Every good protagonist needs a way for the reader to find them endearing. Even the worst anti-heroes, with the greyest of moral, have that one thing. Maybe they send their money back to their lovely elderly parents, or they support an orphanage in Gambia. Always on the side, of course, because it would hurt their image if everyone were to find out about it. Or sometimes it’s just that they do a job as a pillar of the community, something simple and benign.
I need something like that for Max, the main character of my new book. Zander in my last book went over great with my reading audience; he did underwater welding, and people lapped up his interesting-yet-daring choice of job. I’ve seen people here in Oakleigh who do tree removal…maybe Max could do something along those lines? He’s a manly man, and there’s a certain charm to the lumberjack type that could make him a big hit with my female audience.
Alright, that’ll be it then. Max is a tree lopper, a local boy and he’s devilishly well-liked by all. Except the bad guy. And of course, he struggles with a secret case of vertigo, and maybe a phobia of something innocuous and silly, like peanut butter. He’s not allergic to peanut butter, mind you…he just finds it very frightening, and he can’t tell his tough tree removal friends for fear of ostricization from the community.
He’s looking pretty well-rounded, I feel. So moving onto Denise, his fiancé and something of a worrywart who constantly objects to Max being in a profession where a tree branch could fall on him at any time and then he’d get amnesia and forget about their relationship and become obsessed with all the tree removal in Bentleigh forever more, and their love will be a distant memory (or not a memory at all, as the case may be).
Yep, perfect. Characters are done. Now I just need a plot…
Some foods are just so amazingly good that you can’t see why the entire day isn’t spent eating them. Like, brownies. Really well-made brownies, moist and gooey on the inside and practically 50% choc chip with maybe a dusting of salt on the top. Amazing. Social interaction is stressful, work is boring, watching TV is like sucking your soul into an event horizon and…well, hugging a really cute dog is pretty great. But I’d still rather be able to eat brownies, all the time, forever.
I may have been too hasty with the work thing as well, because the deliciousness of brownies took over my brain. I may work in an office, but the people around me are really great and actually loads of fun. We send our disaster relief to places in Melbourne, like…the non-emergency services disasters. So if you crashed your car into a tree, call an ambulance. If a tree has fallen down and someone could crash their car into it, we can summon a Melbourne tree lopper from those treehouses that they undoubtedly all live in and have them fix the problem. We have all kinds of industry connections, big and small, tree lopping and extreme weeding. Actually, come to think of it, tree removal is basically extreme weeding. Like, a plant of some sort is becoming a nuisance, so you call the tree loppers in…THEY get rid of it for you. Just like weeds. What DO these extreme weeders do, anyway? I wouldn’t know, because all we do is send people out or give them contacts. I keep getting elderly ladies calling and complaining that their gardens are overrun by some kind of super weeds and they can’t remove them themselves so we’d better send someone along, pronto. You’d be surprised how often the word ‘pronto’ crops up.
Okay, now I’m genuinely wondering where the line blurs between weeding and, like…stump removal. Melbourne offers both, but maybe they should team up. Create a super business. Less calls for me to field…more time to eat brownies.
Lawrence Corp prides itself on image, and I see nothing wrong with prioritizing the issue. We’re a dynamic company aiming for the top spot in the technology world, and people don’t buy technology unless it really looks good, no matter the functionality or whether it can project holograms and make your car drive itself.
And why shouldn’t this policy extend to staff members? We don’t just sit behind desks and talk to our customers through headsets. Lawrence Corp has its employees out there in the world, lobbying technology outlets and speaking to customers face-to-face. Why shouldn’t we have a trusted Melbourne anti-wrinkle injection professional visiting our office for a mandatory session with each employee to make them look their absolute uniform best? Personally, I’m fully supportive of this initiative from our great CEO, Mr Lawrence. If people come into our company on business or to make a query of some kind, they’ll see that all of our employees are a matched set of efficient workers who also have their appearances taken care of. Studies have shown that worker mentality can be improved with a uniform approach, and company-wide anti-wrinkle treatments are one such method. I’ve heard that the program is soon advancing to dermal fillers, a change I welcome. And not simply because the company provides them to all employees free of charge.
Lawrence Corp is so influential, they’re shaping the world of technology, the business sector, the stock market AND its employees’ faces, for the better. Of course, the treatments are strongly encouraged and not mandatory, but who would go against such a scheme? An expert in dermal fillers from Ballarat was flown in for their skill alone, so people know they’re in safe hands. And the treatments advance company interests. You wouldn’t want to go against company interests…now would you?
-Anika Fergus, P.A.
I remember how I felt when my very first sprite died. That was of old age, so it was quite a significant moment in both coding and world creation. Guess I’ve created a game where that sort of thing can and will happen, so like life, it’s just something to get used to. Okay then. It’s happened several times since then, and I’ve been noticing that the NPCs have picked up that something needs to be done with their possessions after they die.
