions have flagged and the Christmas euphoria has passed, and the Winter seems to have set in forever. The bright lights of Christmas are behind, the bright days of Spring are too far ahead, and your soul is buried in work, and gloom and misery.

This is what I told myself when I realised how cynical and negative I felt about this coming week. It’s the last week of January, and this month has been quite a success. I completed a long-standing play, dashed off a sketch, planned at least one more one act and finally started the re-write of my part of the new panto script for TLC. The kids have turned around their issues at school (for the most part) and we’ve begun the internal remodelling of the house with a truly Herculean effort that needed a rental van to get all the raw materials back from Home Depot. I’m even helping to clear space by digitising our old scrapbooks and photo albums, for Pete’s sake. All of this I know, and yet I was whining to myself about the need to achieve things and how impossible it seemed.

So here’s your positive message for the day : forget affirming energy flowing from the spirit of the universe, forget orienting your chakras to absorb the Chi flowing from your crystals. Just close your eyes for a second and say “This too shall pass.” It’s Blue Monday, it’s a blip on the calendar and better days are on their way.

Flash Fantasy No 4: Non-Epic tales of other lands

Jepeth's people believed that dressing in bright colours prevented a dragon noticing you. Jepeth's people fared badly in matters of common sense. And they had never won a pub quiz.

Japeth’s people believed that dressing in bright colours prevented a dragon noticing you. Japeth’s people fared badly in matters of common sense. And they had never won a pub quiz.

The whole of the Mynrii Valley stretched out before Japeth, a child’s patchwork blanket, rumpled but still scattered with toy farms and houses. At the North end of the valley grew the foothills of the Gormir mountains, twin ranges to the edifices that Japeth was resting on. The difference was that the Gormir mountains held the Dragonryder academy, and the bustling trade and government centre that flourished thanks to the ease of transport a-dragonback. Messages or cargo could be flown across the land faster than the fleetest vessel on the seas, and they could reach a mountain stronghold as easily as a lowland farm.

Japeth tore his gaze away and turned back to the goat-track that he had been following for the last three hours. It was easier to find now the sun was above the horizon, but that meant he had less time to achieve his goal. He must reach the caves before noon. The urgency wasn’t just down to his impatience. There was no academy on these mountains, the grim and forbidding Hagomir Peaks. No government centre would be built here, for this range held the breeding colonies for the giant beasts themselves. Breeding dragons in captivity had never succeeded, so each year a group of specially trained boys would leave the academy and make the hazardous climb up the Hagomir peaks. If they had studied hard and proved themselves worthy, they would join with a young dragon and begin a new life as dragonryders. If they failed…Well, then they would be missed by their mothers, Japeth supposed. His own mother hadn’t even noticed he was gone, he was certain. Mareth had seven children, with Japeth buried in the middle so firmly that they had three times missed his birthday, and once given his prized hide jacket to a cousin, believing it to belong to an older brother who had outgrown it.

“They’ll see,” muttered Japeth, as his second-hand boots clung to the goat-trail and his hands grabbed at craw-grass to aid his uphill climb, “they’ll remember my name when I fly down out of the sun on my own dragon and burn the damn barn to cinders!”

Brindmir, Japeth’s younger sister, had learned of his plan and tried to talk him out of it. Though he loved her best of all his siblings, Japeth had become enraged when Brindmir would not accept that he stood a chance of taming a wild dragon.

“It’s my destiny!” he had shouted, and heard the echo rebound from the mountains beyond their farm. Surely that was a sign? Brindmir had crossed her arms and wrinkled her nose in a pose that looked so much like their mother he had felt momentarily ashamed of himself. She sniffed and he scowled.

“What do they learn, those boys up at the academy? What’s the first thing they learn when they arrive at that place?”

Japeth shrugged.

“Well, I dunno, do I? Never been.”

“So there you have it Japeth! You don’t know THE FIRST THING about taming a dragon. It’s foolishness.”

And she had flounced away. Maybe if she had called him stupid, he might have reconsidered. But “foolishness” was a word their mother used all too often in connection with the things that Japeth loved, and to hear it from his sister goaded him beyond reason. He had gone straight to the kitchen and packed some provisions for his climb, then begun the ascent in the darkness before dawn, trusting his uncanny night vision to keep from tumbling down the mountainside to his doom.

Drenched in sweat, he reached the first of the den-caves when the sun was still around an hour from its zenith. He plunged without hesitation into the nearest den, barely noticing the cooling of his damp shirt as he stepped out of the sunshine. He closed his eyes and counted to ten, restoring the night vision he would need because he hadn’t thought to bring a light with him.

The cave was narrow near the opening, though still reaching to more than twice his height. The edges of the opening had been scoured smooth by generations of dragonhide pushing past. Tiny bones clicked and cracked under Japeth’s feet, regurgitated remains of meals long past. The air was cooler than outside, but there was a warmth to it that put Japeth in mind of the stables at home – the air had already been breathed once or twice by larger lungs than his. A dry rustling sounded from ahead, just around a curve in the cave wall, and Japeth hurried forward eagerly. His destiny was so close now! The final answer to all those indignities and injustices! He would show them all!

