Wednesday, June 28, 2017

a re-wedding in south korea

My wife and I were married 9 years ago. At the time, we had professional photos taken in Perth by a company in Fremantle. They seemed pretty good and the quality of their photos appeared good, too. Unfortunately, the photographer spent the entire shoot trying to convince us my wife should go topless for a few photos. You know. So we'd have something to remember her body by. It was uncomfortable.

Then they sat us down and REALLY gouged our wallet by charging far too much money for far too little. We ended up with about 10 photos, all the same size as photos you can get printed at a camera shop. We got no digital copies. And we had to buy the cover to put the photos in. For that, that gouged us over a thousand dollars.

Repulsive is a word I'd use.

As a result, we've never really felt too good about our wedding photos.

As we were getting ready to leave for South Korea, my Mother in Law told us she wanted to arrange some professional photos for us in South Korea. She wanted us also to dress in traditional clothes for it. The company she chose was called USee Studio (they have an instagram here, and their website is here), and they're based in Daegu. I was a bit nervous going in, given our last experience, especially given I don't speak even a word of Korean...

On the day we arrived, I got plopped onto a couch and my wife and I were given a thick book of photographs and asked to choose our favourites. This would be used by the photographer to set up the sets and help in picking our poses. It ensured we essentially got what we'd be happy with. After making our choices, my wife was taken out back to get her makeup done.

I sat out front with my Mother in Law, and she showed me where my wife's cheeky streak comes from by swapping some of my wife's choices for her own. What amazes me in those moments is how it really is kind of easy to communicate without language. My lack of Korean is absurd given how long we've been married, but my Mother in Law is amazing at communication so I like to think we do mostly fine.

Eventually, I was waved to the back room and ordered into a suit which didn't quite fit. Not that this seems to matter. The magic of this place is they pin and tuck and everything looks great. They then sat me down in a chair and I was subjected to something I have never had before - makeup.

I was given the full makeup treatment right down to eyebrows. Then my hair was slapped with wax and a healthy dose of hairspray. Now, I'm blonde. Being blonde, my hair just can't be styled. It's too thin. It never holds. You need a factory of product just to keep it in place for an hour. After that, it's flat and looks ridiculous. That's why I like to wear hats. But somehow, the makeup lady here managed to get it to stay where it was. And it remained like that until I got home.It was a show of complete and utter magic.

Then we were taken into the room which had multiple sets up for us to use.

What followed was an experience completely at odds with our first wedding photos. The photographer was amazing and positive and kept a very light mood, especially as I had obvious language difficulties. I never felt uncomfortable or lost.

He put a lot of effort into making sure we got photos which were amazing. And his direction was easy to follow even for someone like myself who can get a bit shy when the focus of attention.

After all this was done, we were shown some of the photos and shown the book we would get. It's a HUGE hardback book, and I couldn't quite believe this was what we were getting. It's the kind of book which is printed and bound, rather than having a few photos slapped into sleeves or something. This is a genuine book. And it's glossy and extremely high quality.

What shocked me most was how fast they prepared it all. The book was available the next week so we could bring it home with us. Everything was so professional, but LIGHT. We didn't feel pressured and it was a delightful experience.

We brought the book home (along with digital copies) and now it sits proudly on our shelf. My wife was so happy with them we think we'll even get some more prints to put around the house (we normally don't like looking at ourselves, but the experience and the photos are amazing).

I think it'd be nice next time we go back to get some more.

To show you what I mean, here's some of my favourites:

I'm thinking this should be my author photo!
Or maybe it looks too good to be me! :P

a holiday in south korea

I have just returned from a few weeks in South Korea. A holiday, thankfully. One which occurs at a point in my life which is signposted for change. My job, it appears, has been off-shored, so I am once again in the position of wondering what to do next. Something similar? Or something completely different?

At my age, it's getting to be a tough question to answer and makes me feel more and more bitter toward those who run these companies I have given my sweat and tears to so they can earn yet more profits on my pain. Thankfully, this bitterness is quickly channeled into a new Nysta story...

