BRING IT ON, FUTURE BITCHES!

It being the last Sunday of the year– oh yeah, don’t think I don’t keep track of these things– Luscious and I peeled the children away from the X-Box long enough to deposit them in our favourite outdoor cafe and discuss our goals for the coming year. Every year we set some personal goals, as well as a list of things we’d like to achieve as a family. We stick them up in the kitchen where everyone can see them, and run a thick black line through each one as we achieve it: simple stuff, but remarkably effective.

I spoke about my 2013 goals, and how I maybe might have scraped a pass mark provided you squinted at them through a plate of sheet metal in a darkened room in my Year in Review post. So now, for your entertainment and my ultimate embarrassment, here are my goals for 2014:

  1. Finish and send Father Muerte & the Divine. It’s written, but it needs some heavy structural edits. It’s by far the most complex work I’ve undertaken, and the first draft reflects that. I’ve been avoiding it like a cowardly coward for about three months now, so it’s time to gird my girdables and get about it.
  2. Finish and send one picture book. I’ve actually started three, and it’s a fun holiday project. I’ve enjoyed the process of completing a children’s novel so much I’m eager to explore the territory further.
  3. Finish and send Canals of Anguilar. I managed approximately 12 000 words during Nanowrimo, until the month went severely southward and banjaxed all writing attempts. Along with the Muerte novel, it’s my next major novel work and I want them both off my desk by year’s end.
  4. Finish and send Cirque. A teen fantasy novel, I’ve had 15 000 words of it sitting in my desk for over a year, waiting for reasonsthat’swhydon’tjudgemeYOU’RENOTMYSUPERVISOR! I’m committed to expanding my repertoire. Here’s an opportunity waiting to be seized.
  5. Volunteer for the Aurealis Awards Graphic Novel section. I did this a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it. Simple as that, really.
  6. Exercise 4 days out of every 7. I’m not setting weight loss goals. I’ve done that every year for the last 5 or so years, and it’s never worked. This is a change of approach– I’ll work on the root causes, and if the weight loss follows, all the better. But at least I’ll be raising my energy levels, keeping my muscles limber, and dealing with the general health complaints that have built up and made my 2013 a difficult one. To which we can add…
  7. Stick to a controlled eating plan 5 days out of 7. Elevated uric acid levels, elevated cholesterol levels, and I’m a fat bastard. Bit of a non-brainer, really. Except I have no brain, which is how I got into this state in the first place…
  8. Write a list of 50 home maintenance tasks, and complete them. I hate our giant white elephant of a house. It’s a ramshackle, dodgily-built mistake. But we’re stuck here for the foreseeable future, so there’s little I can do but set about fixing everything that makes me so depressed when I look around.

So there it is. How will I do? Your guess is as good as mine. But it’d be nice to think the me that faces 2015 is thinner, fitter, happier, and has a more impressive writing CV than the one who faces 2014.

Also, I’d like a unicorn.

 

EVERY YEAR IS GETTING SHORTER, NEVER SEEM TO FIND THE TIME

Well, this is the end of it, I suppose, 2013. Can’t say it’s been entirely vintage.

There’s been good: As announced the other day, I’ve sold a children’s book and opened up a potential new market for myself. I saw my children continue to blossom into stunning young people, and Aiden moved out of home to continue his personal growth out in the wider world. Luscious found new skills and new levels of personal growth. And yet….

Master 9’s illness is well documented, and I can’t overestimate the effect it has had on us as a family. It touches every decision we make, every plan we undertake. Luscious, in particular, sacrificed almost all of her personal aspirations in order to care for him: setting aside her University studies; ceasing her search for employment; putting down her writing career for the duration. It’s only now, almost 8 months later, that she is beginning to think about how to incorporate some small measure of ambition into her life, now that his illness is so completely part of our fabric that we can deal with it automatically.

My day job has become simultaneously more complicated and a greater part of my daily thinking: new laws and an increased management responsibility have combined to severely curtail my own writing time, and I find myself more and more decided that what little spare time I have, I want to spend focusing on Luscious and the children rather than my own selfish ambitions. Our house continues to be a tiresome burden– a large, ramshackle mistake we should never have made– but with no financially-viable options, I have little choice but to invest a severe portion of my minimal spare time and spare income into its upkeep over the next few years. Either we sell up and move, or we reconcile ourselves to staying until the children are grown. We can’t sell, so the decision is made.

My day job is my day job, and it’s a good one– after aaaaggggghhh years in the Tax Office I know a good wicket when I’m on it, and I’ve been on it for almost 4 years now– but I’ve reached a position of stasis: I do good work, but I have no ambition to move further up the corporate ladder, so I either accept any changes that are imposed upon me or seek new employment, and I’m nowhere near ready to do the latter. And while comfort may be a good thing, being paralysed is not. There may come a time, one day soon, when I have to decide which one applies.

Our financial situation is, well, private, but I’ll go so far as to say that Thoreau was right, and we need to simplify, simplify, simplify. We have some hard choices to make, and there are days when I feel exhausted before I face making them. Put simply: we can’t go on like this, but what we can go on like is, as yet, hidden.

And, of course, I’m still fat, I’m still in pain, and I’m still not the man I thought I was going to be when I wanted to be one.

So what comes next?