The dragon was still sitting in the remains of its egg, though it looked to have hatched several months ago. Already ten feet from nose to tail, the scales had hardened enough to scrape sparks from the floor when it lurched forward towards Japeth. He stopped as if running into a wall, and the dragon pulled up too. It cocked its head quizzically at him, as if trying to understand why he was there, and who he was.

For the first time, Japeth began to appreciate the scale of a dragon. Not the hide, but the size in relation to himself. He had seen dozens, but always wheeling and circling overhead. He’d never actually seen one up close. This one was huge, each tooth the length of his hands, and with a jaw wide enough to fit in his whole head! The nostrils flared and contracted, and Japeth felt the air around him drawn in to the mighty head. It was sniffing him!

He couldn’t help feeling a flicker of hope. This was it! This was the moment when the dragon would recognise him, when it and he would join together for life… Wasn’t it? Japeth was suddenly acutely aware that he didn’t actually, when you got right down to it, know how that actually happened. Was it really a mystical thing, or was it more like old Barker at home, training the dogs to obey by feeding them treats at the right time? Should he, perhaps, have brought some kind of treat for the dragon?

A silvery tongue was flickering in and out of the huge mouth now, weaving amongst the fangs like a sentient thing. One clawed foot rose, wavered, and came down again, closer to Japeth. A second rose…The thing was coming towards him! This was, clearly, a very, very bad idea…..But Japeth could not bring himself to turn his back on the dragon. He tried to take a hesitant step backwards, but his feet would not move.

Then, miraculously, the dragon ahead of him stopped moving forward! It lowered its head, laying one cheek on the floor. This was a sign of submission! Japeth was elated, his dreams were coming true at last. The dragon was submitting to him as its master. But his cowardly feet would no more move forward than they would retreat before. And there was a new sound, he realised. A heavy, crunching sound that…was…coming…from…behind…him.

He didn’t need to turn. The great head of the mother dragon slid silently across the roof of the cave above him. It was to this presence that the young dragon had been submitting. The mother made a deep booming noise in her throat and the young dragon gave a surprisingly light chirrup in response, rolling back to its feet and reaching up its long neck to caress the huge jawbone of the mother with its own headcrest. When the crashing noise of their greeting was done, both heads swung to look at Japeth.

“That moment,” he thought, “just then when they were looking at each other. That was when I should have made a dash for the way out.” The heads slid towards him as if on rails and his terror finally communicated itself to his feet who moved at last but too slowly…

The mother watched her child feeding with pride. It wasn’t often that food delivered itself to the mountain. She couldn’t help feeling there was something special about this one.

The Flash Fantasy Project 3: non-epic tales of other lands

mega castle part two

Brin stepped out into the light at last. Here, in the one area of the hall where sunlight fell, no one could miss him. His mane of golden hair seemed to blaze in the last rays of daylight and he towered over the nearest goblins.

They shrank back, hissing, as they recognised their master’s mortal foe. Grimnok himself, however, seemed unsurprised by Brin’s appearance.

“Ah, Brin. The Chosen One himself honours us with his presence.”

Grimnok’s eyes flickered over the dark corners of his hall, and the cowering ranks of goblins.

“If we’d known you were coming, we might have made more of an effort.”

Brin stood tall in the face of the dark one’s sarcasm.

“You don’t scare me anymore, Grimnok. I’ve read the prophecy, and I know what it means. You can’t kill me, and if you can’t kill me then this war is over. No one else needs to die. I’ve come here to prevent any more bloodshed. It’s over. Get out, and leave Nimeria in peace!”

Grimnok stroked his thin beard as he looked at Brin. The boy had grown in his time with the Wizards of Nimeria, there was no denying it. And he had found out the truth of the prophecy. It was possible that this changed things, that his plan to crush the Nimerian resistance forever was, in fact, doomed to fail.

“Well Brin, I’m glad you read the prophecy. Reading is good for you, it broadens the mind. And it’s true, the Sage did foresee that the Wizard’s meddling spells would prevent me from killing you.”

Everyone in the hall saw Brin’s shoulders drop a little, as if he had let out a breath he had been holding. But surely even a great hero like the Chosen One would not come into the hall of his greatest enemy while uncertain of his own protection? Grimnok smiled and gave a carefree wave of his hand.

“Certainly, it’s possible that you have me at a disadvantage. Not being able to kill you myself DOES put a crimp in my plans. However, if you’ll indulge me, there is a little something I’d like to try before surrendering.”

This time he waved his other hand and a third of the goblin horde drew bows from under their tattered cloaks and fired.

For a second, Brin resembled a rearing hedgehog, but then his knees gave way and he crashed to the floor, a human pincushion.

“Thought so.” muttered Grimnok. “Arkleblog? Begin the invasion, would you? I’ll be in my study.”