Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 11

Once upon a time there was a city called Sydney. 

I met Hoang back at Berkelouw’s two weeks later, to see the character drawings and the first of the scenes.  We had agreed to do this to check that we were on the right track.  

Hoang brought his wife, Cat, with him this time, and I brought Y (my fiance).  Cat was the girl with the beautiful hair whom I had met at the Paddington markets.  She and Hoang seemed a perfectly matched pair, complementing each other’s creative and business strengths and weaknesses, the type of couple you always hope will like you and, more importantly, that you will some day be like.

Hoang was excited.  I was excited.  Y and Cat were supportively boisterous.  

Hoang drew out from his satchel…

the perfect Mr Middleton.  He had the alcoholic red nose, the disconsolate slouch, and the round belly of middle-age that I had imagined without actually  imagining it quite as perfectly as this!

Mr Middleton was closely followed by Mr Richards.  Again, perfect.  Hoang had achieved his angularity, his moonish dissatisfaction, his quiet desperation, and made him look likeable at the same time.

The crowning glory…the first scene, to go with the opening words:

Once upon a time there was a city called Sydney, in a country called Australia, built like an old-fashioned beehive across a flurry of sprawling, sparkling, rudely alive water.  Tall buildings sprouted out of the city’s conical centre, around which clustered thousands of winding roads and terraced houses.  Homes jostled with offices and buildings inside of which people lifted weights squeezed next to places where they put them down again.  All around, streets spread like lines of hardened honey for hundreds of miles, people buzzing to and fro, some filled with music, others with rage, others with forgotten shopping lists that in turn concealed memories of loved ones, of regret; all of them keeping the veins of the city alive.  

It was glorious.  Hoang had given so many little details which revealed themselves only on closer inspection, and had taken the essence of the scene and the entire story and captured it.  He got it, and he had translated it into a look, feel and masterful illustration.

I almost wept into my LSD.

“So you like them?” Hoang asked, grinning.  

We spent the next twenty minutes being excited together, before agreeing to come and see him at his home and office in the Blue Mountains in two weeks time to see the final two drawings for the pitch package.  

Hoang had already made me see the possible wonder of the book.  Now we just had to show these pictures to the publisher and give them a moment of wistfulness in their days, and see how they responded.  

To be continued.

Horoscope for the Week beginning 25 May 2009

You may feel like it’s a bit too soon for the week to begin, but it will begin without you if you don’t hurry into your best shoes and don a nice smile to welcome the new days, each one freshly minted from the giant day-press on the other side of the sky.  This week will find you most days with neat hair and matching sunglasses. You will naturally look just like your favourite Audrey Hepburn photo by virtue of throwing on a headscarf and dashing out the door to your next appointment.  It’s something in the weather this week; something at the mundane level about humidity straightening out your hair, and at the sublime level about you coming into your own.  Each one of you a movie star in your own right, each one a shining beacon of your own fashionista trends (inside and out).  You know you look good; how could you not, the way you feel right now?   Come on and share some of that good sweet stuff you got going on with the rest of us, throw one of those heart- bedazzler smiles our way.

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 10

In which I am asked the question, what does a teleporter actually look like?

It was 10.06 pm when the phone rang, about three days since the events of my last self-publishing post.


“Yep, Hoang, how’s it going?”  Trepidation..he’s going to say it’s too hard..

“Good, good.  I was just wondering, if you can tell me because I can’t really find it in the story: what does the teleporter look like?”

“Look like?”  

“Yeah, look like.”

“Umm…”  I racked my brain for a memory.  Surely I had imagined what the teleporter would look like…”Um,” I improvised.  “I guess it might look sort of like, there is something coming from the ceiling…actually Hoang, what do you think it would look like?”

Nice save.  

“Well, it could look all industrial, so with like, red lights and big metal doors and things.”

“Oh yeah, that sounds cool.”

“Or, it could be more minimalist, like, just a light from the ceiling, with a few hooks.”

“Oh, yeah, that too.”

“So which do you prefer?”

I paused.  The thing was, both sounded cool.  But I had never really pictured the teleporter before.  I kicked myself for this oversight.

“Can I call you back?  I just need to think about it for a bit.”

“No worries!”

I lay on the bed (my favourite thinking position, after he baththub) and tried to imagine the teleporter.  Both of Hoang’s options sounded good, and I wanted to give him full latitude as the visual creative on this project.  This situation demonstrated to me how much of a word person I was, and not an image person.  It also made me feel like a bit of a nob, really.  Not knowing what the third word in the title of the book even looked like?  Dear oh dear, Jackie, I berated myself (in somewhat harsher thought-words).  

