C/2-1 = 1000E

I turned 49 this week. Lucky me: I’ve now lived longer than the likes of Hawley Harvey Crippen, Al Capone, Joseph McCarthy, and Charles I.

I won’t deny, it’s not a good time. After a positive start to the year, everything has turned to dust. My weight has ballooned again. My writing has shrivelled and died. All the things I can to Karratha to achieve have faded and become ash. I’m sunk in misery, and it’s no real secret as to the reasons behind it– firstly, the death of my father, and the realisation of just how little it meant to me; and then, of course, the loss of our son Blake to suicide. Against such things, and the grief under which our family is struggling, it’s hard to find any positives in the world.

They exist, of course, in the lives that our other children are living, and the plans we see them making and carrying out. And I’ll talk more about those elements of our life more in my yearly round-up.

For now, I take pleasure in the gifts I have received from my loving family, and simply hope that my 50th journey around the sun brings better experiences than my 49th. It surely couldn’t bring worse.

 

 

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: 47 NOT OUT

 

I turn 47 tomorrow. There’s no hiding it: I am well and truly middle-aged, and looking down the barrel of being old.

I’m worried about my future. I feel like I’ve not achieved the things I want to achieve in life, and with a mortgage, a family, and all the responsibilities that come with being a fat, middle-class, hairy man, many of those things are now, realistically, beyond me: I will never fly a fighter jet; I will never be a practicing paleontologist; there’s a very real chance I will never join G-Force.

G-Force

“Is he… dressed… as a flamingo?”

I’m also worried that my achievements are all in the past. As I’ve aged, and responsibilities have multiplied, I’ve lost space and time for the selfishness that seems to be a requirement of the single-minded pursuit of excellence. It’s not like I come from a family of high achievers, either: I can’t think of single thing of lasting importance that the generations of my family before me have contributed to the world– and my Father’s side of the family has been traced back over 500 years, so you know, I’m not exactly riding the crest of a wave here.

 

Henry

Seriously, this is about as good as it gets.

So, with this uncertainty accounted for, and with a determination to rail against the fortunes of withering capacity, it’s time to take stock and consider five things I’ve done that set me apart from centuries of familial mediocrity, and lay out a set of markers to keep me moving forward into my onrushing dotage.

 

Five for Friday: 47 Not Out

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: 47 NOT OUT”

2016 ADDENDUM: THE YEAR I GOT INK

After delays, cancellations, and general faffing about, I finally received my birthday present yesterday.

I think it looks rather natty myself.

It’s my first tattoo, at the age of 46, and as I can’t afford a sports car, and I have no intention of having an affair with my secretary, this is about as mid-life crisisish as I’m likely to get. Of course, if you’re going to permanently scar yourself, the image should have some meaning, and this is no different.

I’ve always been a huge fan of The Prisoner, the TV show from which the image and quote are taken. The show is a meditation in individuality, personal choice, and the right to privacy in a world where the compromises you make in order to survive threaten the very notion of your right to exist as a discrete being. After most of an adult life spent trying to balance some sort of artistic career with the soul-destroying conformity of various Governmental jobs, the quote speaks for itself: it’s a reminder to me of the need to constantly assert my individuality in the face of overwhelming conformity. It’s cost me a great deal over the years: happiness, job satisfaction, advancement, and stress. But it’s the message that I cling to, because I’m more than another faceless bureaucrat, and my worth to the Universe is greater.

The penny farthing is, to me, a bumblebee: the least efficient, most nonsensical design for achieving its primary goal, but one that works outside of all logic and reason. It’s the physical manifestation of a wonderful Doctor Who line, spoken many years ago by the Third Doctor– A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting.

So, there we have it: thanks to my darling Luscious, the kids, and our good friends Kris and Kim, I’m a marked man. My physical nature is changed forever. And I’m rather pleased.

SOMEDAY SOMEBODY ELSE BESIDES ME WILL CALL ME BY MY STAGE NAME

A week or so ago, I turned 45. I’ve outlived Billie Holliday, F Scott Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Jackson Pollock…… of course, they achieved something, so, you know, I‘d better keep plugging away. My family celebrated by sending me out to see They Might Be Giants in concert– one of my very favourite bands, and as always, they utterly kicked it: their seven-minute, foot-stomping, pogo-inducing, stadium rock version of their 90 second children’s song Robot Parade will live long in the memory, as will bumping into a whole passel of colleagues and friends who were out getting their geekrock on. It was a weird moment– for reasons too long to go into, the last time I’d seen TMBG was on the night of my eldest daughter’s birth, when I was a very different person, with a wholly different life, and yet, some of the people I bumped into were the same people I had bumped into that night, as well, when I had only just dipped my toes into the world of authordom and SF fandom, and seeing their faces in the crowd was proof that I might, just maybe, have found my village. 14 years later, and it felt like seeing them again was an indicator of something I’d lost along the way– nice to see them, but an unspoken realisation that, outside of thee sorts of occasions, I’m rarely, if ever, going to do so.
 
