A SHORT SHORT SHORT FOR YOUR EDIFICATION

One of the funninest sites to hop on to the Twitter bandwagon is a little thing called Thaumatrope, that publishes short stories of less than 140 characters in length. I’ve sold them a couple of stories– it’s funny how the possibility of money can turn what used to be random thoughts into a paying story idea– here’s my story they published for Valentine’s Day, for example:

They loved each other, and so gave freely of themselves. For her, his heart, in a velvet-lined box. In return, her face, tied with a bow.

If you have a twitter account, follow them: the likes of Mary Robinette Kowal, Alathea Kontis and Greg van Eekhout have contributed, and it’s a nice feeling to get some fiction in amongst the notices that Bill Bloggs has woken up and is about to go to the toilet.

Anyway, the reason I mention all this is that they’re closed to submissions, and I can’t be bothered waiting until they re-open to loose yesterday’s random idea onto the world. So have 140 words of free Battfiction, on me:

The drowned child returned. In her embrace he found an absolution missing for thirty years. When she returned to the lake, she was not alone

As you were.

TO LIGHTEN THE MOOD

Some brief but good news, writing-wise:

Final edits on Smuggler’s Moon have been delivered to New Ceres Nights tonight. The book itself is due in April.

And I’ve just been told that Sydney University Press will be publishing an anthology of Remix My Lit stories, due out on 4th May. I’ve been asked for, and have delivered, a bio, so I’m assuming Alchymical Romance will be amongst them. More details as they come to light.

HELL OF A NOTE TO GET

Dear Parent/Carer,

A Year 4 student at (our kids’) Primary School reported an intruder in the boys toilet before lunchtime today. He reported a man about 40 years old with long dark hair, dressed in dark clothing and wearing a mask. The man ordered the bout out of the toilets.

There’s more, but that’s the important bit.

After last week’s murder experience, we decided to move by the end of next year. Now, we’re moving as soon as we can get everything sorted out.

A MURDER TOO CLOSE TO HOME

Keen-eyed readers will be aware that my family and I live in Clarkson, a northern suburb of Perth (or southern suburb of Geraldton, according to several friends).

Keen-eyed watchers of the news will have heard that a murder occurred in Clarkson a couple of nights ago. You can read about it here and here.

Here’s the newsie round up: two groups men got into an argument over a girl whilst hanging out at a local primary school. One man stabbed another. His mates got him to hospital, then went to the stabber’s house and, unable to break into the locked house to gain their revenge, chased a friend into his shed and stabbed him 20 times, killing him.

Here’s our round-up: we live across the road from our son and daughter’s primary school. Directly opposite our house are a number of parallel-parking spaces. Beyond them, a path leads from the footpath into the school. From our front door to the basketball courts is a distance of maybe fifty feet. Our children walk that path twice a day, every day.

On Wednesday night, whilst Lyn was pulling the car out to take Aiden to guitar practice, several men ran from the school grounds, up the path, openly bearing weapons (Lyn mentioned at least one golf club) and screaming death threats at people behind them. They jumped into a car in the parallel parking spots, and screamed away, almost side-swiping our car in the process. By the time Lyn had dropped Aiden off, picked me up at the train station and returned home—maybe twenty minutes—the area was roped off and several police were in attendance. Twenty feet from our front door was a crime scene. These men had been in a knife fight. In our children’s school. On the pathway that our children walk down from the road to the basketball courts on their way to school. Twenty feet from our front door. These men then went and murdered someone in a house in our suburb. Murdered an innocent bystander because they were angry and seeking revenge over an argument about a girl.

I’m not stupid and I’m not naïve. I know about crime: I’ve seen it, been its victim, known perpetrators and criminals of various stripes over the years. I know it happens in suburbs and in homes. I’m not blind. I don’t even bat an eyelid at the notion of murder- I live in a city that’s played host to two of the worst serial murderers in Australian history, a city where people get thrown from traffic bridges and if the bouncers don’t get you in our nightspots, the gangs will. I’ve met suicides, prostitutes, and convicted drug felons. They don’t make rose coloured glasses in my prescription. But:

If Lyn had been half a second slower on the brakes, she and my children would have been part of this crime. They would have been innocent bystanders in the way of a gang of angry, armed men who had already (and would go on to) exhibit extreme, fatal, violence. I have no shred of doubt that they would have been seriously harmed. My children’s school is a crime scene. The path they walk every day of the school week is, quite literally, a blood-soaked crime scene. One of the two places my children should feel safest in the world has been used as a backdrop to gang violence and attempted murder.

I will not tolerate my family being in such an environment.

Aiden finishes his high school career at the end of next year. We will take that time to get the house ready, and then we will sell it, and move. Mandurah appeals: we have friends there, it is close to the town where I grew up, and it has everything I consider necessary for a good family environment. It is time to get ready, and leave.

GUEST BLOG: CLARION WEEK SIX- LYN BATTERSBY

And so we come, at last, to the end: the final week of Clarion South ’07, the final guest blog. And for a variety of reasons, there’s nobody better to look back at endings and partings than my own darling wife, Lyn Battersby.

Lyn’s gone from strength to strength since Clarion, although you’d be hard-pressed to convince her of that. Humility is a core aspect of her personality. Appearances in just about every Australian market, including highly regarded pieces in places such as Canterbury 2100, Daikaiju II: Revenge of The Giant Monsters, ASIM, and Borderlands, have consolidated her reputation as one of the most unique female voices in Australian speculative fiction. Horrorscope have anointed her as an Australian writer to watch and Alexandra Pierce, reviewing her story The Hanging Tree for ASiF, called Lyn’s writing ‘weird and interesting’– “you don’t want to look,” Pierce writes, “but you’re fascinated all the same.” Those who are familair with Lyn’s work would consider it an apt description- her stories horrify and mesmerise in equal measure, and those who read Battblush, her intensely personal Livejournal, will agree that is not just her fiction that has that effect.