I thought, and I thought.  I eventually put the (metaphorical) baseball bat that I was whacking myself with down, and let myself realise something that had been nagging at me.  

The story was not about the teleporter.  It was about the experience of being teleported.  I had spent ages and ages, imagining what it would feel like to be teleported.  What it would do to a person.  How they would lose part of themselves in the process of becoming what the person at the other end of the journey “expected” of them (the teleporter, as everyone knows, works on the principle of expectation energy.  The downside, or upside, depending on your proclivities, is that you become what the person who is waiting for you expects.)

I hesitantly explained myself to my betrothed, who immediately made me feel like I wasn’t an avisual loser.  “You wrote about what mattered to you,” he encouraged me.  

“So, I was thinking, do you think you could illustrate Mr Middleton being teleported, rather than the teleporter itself?”  I had called Hoang back and now waited to hear his response.

“Yeah, I think so, absolutely.  Can you explain to me what it feels like to be teleported?”

This, I could do.  “It’s like, your whole body disintegrates, and you are a million atoms but you are none of them, and you could be tugged in a hundred directions, but the person expecting you applies their expectation energy which gathers you into the person they expect.  But before that moment, you are ego-less whilst still having self, distributed across all the different particles which are all the particles of the Universe.”

“OK…I think I have an idea.”

To be continued.

Horoscope for the week starting 18 May 2009

Hello and welcome to the week ahead!  This time around, you’ll find the dimension of space-time bending in upon itself (as it is wont to do), curling around your ears and tickling your cheekbones.  Sudden memories of past days will feel as real as the one in front of your eyes: your most embarrassing moment at high school,the colour of your favourite t-shirt when you were only five, the scratch of your parents’ new couch when you really wanted them to keep the old one.  If you move your head quickly, you’ll catch time spinning even faster away from you, until you are smelling the Turkish coffee from the life you spent as a travelling salesman across the Middle East, and you’re seeing the flash of a smile as you collect coins for your street act as a circus urchin.  Isn’t it sweet!    Thanks for the accounting tips back in 1818 (I never did say but I like your hat); thanks in advance of the bakery treats (you have the molecules of deliciousness just waiting for your future self to awaken).

Self-publishing Mr Middleton’s Teleporter, Part 9

In which I drink an LSD which changes my life forever.

In Part 8, I had just managed to locate the brother of the artist, Hoang Nguyen, who had done the picture I had fallen in love with.  I gave the man my manuscript and all I had to do was wait, and pray, and try not to pick off the entirety of the skin around my fingers (gross, I know).  

I had resigned myself to having to wait the full week before making a follow-up phone call to see how Hoang had reacted to the story.

I got a phone call on the Wednesday, just three days later.

“Yeah, look, I really like the story.”

Double take.  Swallow.  “Really?”  

“Yeah!  You have a crazy imagination, you know that?  Some of the stuff in this is unreal.  But I think what you write about is really similar to the message that we try to give people, about living a sustainable life in touch with the environment, and making joy and family and community first.”

I nodded, a bad habit I had had since I was five years old when I used to answer the phone and nod or shake my head without speaking.  

“I think it’s such a coincidence,  you know, because we were just thinking about doing a book too.”

“That’s great!”  I said. Finally, vocalising.  Progress! “So, how about we meet up after the markets this weekend and talk about our next steps?”

“OK, I will be at the Rocks markets until quite late, so say, 7.00?”

“That’s fine.  Can we make it Berkelouw’s?  It’s a book store with a cafe on Oxford St, not far from where the book is set.”

“OK sounds good.  See you there!”

“Great, see you Hoang!”

WOOHOO!  He liked the story, he liked the story….I did my little kitchen dance, which involves a bit of foot swinging in the air and jigging my arms around.  Then I called my affianced, who was suitably excited for me.

Saturday rolled around.  My fiance parked the car on a side street and reclined the seat to have a little nap while he waited for me.  I hopped it to Berkelouw’s.  As I walked, Hoang  called to say he was running a bit late from the markets, so I had time to order myself an LSD at the cafe.  “LSD” to the uninitiated is a “latte soy dandelion,” and is way better than it sounds.  It is creamy, and delicious.  I have espoused its virtues elsewhere so that’s enough for now.  All coffee drinkers, shame on you for sniggering.  