It got me looking back at some of my earlier birthday notes, and in particular, some of the things I was contemplating when I turned 40, half a decade ago. Back in 2010, as I was contemplating my fifth decade stretching out before me, I confidently aimed my thoughts towards becoming a full time writer by, well, today. It was never likely to happen, I happily acknowledged, but it felt like something to aspire to. It felt like a goal that, knowing I could not attain, I could at least track progress towards. I might not be a full-time writer, I reasoned, but I’d at least be writing.
 
It was a positive thought, but then, I was pretty positive all round. Five years later, and I think it’s fair to say it’s not that I’ve strayed off the path, as that somehow I got turned around, and the trees are too thick to remember where the path was.
 
I’d just started my job, and it still looked like the kind of job that I’d lain awake at nights begging for. It’s not turned out that way. It’s soured in the intervening years, and I’m far more miserable there than it ever makes me happy. I have managed to sell three novels, and I’ve got no complaints there. But slowly, inevitably, the day job has chipped and chipped and chipped away at my creativity, and my time, so that I would be lucky to have written 10,000 words this year. Three short stories, one of them a commission, none of them over 4000 words. That’s been my lot. I haven’t drawn a thing in two years. More and more, if I have free time, I’ve spent it flaked out in front of the television or tucked away in the garage, beavering away at the Lego hobby I’ve used to fill in the gaps where writing used to make me happy. Artistically, it’s hard not to feel like my time has come: it happens to most of us, sometime or other. Sometimes life ends our creativity before death gets the chance.
 
So it goes.
 
Thankfully, what happiness I do have comes from my family. I’m now older than my parents were when they split up, and my children are exactly the same age as my brother and I were. It’s an odd little confluence of numbers, but it has gnawed away at me since I realised. In my own, personal, time-stream, the next 5 years weren’t good ones. I lost my home, experienced genuine poverty, was abandoned by friends and teachers, viciously bullied, was closeted in close quarters with an embittered, spiteful mother whose anger was quick to surface and always aimed as verbal barbs at the people who couldn’t escape them—my brother and I. I clawed my way through high school by sheer dint of refusal to capitulate. It wasn’t until I found my way to University, and the first genuine freedom I’d known in years, that I was able to draw breath, sort through my emotions and aspirations, and try to become something of consequence. The track was a narrow one, and I nearly fell off it completely—my brother did, and as a consequence, we haven’t spoken in several years. I didn’t, but it was a close run thing. I look back at the person I was before my first wife died, and genuinely believe none of you would have like him. I don’t, and I’m pretty certain I didn’t back then, either.
 
So, maybe, at 45, that’s my victory, and my task. I give my family a good home. My children are happy, contented, aspirational, safe, and comfortably middle class where both their Mum and I were scraping along the underside of the poverty line. My wife is talented, caring, constantly bettering herself and passing that betterment on to the rest of us for our own enrichment. We have money— if not in the bank, then at least in our pockets. Our food is fresh, or clothes new, our haircuts from a shop.
 
I’ve been an author, a stand-up comedian, a poet, a cartoonist, a tennis coach, a film student, a reviewer, a jewellery salesman, an artist. I thought that would last forever. I certainly thought so five years ago. Now, contemplating the next five years, I can’t help but think that side of things is over. I’ve shrunk, until I’m just another husband and father with a hateful job and too much TV. I just have to be a good one.

DROOPY DRAWERS, FORTY FOUR

I turned 44 years old on Tuesday. To be honest, I don’t know what to make of it. Lyn and the kids were beautiful to me, allowing me time to open and build my great big birthday Lego set and serving me a dinner created especially for me. And my bonus sons Aiden and Blake, as well as their respective girlfriends, gave me gifts that showed they really did think about what I like and what sort of person I am when I allow myself the space to simply be my private self.

It’s a big thing, for me, when I receive gifts from my bonus children– I came into their lives when they were pushing towards their teen years, and they would have every right to consider me solely as the man who married their mother, rather than any sort of friend or father figure. I’d understand their reasoning, if they did, because I’ve already lived with that sort of attitude– my parents separated when I was only slightly older than they were when I came into their lives, and my stepfather made it very clear that he was only interested in being a part of my mother’s life, not mine or my brother’s. He even refused to marry her until we were both out of the house. But they don’t. They took me into their lives as much as I tried to make them a part of mine. They not only remember my day, they mark it as something to which they attach importance, and that makes me feel like I’ve done something right by them.