While in South Korea, I was able to visit traditional temples, museums, and mountain trails. I explored the cities of Seoul, Daegu, and Busan. I endured glorious blisters on my feet and hot summer weather. It's easy to imagine moving there and one day, I hope I can at least give it a try.

Now I'm back, and I'm looking through my photos. It had taken us 9 years to save for this holiday. We haven't had real holidays in that time, so this was special for us.

For those of you who find it as difficult to travel as we do, please enjoy some photos...

Monday, June 05, 2017

spfbo 2017 and cover competitions

Sometimes, I get depressed.

I've often struggled with depression. I think a lot of us do.

For me, one of the things which has constantly troubled me at 3am is the fact I have worked hard over the years on various artistic paths, but never really succeeded. Never broken through. I used to do art in high school, but I was fortunate enough to have Shaun Tan in my class. That'll break your spirit real quick as you can't help but measure your feeble talents against such a monolithic creature as him and realise you're pretty much ever going to go far with a brush.

I have dabbled in photography (prior to digital) but was unable to continue after school because I had no access to a dark room (I'm old). I settled on writing (it was relatively cheap). I went to Uni with a writing dream haunting my head, but I suffered from the conceit that I could be a writing GOD. I was young.

Eventually I was hit by a rational streak and recognised instead the importance of working hard. And I pushed my writing in directions I never thought I'd go. I persisted at it when depression threatened to crush my motivation. After releasing Revenge of the Elf, I was overwhelmed by how well it did. Even more so as I watched other writers who'd released books at the time never gather enough wind to publish a second.

I went through two. Three. And now I'm cruising into the 8th in the Nysta series. 9th in the overall Fnordic Arc.

Yet, I still feel depressed. I still sometimes lose my ego. I tell myself I'm too genre. I'll never succeed. I'm doomed to remain hidden in Amazon's gloomy basement.

Last year, I tentatively pushed my wings into an air I seldom fly in - Marketing. I submitted Revenge of the Elf to SPFBO. SPFBO is an amazing act of generosity by another monolith - Mark Lawrence, whose work in grimdark fiction has inspired many. He continues to inspire by generously giving space on his blog and time in his life to encouraging self published authors. Competitions such as this have helped lift some of the brightest stars from this gloomy basement. Truly incredible pieces of fantasy have been unearthed and discovered by readers because of it.

My own experience last year was a little underwhelming. Not due to him, but the blog I was offered to seemed disinterested in it then, so my book went unreviewed and unremarked. To be honest, I am not looking for glory. I'm happy to be involved. I'm even happy with a negative review, because I believe there's no such thing as a negative review which is honest. It's called criticism and, as an artist, it's often what we like to hear. For my ego, though, nothing was worse than a critical line or two.

This year, because I am writing a series, I couldn't submit another Nysta book. I only had Hemlock and Melganaderna #1: Trail of the Necromancer. And, after last year, I wondered if it would be worth it. I kind of dread the attention as much as I'd like it. And Trail of the Necromancer is as experimental in its prose for genre fiction as the Nysta series. It feels, for me, like a huge risk. My career, barely started, could end with a whip of a pen.

Nervous, I submitted anyway.

And waited.

Feeling a little low, I got a quick note on my Facebook from MLS Weech, which announced Nysta #7: Assassin of Dragonclaw had been entered into a cover competition. Talk about blown away. The competition is to vote on the best covers for fantasy books released in May and, given what a job Amir Zand did on this one, I was absolutely chuffed to be a part of it and really happy his work was admired to such a degree.

Then today, Mark Lawrence has updated his own Cover Contest for SPFBO 2017 page with Pornokitsh's preference. Out of their group, they picked Trail of the Necromancer for the Cover Contest. To be chosen from 30 books blew my mind and made me drop my jaw. My ego is now having a hard time fit through the door. This has always been one of my favourite covers from Amir (I love green, and this one kind of reminds me of something from Frank Frazetta in its murky landscape). It's perfect that he's getting that recognition, too.

Now all I need to wait for is to see if the book can back up the cover.

Fingers crossed.

If you've read this far, I recommend you go to the SPFBO page and prowl the authors there. Check out their work. There's an amazing collection this year. It seems each gets better than the last. You'll find something which will break your mind, I promise.