As I was sipping my LSD and pretending to leaf through a book about Sicilian tiles, a young, sprightly man approached.  He was Australian Vietnamese and it was impossible to tell how old he might be, given he had a shaved head and no lines on his face except for big smile ones as he barrelled over to my chair and shook my hand.

“Jackie!  I’m Hoang.”

“Great to meet you,” I said, because it was.

We chatted, and it became pretty clear pretty quickly that this was going to be awesome. We seemed to agree on everything: the proposed style of pictures, the key messages and moral of the story.  Most of all, Hoang agreed 1000% with the prerogatives for a creative life.  He told me how he had started off his business when he had moved back to Sydney from Alice Springs with his wife.  He had previously worked at an ad agency, then moved to Alice and done massage for several years (which was something else he connected with in the story, when the antagonist, Mr Richards, travels to Alice to find himself). Theythen returned to Sydney but weren’t sure what to do next, when his very smart wife suggested he print off some of the pictures he had done, which were saved on his computer.  They set up a market stall and made enough money to do it again.  And again. And again.  

Pretty soon, they found themselves doing what they had always dreamed of doing: making an income from their creative pursuits, with very strong ethics of environmental sustainability, inspiration, spirituality, and whimsy.  

I was getting more and more excited throughout this conversation.  I had never found a perfect creative collaborator before, but I thought that this might be It.  

We agreed that Hoang would create two character illustrations, one for Mr Middleton and one for Mr Richards, and three pictures from key scenes: the beginning, something from the middle when all the World goes crazy with teleporting, and one for the end, when Mr Middleton has the transformative experience of teleporting for the first time himself. He also agreed to do them within a month, which was amazing, so that we could get the pitch to the publisher before they lost interest.

Soon my affianced came looking for me.  He met Hoang and noted that things must have gone well because he “Could hear my laugh from the front door.”

Things had gone very well indeed.  Now all we needed was for Hoang to be visited by his muse, five times, if we asked very nicely, in the next four weeks.

To be continued.

Horoscope for the Week starting 11 May 2009

Hello and welcome to my new, weekly horoscope!  I was doing my crystal ball a disservice, too much work and too little pay.  Now let’s hope it will be in it for the long haul.

This week will start on a chilly note, and a hood on your jumpers (both physical and emotional) might be in order.  But don’t dismay!  Soon, Tuesday will dawn, bright as a clean slate for you to take to with your crayons and your tongue sticking out.  You’ll find you might be a bit rusty at first; the fish doesn’t look quite so much tropical as lurid, and the ears on the dog you drew are unavoidably rabbit like.  But if you don’t panic, you’ll soon be in the flow of things.  You can let your mind be at ease, and let the crayon gods speak through you.  Close your eyes, even.  See what they might want to tell you and the people around you.  Before you know it, you might have something like this:


which is really just their way of saying


By Friday, when you open your eyes again, you’ll see them.  Your friends, old and new, surrounding you with smiles, phone calls and warm pats on the back.  Then you’ll look down and see what you drew.  But, far from feeling embarrassed, you can just tip your hat to those crayon omniscients and keep the green and orange ones handy for the next time there is something that you would rather not ask for but that you nevertheless need.

Juggling act

I have a sore index finger on my left hand, which is making a’s and e’s a bit of an effort tonight.  That’s an advance apology for typos.

I’m looking for you guys to share your practical advice on the juggling act of a creative life and paid work.

I have been thinking today (and, to be honest, for many ,many moons, stretching back to when I was 17, which was a loooong time ago) about the juggling act of working and creating.  That (that “that” took me three goes.  Poor finger) sounds a bit pompous, so I’ll try again.  The balancing act that many of us go through to do our creative endeavours on the side (notice I don’t call them “work,” because I am deeply superstitious that if I call my creative stuff “work,” I will suddenly become productivity-driven and pump out twenty meaningless chapters before realising it’s all disingeuous tripe.  It’s happened before) and manage paid work, even a career, on the other side.

I know about a billion people who find themselves in this position.  Some would like to do their creative pursuits full-time, others are quite happy with doing them on the side.  Me, I am quite happy doing them part-time at the moment, because if I was to go full-time writing, I think I would cave in under the sudden pressure to make my writing “succeed” in a more traditional, income-generating sense.  I have a game plan which is to work towards 100% income from creative work, but it is going to be a gradual, staged process, and it does wonders for my insecure mind to know that I am progressing my non-creative career at the same time as my creative one at present, and will not be under any pressure to switch 100% to the creative one until I have proven it can pull in some bucks.  I’m not dreaming of big bucks, (OK sometimes I am), but really just enough for the basics, from doing what I love.  That would be awesome.  But I know myself well enough from past attempts at going into free-fall (ie supporting my creative pursuits solely through meaningless casual work or savings) that my brain runs and hides from the scariness, and I need a “real” job to trick myself into the relaxed, open frame of mind to write.