And knowing that the members of my family see me as someone important helps, because right at the moment, my daily life seems to come with a high degree of difficulty: my day job is trying, and I’m struggling with the responsibility of several events I don’t wish to run yet have to acknowledge fall squarely within my portfolio; the events I normally do enjoy running have left me flat and uninspired; after a positive start to writing work this month I’ve pretty much abandoned Nanowrimo and am taking stock of my upcoming work; the novel once known as Magit and Bugrat is to undergo another title change at the publisher’s behest and has been pushed back a second time, so that it will appear far enough into 2016 to pretty much destroy any career momentum it might have helped maintain in the wake of the Corpse-Rat King books; and all in all, I’d rather just be at home with Lyn and the kids, preparing for our move to the new Batthome and enjoying a quiet and self-driven life together.

Perhaps it’s my mid-life crisis calling, but I’m feeling a little sick and tired of living my life at the beck and call of outside parties.

I read over the blog post I made this time last year, and it was full of grand plans for the year between then and now. In the end, almost none of them came to fruition. So, no big plans for me this time. No announcements or prognostications. All I want for this coming year is to move to my new house, find a measure of peace with my family, and try to rediscover some sense of personal satisfaction with what I see in the mirror.

The way I feel right now, that would be enough.

THIS ONE GOES OUT TO THE ONE I LOVE

My darling wife, Luscious Lyn, turns 45 today.

It’s difficult for me to believe that we’ve been together, now, for over 11 years. Every day feels like a first. There’s a freshness, a spirit, to our relationship: it constantly reinvents itself, changes shape and form and direction, so that I’ve never once felt any sense of stalemate, or a lack of passion.

She’s a woman of immense strength, my Lyn, of intensity and lyricism and devotion. She forgives everyone, sees benevolence and righteousness everywhere, puts the whole world and its achievements above her own. She is by turns humble, empowering and sacrificial. And these great strengths are also her great weaknesses, because they drive her into areas of self-doubt and lack of belief that she doesn’t, in the slightest way, deserve. She is capable of great things, and while she achieves them on a daily basis– overcoming health issues, raising children through the onset of myriad serious, life-changing issues, coping with a past that would keep seasoned horror writers from their sleep– she holds within her the capacity to create something that will change the way the world looks at itself, if she believes in herself long enough to do so.

She is the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning, and the last thing I see before I fall asleep at night. She bookends my thoughts like she bookends my day– nothing I say or do happens without her in my mind. She is the centre of my life.

Happy birthday, my beautiful wife.

PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER AS A 70 YEAR OLD

It’s my Dad’s 70th birthday today.

It’s an odd occasion in many ways: as I’ve spoken about before, we have a friendly relationship if not an overwhelmingly close one, and he really is the last link between me and what I think of as my ‘old’ family: that traditional family structure of my birth– my mother is dead, I am estranged from my brother and see no way of going back, I have never been close to any cousins or grandparents and never see them beyond the occasional visit from overseas relations or bumping into each other in the shops, which suits me fine. Dad is it, and even though we live no more than thirty kilometres from each other, we’re far from in each other’s pockets.

I’ve never thought of him as old. Perhaps you never do with parents– I don’t know. Mum died when she was 61, which certainly is not old, so I’ve no experience in the mind set. But there’s no denying that 70 is an age where the average lifespan begins to loom on the horizon: certainly, there’s got to be a point where every year begins to feel like an extra year, one you’ve been granted rather than taken as your right. Or perhaps I overstate the age thing because of my own particular phobias. Either way, I find it difficult to associate my old man with an old man. There’s the understanding, at the back of my vision of him, that one day he’ll be gone and that somewhere along the line I’d better start preparing myself for that eventuality.But not now.

For now, he’s only 70. There’s plenty of kick in the old bugger yet. I’ll drop in on him after work today: the kids have made him cards, and I have a present and a hug for him. We may not be in each other’s pockets, but he’s still my Dad.

Happy birthday.

TIME TO START CHECKING OUT GUN SHOPS

My daughter lost her birth mother when she was just 4 days old, thanks to a criminally incompetent doctor and a hospital that would be lucky to operate successfully as an abattoir. As starts in life go, there would be few less auspicious. 