Here then, to round off our look back at Clarion South 2007, is Lyn Battersby.

Clarion Week Six

Once upon a time there was a girl called Lyn. Lyn was a writer married to a writer. Lyn loved writing and with this in mind applied to join Clarion South, the six week ‘boot camp/Big Brother’ for writers.

Lyn signed up for Clarion South for one reason and one reason only. To get away from the family pressures for six weeks and write. (Okay, that sounds like two reasons, but it’s not. Take my word for it.)

She had a busy household that changed in number from week to week. Clarion South offered her the opportunity to go away for six weeks and be by herself. She could shut herself away from the world, forget it existed and immerse herself in the pleasures of the written word. Sure, there would be critting and being critted, but that wasn’t the real point of the exercise and she was fairly convinced the morning workshops would be a breeze.

If I could turn back time…

If I could turn back time I’d march up to Lyn and slap her on the upside of her head.

“Fool,” I’d say. “You think you got it made? You’re nothing but a one hit wonder, full of yourself because one little story got a bit of notice. You think the crits don’t matter, my friend? The crits do matter. They matter plenty, both to you and to the people around you. Go in there, concentrate, take it all in AND LEARN.”

In a way that did happen. Not by her – time travel is impossible – but by another class member and it came in the sixth week of her stay.

Yes, she was up herself when she started Clarion. She had been published in the small press. She’d even been nominated for several awards. She was going to Clarion for the peace and quiet and maybe to hand out a few words of wisdom gained from her experience as an author and editor.

What Lyn didn’t know at that stage was that she lacked agency. She let things happen to her and as a result the flash fame had petered out. What had happened to her star? Where had the brilliance gone?

It was during Week 6 of Clarion South that she learnt the most valuable lesson of all. My classmates had more to offer her than she could ever hope to return. They taught her that brilliance doesn’t lie in finding the perfect word, or having the perfect idea. Brilliance as a writer isn’t about talent or skill or being ambitious.

They taught her that brilliance is the child of two things: determination and humility.

Determination to believe in yourself and your product and to go after the best markets possible coupled with the humility to listen to others and accept that they are probably right when they insist that your character doesn’t have agency, or the POV is wrong or the plot mimics one used by another, more experienced author.

At the time it seemed silly to quibble over little problems during the first draft stage. It was only later, when the stories came out again and the next lot of drafting began, that those silly nothings took on a whole lot of importance and she realised what her classmates had been saying.
Then she could look at her work and say “They were right. This one word disrupts the flow of the whole paragraph.” Crits that had made her cry over the six weeks suddenly made sense. She made the changes accordingly and began to sell her work. And she thanked each and every 07 Clarionite for their contribution to her sales.

Two years on I look back at the Lyn who got off the plane at Perth airport, swearing she’d make it despite the six weeks of hell she’d just endured. I look back at her and I simultaneously want to slap her and hug her. “Yes,” I would say to her pale, sleep-deprived and homesick face. “It was hard. But believe it or not you’re now a better writer, editor and thinker than you were six weeks ago. In fact, you’re on the road to being a better person.”

She’d probably humph at me and send me on my way, but deep down she’d know it was true. She had grown within herself, thanks to the love and support of her sixteen classmates and seven tutors.

Six weeks of Clarion South were hard. By the time she finished she felt beaten and bruised and totally over writing. But she didn’t stop. And nor did they.

For her and her classmates Clarion South will never end. She has the emails to sustain her as well as the gauntlets and the phone calls. She’ll share in a wedding, a baby and a separation. She’ll share her acceptances and rejections with her friends and she’ll rejoice and commiserate with their news.

This story, unlike Lyn’s own writings, has a happy ending. Today Lyn does realise just how important Clarion South was to her. It helped her to become grounded within her craft, to look more critically at each word and to listen to all sixteen voices when they shout ‘ditto’ and ‘anti-ditto’.

And, to use an already clichéd addition to modern vernacular, that’s made of win.
___
Crits to note about this entry:

The 3rd person POV should be first person. 2 dittoes. Several anti-dittoes.

It’s too long. Anti-dittoes all around. Indicates length can stay.

The ‘Lyn’ character lacks agency. Well, I did establish that. Look at again.

The ‘Lyn’ character is well written and we see why she behaves the way she does. Good growth outcome. The ‘I’ character doesn’t have a background. What’s their motive? Resounding dittoes. Ummm, I don’t know.

The ending is clichéd. Everyone dittoed. But I state that in the text. I’m relying on the cliché. Remove it and find another ending that fits.

“I got the feeling that there should have been a third character mentioned. Maybe the week six tutor or something.” Tick Tick Tick. Add Simon into the next draft. Poor poor Simon Brown. He walked into a week where tempers were frayed. Thank goodness we ended on a high.

“I ditto the mention of another character but wanted to know more about the person who set Lyn straight in week six.” Total anti-dittoes.

“I anti-ditto that because I think the implication of the secret character works better than an actuality.” Only one anti-ditto. Everyone else dittoed.

“I think this plot was used before.” Check facts.

And that, my little darlings, was that. As the current crop of Clarion students head home to South Beach diets, AA meetings, and therapy, I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into why the students from two years ago know where all their local clock towers are, and exactly when the President’s cavalcade will be passing.