Not that I’m about to programme in a skill tree for executors of will, because there are some careers that I don’t think would be tasteful to include as options…but at least they have a rudimentary last will and testament system in place. I went Diving into the home of a deceased man recently, just to observe the proceedings. He’d written a letter to be read out after he died, so it was kind of a will. The family gathered round, and then just took what belonged to them. End of story. All pretty simple, to be honest. If only proceedings could go that simply in real life.
I’ve only been present for that kind of event once, when my grandfather died. He lived alone, didn’t have too much, and fortunately we’re not the sort of family who’d argue over the small things. So it was just a matter of dividing up the small stuff, selling the house and that was pretty much it. You see this happens on TV a bit, which is often when the shouting and punching happens. Drama, right? Maybe I should be ramping up the drama in the game, just to keep people interested. People right now just get along a little bit too well…
But it won’t be will-related. I don’t fancy observing Victoria’s probates and gauging the exact responses of the bereaved. That falls under the ‘tasteless’ category I was mentioning earlier.
They say people aren’t allowed to grow old anymore. Pfft, I say. Pfft to the absolute max. I think these people are confusing growing old with looking old, but the two are totally different. There’s more to progressing through the years than simply getting yourself a few wrinkles, and thinking of it in such a linear way? That’s bad. That’s wrong. I do so hate it when people are wrong.
Like, take all those middle-aged protesters who arranged themselves outside a beauty clinic on the weekend. Oh, you know the protests…’beautification is evil’ and ‘natural beauty 4-eva!’ and ‘beautiful at any age!’
Of course, most of that is true. Beautification isn’t evil, but apart from that, it’s true. People can be beautiful at any age. But why should clinics in Melbourne offering anti-wrinkle treatments bear the brunt of your scorn? Their view of beauty is so shallow, it almost sickening. There are marks of age that can never be gotten rid of; wisdom, experience, not being able to get up the stairs as easily and really wanting grandchildren all of a sudden. What, do you think an anti-wrinkle treatment is going to stop you from calling your grown-up daughter for a two-hour conversation on baby names? No, it isn’t! That grandchild is going to grow up thinking his grandparent is one of the youngest-looking, hippest cats around, but that can only be a good thing, except if they ask you to skydive. Don’t skydive at the age of…oh, anything over 70. Even before then it’s a bit of a hazard.
But in terms of looks, people can look however they please without being judged. They should have that right, because age isn’t a box that you’re placed into at some stage because you look a certain way. So let people grow old, or let them stave off the wrinkles for a little bit! And if you know someone in Melbourne specialising in lip fillers, or laser hair removal…don’t egg their houses. It’s rude, and you need to rethink your priorities.
I remember designing my dream house way back in grade 3. It wasn’t meant to be a realistic place, which is what you’d kind of expect from asking…nine-year-olds. Mine was on an island, because, I loved pirates. We had to design our dream house in pairs, so I designed it with this other boy named Alec. I wasn’t a fan of his dinosaur robot room, but I was pretty happy with my pool-hammock-treehouse. The best part was a spring-loaded trap on the beach just outside the front door, for people we didn’t like. That would just spring them right off the island. The worst part was how I planned to lure Alex onto it so I could have the island all to myself, because I was a terrible child.
Fast forward a few years, and I can’t help but smirk as I search for conveyancing lawyers. My parents left me the house, and now that they wanted to move into a residential village they’ve asked me to sell it. I figured that a conveyancer would help with all the paperwork and complex terms or whatever, and it’s not like I’ve ever done something like this before. So yeah, that’s helping. But it’s pretty stark, the differences between real life and a child’s imagination. My parents never had a tree house, or a hammock, or a pool, or even a combination of all three. The conveyancers aren’t going to be handing me any forms that say ‘do you declare that your hidden trap door will not be a significant nuisance to the neighbours?’
Maybe I’m the crazy one for thinking like this, but not much I can do about that now. Man, that island was cool though…so much promise. If I ever become a theme park tycoon, I’ll definitely be creating something just like it, because they would flock to it on account of its awesomeness. And by that time, I’ll have a legion of Melbourne’s good conveyancing solicitors to make it all a reality. That’s how that works, probably…
It’s true what they say: niche businesses are a real gamble. I took a business course after I left school, and a few of us gravitated together. We were informally called the Risky bunch by the tutor, since all our assignments were based on what we hoped to start when we finished. We promised to support each other through thick and thin that we’d help each other out, spread the word, all that…even for Billy, who wanted to start a wombat grooming salon. None of us thought it was a good idea, but he seemed to think that since he’d be the only one, he’d get ALL the business.
Not that my idea was inherently superior. I had this idea about people who did beauty diplomas and makeup courses, something big. Basically, it’d be like a callout services for people in need of makeup. It’s a tough gig to succeed in, makeup. Lots of people vying for jobs, a bit like…well, every industry ever. But here, I wanted to recruit some of the best of the best into a business that would send makeup artists out to all parts of Melbourne, perhaps with stations out even further. Suddenly found out that your in-laws are coming for a visit, spent all your time tidying the house and you look like a mess? We can be there in 20 minutes, guaranteed. Just pick up the phone, dial that number, tell us exactly what you need and one of our makeup agents will be right there. In the comfort of your own home, we’ll do whatever we can with the time you have, for a very reasonable rate! Repeat customers have the option of membership and discounted prices, and I intended there to be plenty of members. There would be standards after all.