Today, she turns 12. Thanks to Luscious, the mother I met when she was 14 months old and she chose when was approaching 2, she has grown into a stylish, graceful, intelligent, mature, wondrous child, at whom I marvel every day. There is nothing of me in her: she has her birth mother’s looks, and her Mum’s dignity, optimism and unwavering moral compass. She is a developing artist, a burgeoning cook with a fine line in muffins (another skill in which she follows her Mum), an fan of Katniss Everdeen, a listener to Goon Shows, Queen of the colouring-in competitions (undefeated in 12 attempts over four years). admirer of Pink, chooser of NuWho over Classic Who, with a heart like a planet and a caring nature and fierce desire to learn that constantly fills me with joy, consistently at the top of her classes, recommended by her teachers to stand for School council, awarded and rewarded and valued by all who meet her.
She is the kind of 12 year old I never even attempted to be, and truly precious to us. 
Happy birthday, my girl. 

NOT RUDE, AND GINGER. AND NINE.

Our youngest son turns 9 today. I can’t tell you how many times over the years we’ve not been sure he’d make it. It’s been a struggle for him every step of the way: from several major miscarriage concerns before he was born, to multiple operations, to his current illness, he has battled and overcome more in his few years than I have faced in my 43. He has to be home schooled, he can’t join any sporting teams, he has few opportunities to make friends and undergo the kinds of social interactions children of his age should be taking for granted.

And yet: he is the brightest, happiest, most clued-in 9 year old kid I’ve ever met: quick of thought and wit, with a boundless fund of optimism and goodwill, and a robust personality strong enough that he is unafraid to face down adults and claim “That’s your opinion, but mine is different” when we disagree over subjects of taste and perception. A huge fan of Doctor Who and Lego and Batman Beyond; a lover of music as wide-ranging as Black Sabbath and John Dowland; a writer of haiku and book reviews; budding scientist; amateur paleontologist; dinosaur freak; obsessive watcher of Gary’s Mod videos; opinionated Star Trek- DS9 fan; maths lover; science nut; Iron Man fan and all round rock ’em sock ’em rough and tumble human spider boy’s boy.

In short: he’s brilliant.

Happy birthday, beautiful boy.

IF LIFE BEGINS AT 40, WHY AM I 43 AND HAVE NO LIFE?

So, I’m 43 now, and it’s weird, but I don’t feel any wiser then I did when I was 42.

Actually, it was a good turning, this year. For a start, the day of my birthday fell on my RDO, so, you know, free day off. I was gifted up the wazoo– a massive Lego set from Luscious and the kids and the 4-DVD box set of Sealab 2021 from Aiden, which pretty much covers my geekdom from front to back so I was a happy fat man. And I was the victim of a surprise birthday lunch attended by several friends, so I ended the weekend feeling like a suitably pampered and satisfied birthday boy: my thanks to Kris & Kim McMinn, Stephen Dedman and Lily Chrywenstrom for coming down to the Batthaim and making my afternoon such an enjoyable one. And thanks to my darling wife and beautiful children for reminding me that they’re sneaky bald-faced liars who can’t be trusted…. but lovely ones, who are good to me. 🙂

Multiply 9 by 14, divide by 9.14, add 9, subtract 14, multiply by some other number and take away some stuff, and it’s suitable for age 43!

Professionally, I don’t know what to make of my life. I’m at the best day job I’ve ever had, but, well, it’s still a day job, and when it comes down to it, I begrudge anything that takes me away from Luscious and the kids, and equally begrudge anything that takes me away from the one thing I want to do with my life, which is to build this writing career I thought I’d have by now. I resent work when I’m writing because it takes me away from that writing, and when I’m not writing I resent it because it’s the block that stands between me and the writing I should be doing.

And right now, I’m doing a bunch of writing. Having signed up for Nanowrimo again this year I’ve managed just under 8000 words on Canals of Anguilar, my latest novel, which isn’t Nano speed but it’s 8000 more words than I managed in October, so it’s doing what it needs to do. And while I can’t reveal details until contracts are finalised and formal announcements are formally announced, I’ve been invited to present a workshop at a pretty damned decent writer’s festival in 2014 and I’ve sold Magwitch and Bugrat, so you can officially add “children’s author” to my list of crimes against humanity. All in all, despite feeling like I’m betwixt and between in my writing career, I’m making some advances which– I’d like to think– are going to take me further afield than the small genre pond in which I’ve been swimming so far.

All in all, 43 is not a bad place to be so far.

So, for the moment, work will continue apace. Between now and 44, I’ll complete Father Muerte & the Divine and Canals of Anguilar and send them off to Agent Rich, and I’m itching to get my teeth into a crime novel, so I’d like to be well into the wordage on one by this time next year. And if I’m going to be a children’s author I’d better do that properly, too, so let’s say I’ll have another kid’s novel under my belt as well. The artists who fascinate me– and who I’ve most wanted to emulate– are polymaths, and while adult novels/children’s novels is hardly the spread of talent to match the ‘trumpeter/actor/poet/comedy God’ skill set of Spike Milligan or David Bowie’s ‘musician/actor’ oeuvre, it’s what I’ve managed to score so far so I’d best make the most of it.