If the story of my year has been anything, it has been one of growing disillusionment. I’ve found myself drawing away from speculative fiction, particularly as a reader: a quick scan of my Goodreads list shows that our visit to CrimeScene WA in October preceded a massive change in reading habit, and I’ve been swallowing crime books wholesale over the last couple of months. It’s a habit I’ll be continuing for a while, too: there’s only so far I can take myself as an SF author, and I can’t help but wonder, as I continue to be enthralled by the works of Walter Moseley, Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy and the like, whether I might be in need of an infusion of new skills, and new horizons.

Naturally, what I have attempted, are a couple of picture books. Because reasons, that’s why!

As it has been for a dozen years, writing seems set to be my refuge. I’ve started two picture books, and I’ll be completing them over the Christmas break. It’s time to finish the edits of Father Muerte & the Divine and get them to Agent Rich. And I want to have at least one adult and one children’s book completed in the new year, and be started on at least one other: I’ve not yet cleared my desk of speculative work, and in truth I may never do so– it’s simply the desire to expand my literary ambitions that I acknowledge. The best I can do is write as quickly, and as widely, as I can, and aim to move farther from my beginnings with each work. I’m too old and too busy to attempt to find another marketable skill– if I want to escape the mundane world, I’m going to have to write my way out of it.

It’s summer, and I’ve started walking in an attempt not to lose weight, but to simply inject some movement into my day– a desk-bound day job and a desk-bound second career do not make for an active lifestyle, and I’ve fallen too readily into torpidity as a way of life. I’m also addressing my eating habits: Luscious is a brilliant cook, and although I love to cook I find it all to easy to let her take the load and not contribute anything myself, making her carry the full responsibility for determining what we eat, how often, and in what ways. I’ve resolved to take more responsibility, to stop being the one to say “take a night off, let’s go and have chips”, to stop being selfish and undermine her efforts to keep us healthy. In short, it’s time to shoulder some of the load. Lyn always chooses the healthy option, but it’s my responsibility to back her up and put in a shift.

We have bikes in the garage, parks within walking distance, beaches surrounding us… it’s time I put in a shift there, as well. I have no intention of losing weight: I’ve tried that every year for the past five years, and all that happens is the month count decreases while the weight target does not, and as it gets more stressful so I crumple and give in. I’m just going to eat less and move more, and if weight comes off, all the better.

Financially, well, it’s time to face those hard decisions and make them. I’m naturally indulgent of my family: Luscious and I both had difficult childhoods, Lyn especially, and I very often use the desire to live a better lifestyle than we experienced as an excuse to satisfy my indulgent nature. It is, I think, time to grow up and start looking at bigger pictures than I have done in the past.

2013 was supposed to be a year of breaking out, until that plan met the enemy and couldn’t survive. 2014 will be a year of consolidation, of small changes in moderation. Lyn has already started: she can’t go back to Uni, not yet– we’ll be homeschooling Master 9 for another year at least– but she can enrol in short courses, and home-based education, and has already done so. The best I can do is follow in her wake, and gently nudge all those aspects of my life that have become trapped in the mud out of their ruts and onto drier ground. If that means I take steps towards a new horizon in 2015, then so be it.

As a final gift for the year, play clicky the linky to view a mix-tape of the 60 songs I highlighted throughout 2013 via This Is My Jam.

Here’s to 2014, y’all.

Review: Mr. Paradise

Mr. Paradise
Mr. Paradise by Elmore Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good, solid Leonard book that does all the right things at the right times. The plot is relatively straightforward, but as always in a Leonard novel, the main enjoyment comes from watching cool, clever characters prove themselves not quite as cool and clever as they think they are. The dialogue is a treat, the characters beautifully rounded, and the spiralling narrative, as everyone struggles to keep their heads just above water, is delightfully laced with humour and violence. a typical Leonard read, which means that it’s very, very good stuff.

View all my reviews

Review: Mr Majestyk

Mr Majestyk
Mr Majestyk by Elmore Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slick, understated and brooding with menace, this early Leonard book displays all the characteristics that would go on to be his trademark: simple, minimalist sentences that give the reader room to breathe; characters who aren’t ever quite as cool, or clever, or composed as they think they are; and a rapid escalation from calm to violence by way of events that leave an ordinary man taking extraordinary actions simply to keep his head above water. It’s a short, blunt and uncompromising book, but Leonard’s unmistakable talent for creating character and cast-iron verisimilitude lift it out of the ordinary. Excellent stuff.

View all my reviews

Review: The Somnambulist

The Somnambulist
The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I should have liked this book a lot more than I did. It has everything I enjoy in a fantasy: a well-realised, fantastical alternative cityscape; eldritch powers battling behind the scenes of a dimly-glimpsed complex political landscape; a lead character both out of step and trapped by the society around him; a hidden history that plays itself out in the present; and elements of freakishness that manage to be simultaneously mundane and disturbing, both to the reader and to those with whom they interact.

The only problem was, none of it seemed to hang together very well, and I found myself more concerned with the fate of several incidental characters than I did with the central protagonists, or with the narrative they were pursuing. The narrator’s voice is an intrusion rather than a seamless addition, and when his identity is revealed, it throws the veracity of the whole plot into doubt– there are far too many moments when he could simply not have known what was transpiring for the revelation of his identity to make sort of narrative sense– and undermines the entire narrative, destroying any verisimilitude. The reader has been conned, and it kills the book.

Ultimately, the whole thing felt empty, and those elements that did not fit– and there were several that worked too far against the grain– became irritants that I could not ignore. It’s mostly an enjoyable book. It’s just that when it wasn’t, it really wasn’t, and ultimately, the work as a whole doesn’t quite overcome those irritating moments.

View all my reviews