Need some quick beauty pep-ups for a last minute night out? Or perhaps you just want to look fabulous, right now, no reason required. No problem! All our operatives are certified with a diploma of specialist makeup from a Melbourne university. We deal with all requests, big, small, weird and wonderful!
Or we would, if the business ever got off the ground. Any day now, I say. People aren’t going to suddenly stop being interested in being beautiful!
There’s so much to love about a good old conference that I find myself confused about people’s reluctance to attend. In case you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “what on earth is he talking about?” let me spell it out for you.
Networking. Variety. Education.
Let’s start with networking. As just about anyone will tell you, networking is a an extremely important part of any type of work. Knowing people in the right places will facilitate your career moving in the trajectory you’d always hoped and dreamed of. Whether that’s through helping bring more clients into the fold, solidifying connections with existing clients on the grounds of mutual friendships, or making friends in high places, you can never underestimate the value of mingling with people who might be in the convention centre.
A wise man once said that variety is the spice of life, and if you’ve ever felt like you’ve been trudging a job, you know this to be true. Just taking a break from your normal working pattern can have an enormous positive effect on your overall mental health and wellbeing. It allows you to take a break and experience something utterly different, giving you a renewed sense of purpose and motivation upon returning to work.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do to advance your career is through learning. Just walking around the conference venue in Lorne and talking to other professionals can help you get clarification on concepts that confused you or just help you gain a deeper understanding of the way something works. When returning to work, you’ll be able to perform at a higher level and give clients or colleagues an increased amount of information, continuing the process on by sharing with others.
Hopefully this piece has helped you gain a level of insight into just how crucial attending conferences can be for you and your career.
I knew making it as a dancer would be hard. I wasn’t prepared for something like this.
Okay, so I’m not the strongest person in the world. I’m petite. I have wiry strength, but don’t expect me to lift a tree trunk off a dear friend or family member if they should happen to get trapped underneath one, because that’s not a service I offer. I dance, and I do it really well because I’m light. And I act, because there are plenty of roles for very petite people, even if I’m pretending to be a tradie who knows about tool box central locking and…gas bottles. And I’m happy to be part of a major debut production, really! Maybe one day we’ll be as big as Bats, Fandom of the Oprah or that other one that came out a few years ago. The one about the witches who start their own encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wiki, I think…argh, see how I lose my grip on even basic theatre stuff I should know!
It’s all because of last night’s rehearsal. The director had us swinging around aluminium toolboxes as part of a routine. That might have been difficult to begin with, but they insisted that we carry an entire set of tools inside because it makes things more realistic. Right, whatever, tell that to my dead arms and aching quads. All my years of dance training, and I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’m taking painkillers, but this thing is making my soul ache. Will I have to drop out? I’m just not cut out to be a workman, especially if it involve performing complex toolbox moves that make me feel like I’m going to put my back out.
No…I can’t continue like this. No way. I’m going to ask the director for another part. They won’t be happy, probably, but there are people around Melbourne who do aluminium toolboxes on a regular basis, and I am not one of them. I was born to dance.
Do you know what would be even more difficult than getting a fancy car on stage??
A giant monkey. Or ape, or…whatever Kling Klong was. I never quite understood all the hype about the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. What, the curtain opened and there was an ape all chained up? Where were the musical numbers?? Where was the actual entertainment value beyond looking at a thing for two hours? That’s why, if I ever get myself a gimmick or wonderful item, I won’t waste it by surrounding it with tat. Just last week I won a free Melbourne stretch limo hire session, courtesy of a theatre company who I’d done some work for in the past, editing their adaptation of the musical Violin Player on the Balcony. They didn’t like the fact that it was set in communist Russia because it could’ve been a trigger for some people, so they wanted me to edit the entire thing and make it so that it was set in Argentina during the Gulf War. I also made some alterations to the main characters to make them a bit closer to their adopted nationality, plus I rewrote the ending because the previous one was kind of a downer. Basically, I can now have three free limo rides.
I don’t have anyone to share this with, which is a terrible shame, but more minibar goodness for me! No, I’ll ask some of my friends. They’re the ones who helped me get this far, those who’ve whispered to me jobs of editing, told me about dance troupes that desperately needed someone to rework their choreography. We’re a team, and I think a fancy limousine ride should be the perfect reward. That, and we can discuss my upcoming project while we sit their in the limo and sip expensive beverages. I need actors, lighting people…this will be a business meeting of productivity and change. In a limo! Perhaps engaging the services of Melbourne’s limo hire is causing the glory to go to my head. I’ll have to calm down before I send out the invites.