These long weekends are killing me.

Luscious Lyn and I came together as a couple after our first marriages had ended: for differing reasons, certainly, but ended nonetheless. In our younger years we’d both suffered through the break-up of our parents’ marriages as well. With children of our own we have remained determined that we will devote every ounce of energy to creating an environment that is loving, supportive, inclusive, and exciting for our children. We want them to have the happy, stable, rewarding domestic lifestyle we lacked as teenagers.

We’ve made any number of mistakes over the last ten years, but right now we seem to have achieved a wonderful balance: our kids are happy, creative souls; physically and mentally active; who feel safe and comfortable enough in their home environment to contribute their voices and opinions to our decision making without fear. We give them what we can, when we can, and they respond in ways that make us happy and proud. We share a range of experiences and adventures that challenge, reward, and grow them in equal measure. As a family we’re bloody happy.

This year, we ended our Foxtel subscription, and as we don’t get the commercial channels due to a transmission black spot and no desire on our part to buy the cable necessary to view a 24 hour stream of dogshit reality TV shows, we’ve been spending a lot more time in the evenings doing art projects, reading, playing in parks and down the beach, and quietly exposing the kids to the creative facets of our artistic careers. The kids have always been aware that Mummy and Daddy were authors, but this year, they’ve started to gain an understanding of just what that means, and what it entails on a daily basis.

Now, with their new-found understanding, they’re responding like the responsible, caring, loving children we know they are. They’re demanding we write a kids novel. 🙂

Lyn’s already started: Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs is funny, creepy, elegantly written and an absolute delight– anybody who has read any of Lyn’s work knows just how beautifully she crafts a story– and is so perfectly Lyn that I was prompted to post on Facebook that she “had found her true voice”, which pleased her no end, given she’s been publishing stories since 2001….

The kids were so excited they insisted we sit down and draw covers for the book (this is the sort of thing we would never have done with Foxtel in the house. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made…)

Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs, by Lyn Battersby
Illustrated by Connor Battersby
Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs, by Lyn Battersby
Illustrated by Erin Battersby
 Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs, by Lyn Battersby
Illustrated by Lee Battersby

And this last week I’ve found myself in a calm moment between projects– Marching Dead isn’t released for another month and I’m quietly making plans for the launch; Father Muerte & The Divine is written and I’m letting it ferment slightly before I go back and begin line-editing duties; the package for Naraveen’s Land is with the agent; and we’re still waiting to hear back from the publisher as to whether they wish to go ahead with Corpse-Rat King: Fall to Heaven— so what the hey: I sat down on Saturday and started writing Magwitch and Bugrat, a kids’ novel  had the initial idea for years ago but shelved until I could arrange all the pieces in my mind correctly.

Every night for the last week, we’ve gathered on our bed to listen to Lyn read the latest day’s Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs progress. As of Saturday, I’ve had to read the day’s Magwitch and Bugrat progress, too.

No pressure.

Here’s a taste:

“What do I do with it?” she asked.

“I told you. Kill it.”

“I’m not going to kill it. That would be…” Actually, Magwitch didn’t know what it would be. She was going to say ‘cruel’, but she didn’t actually think death wascruel. She had spent all of her life, what she could remember of it, anyway, surrounded by dead people. They didn’t seem unhappy. Dead people didn’t get cold, or tired, or skin their knees and bleed. They didn’t get thirsty or itchy or get rashes on their bottoms or have sore gums or stub their toes. They simply lay very still and quiet, and let rats use their skulls as homes and every now and again gnaw on one of their bones and they never complained. And dead people never, ever, cried. “…wrong,” she finished. Before Master Puppet could ask what would be so wrong about it she picked the baby up and held it to her chest.

“You touched it!” Master Puppet cried in outrage. “You went and touched it! Now you’ll have its smell on you! You’ll… you’ll… smell like a live person!”

So, three days later, I’ve cracked 3000 words. And what does a public holiday like today look like when you’re me?

  • 1100 words on Magwitch and Bugrat
  • 300 words on Fall to Heaven, just to get myself started so there will be something in place should Angry Robot give us the go-ahead.
  • Unpack half a dozen boxes of books and shelve them in the upstairs room, including all the graphic novels, now that we’re not going to move house after all and can start unpacking all the things we previously packed. Books come first. Always
  • Take delivery and set up the new computer for the kids, because the school demands an unbelievable amount of net access for homework and it’ll mean we don’t have to surrender my laptop for two hours every damn evening, which means I’ll be able to get more writing done.
  • Eat healthily all day, including yet *another* brilliant 400 calorie meal from Lyn (parmesan chicken bites, in case you’re interested). I’ve set myself a target of losing 12 kilos this year– not exactly a huge amount, but it’s necessitating a big change in diet, and it’s one we’re enjoying. 
  • Spend time with the kids. 
  • Get the dog washed, brushed, and cleaned of burrs. 
  • Spend nearly an hour with the whole family just having a conversation round the lunch table because none of really want to be the one to break it off. 
  • Curl up on our bed with Master 8 and Miss 11 and read today’s extracts to them.

And that’s the problem, you see. 

I keep having these brilliant, brilliant days when I’m at home with the family. And then I have to put them down and go back to work. Now, I like my job. I really do. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to say before. I really like my job. But I don’t love it. 

I love being an author. I love being a father and husband. I particularly love being a stay-at-home father and husband. I did it once before, way back in 2004 when I wasn’t a good enough writer to make it work and so had to go back to a job that made me physically ill every morning. But I have a good job now, that pays well, and satisfies me, and is good enough that I feel like the most ungrateful, mealy-mouthed cur alive every time I get all pissy and whiny because no matter how good it is I’d still rather be at home being an author and father and husband.

But there it is. Call me pissy and mealy-mouthed if you will. But these long weekends are killing me. These public holidays and weeks off and vacations are fucking killing me. Because they’re like tiny, bite-sized tastes of the life I could have, if only I were good enough, or talented enough, or deserving enough.

And I can only see 2 ways to break the cycle– become a shit father and husband and ruin the family environment so that leaving it to go to work every day is a blessed relief; or work like a frigging literary Trojan and get enough quality product out in a compressed enough time-frame that it begins to pay for the lifestyle. 

And I don’t like the idea of option number one……