I have tried  at least twice before to totally quit a “real” career and just write.  The first time, I wanted to write a non-fiction book about happiness.  I had written an opinion editorial, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, and which a publisher was interested in seeing a book proposal for.  I spent three months trying to write.  My friends always laugh to hear that I got really depressed in the process (not because they are mean, but just because of the irony).  I couldn’t do it!  I couldn’t write!  I went back to part-time work and have stayed in part-time work ever since.  That’s the book I like to say I had to not write.  

Two years later I gave it another shot.  I had just been offered a promotion at my work, and that freaked me out sufficiently to send me sprinting from Canberra to Melbourne, quitting my job and enrolling at the last minute in a digital media course to kick-start my filmmaking career.  I made two documentaries, and almost had another nervous breakdown.  It was the pressure to succeed creatively that did it.  After nine months of casual work and telling myself I was OK, I finally let go of the bohemian ideal got a “real” job, one which was progressing my other, public service career, and felt much better.  The pains in my stomach disappeared.  I lost 10 kilos (in a healthy way, not from stress).  

I still work part-time, in a different city again (Sydney – that’s another story).  I still write (obviously). 

I am curious – more than curious – how others do it?  How do you guys view your creative lives, and how do you conduct the balancing act: at a practical, day-to-day level, in your heads, and in your hearts, that allows you to do what you need to do, to “follow your bliss” (as my fiance calls it)?  It would be great if we could share our insights and practical tips about this.

I’d say my top three tips are:

1. You don’t have to be a bohemian risk-taker and throw away your other career in order to be a creative artist.  You just have to do what keeps your mind and heart open and secure enough to do your thing.

2.  It’s important to remain absolutely focused.  Things which look like they might be on the right track can be deceptively close to what you want to do, but still aren’t.  For me, a good example would have been to do a short story collection for the publisher, when all I really wanted was to do Mr Middleton as an illustrated book and focus on writing my novel. It looked and smelt like it was on the right track to writing as a full-time job, but it would have betrayed where my creative mojo was at, and that is your most valuable asset in the creative journey.

3.  Emotional and mental space is just as important as physical space and time.  My “real” job in Melbourne got to be so busy and all-consuming, that even though I had one day off a week (Fridays), I was so exhausted and worries that I couldn’t do my art.  Now I have to be very strict with myself, to the point of trying to limit my after-work conversation about work to a minimum of the first hour after getting home.  Otherwise it sits in your brain and takes over the network.

You can email me on or comment below.  To see an article I wrote about this for Online Opinion, click here.  To read the article I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald, click here.

The people have spoken

Well, at least some of the people…and what they have said:

1. Change this blog template to make the comments appear more obviously and so it is easier to leave a comment

2. Keep doing horoscopes, but if you must cut back, then weekly is ok

3. Keep telling the self-publishing story

4. When are you going to introduce us to Mr Middleton? 

5. As for the other stuff you thought you might do, try it and see if we like it.

OK. So what I’m giong to do is this:

1. Do what you told me to. 

2.  That’s pretty much it.

So, I will look for a new WordPress template, start with a weekly horoscope as of next Monday, try to drag Mr Middleton away from his laboratory for an introduction, and I will do a self-publishing report each week, plus any other random stuff that comes to mind, and see if you like it.

The people have spoken!   Thanks, the people.

Blog plans

Hey there punters. I have done some hard thinking about what I should be doing on this blog, thanks to some emails and comments from you guys, and I think I need to modify what I’m doing.  Frankly, trying to write a horoscope every day is killing my blogging mojo…

SO I have decided to trial this:

Mondays: Horoscope for the week ahead 

Wednesdays: Self-publishing update

Fridays:  Random nonsense fascinating insights

What do you guys reckon?  I was thinking also, about maybe doing an occasional feature, maybe once a month, on a different “creative type” because so many people I know have a secret creative life (check out this for a starter…I work with this girl, she is up on level 5 doing important comms stuff, and I am on level 1 doing lowly research work…anyway, I just found out about her secret foodie passion!).  

And also, I was thinking about an “I heart nerds” column, because I do, and they do the coollest stuff.  

AND I was thinking pretty soon, it might be time to upload the first chapter of Mr Middleton...

Your thoughts please!