That’s an awful lot of writing, especially as we continue to deal with master 8’s illness and the range of issues that come with cramming a family of 5 into a ginormous house on a single wage, but what am I going to do? I’m two years away from the goal I set myself when I got into this game– writing full-time by the age of 45– and while I’m prepared to adjust that goal I’m not resigned to doing so. All I can do is get on with it.

And while I’m wishing, I’d like a unicorn…

N-OVER-EMBER

Agh, finally.

Yes, today is officially the second day of the following month, but for us, with the last of Erin’s friends having just left from her birthday sleepover, November is finally, finally over.

November means:

Nanowrimo. I acted as ML for my region for the third year, as well as working on Father Muerte & the Divine, for which I wrote a shade over 43 000 words, and completed. I topped up the other 6 000 and a bit words by beginning The Sin-Eater’s Lonely Children, working on the Muerte synopses, and various associated fiction tasks.

The Day Job’s Literary Month, involving organising and running a five hour writing marathon on a Saturday night complete with guest speakers and a metric fuckload of giveways; the awards presentation for the City’s short story competition on a Tuesday night; and a two hour seminar by Dr Helen Merrick on the following evening. All within a week of each other.

Three birthdays: mine, Connor’s, and Erin’s. Connor and Erin had a birthday party each. On the same day. At two different locations. Never. Bloody. Again.

Nnovvember. My first attempt at contributing to this mass Lego community initiative, to build a Vic Viper model to help commemorate the passing of popular builder and AFOL Nate ‘nnenn’ Neilson.

All this on top of the usual writing work, day job work, family commitments, swimming lessons, preparing the house for sale, blah blah etcetera and so forth.

I’m buggered.

BUT: I have a completed novel, two happy kids, new Lego for myself, no more work events for the rest of the year, and the first Lego MOC I’ve built that I think matches up to the rest of the Flickr stream, so we’ll call it a draw and now I’m going back to bed.

And because I promised, here are the pictures of the finished Viper.

From the top

Facing

From the rear, showing greebles and biplane wings

Side view, showing twin forward pods, and the connection between hull and engine, which…

…rotates.

And the underside, with all the transparent goodness and weapony-looking bits.

Comin’ atcha!

THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING. MINUS ONE.

So I turned 41 two days ago. And it probably says a lot about the state of mind that I find myself in these days that this year’s present of choice was, you guessed it, Lego.

Two very cool kits made it into my collection: the fun-to-build and adaptable Creator Log Cabin, with three different designs of varying degrees of difficulty and a whole host of blocks, plates, roof slopes and basic elements that make me itchy to play about with architectural designs. And with $50 from my father and stepmother, I stepped out to the shops and came home with the mad-as-a-mad-thing Space Truck Getaway set from the Space Police III series, a bunch of sets I love for their insane space-punk look, plethora of speciality parts, and alien minifigs that were obviously the result of the designers getting a little too smashed at a Friday sundowner one week and seeing what they could get past the bosses.

They’re also all but off the shelves in my lonely corner of the world. I got lucky with this one because I managed to find it tucked down in between shelving units at my local Toyworld, where it had obviously been knocked off, slipped down, and become both stuck and forgotten over time. That, my friends, is what we call a score 🙂

Then out of nowhere, Luscious Lyn’s best friend Catherine came over to attend the Nanowrimo Night of Writing Dangerously event I had organised for last night, and presented me with the enormous Alien Invasion Mothership, with another bucketful of fun specialty parts including the much-wanted by Connor Lime Clinger, so it was happy building time all round!

My darling, naturally, both went against the general theme and provided me with the most individually desired gift. It’s our little ritual to provide each other with a book, and The Monster’s Corner is one that prompted instant lust when stumbled upon in a bookshop recently: how could you not want it once you spy that cover?

Straight to the top of my reading pile, baby! :))

41 isn’t any different to 40, of course, and a birthday really isn’t any different to any other day of the week, especially if you don’t get the day off work to laze about and pretend you’re King of the House. But this year it’s been an indicator, and high watermark, of big changes in my way of life. In the weeks leading up to it I’ve entered into a quantum change in writing direction, engaging an agent and pretty much completing the switch from short story writer to novelist; I’ve embarked on a series of projects that will lead me into a new sphere of professional work; and I’ve re-engaged with a childhood pleasure that’s given me an outlet that I can pursue purely for fun’s sake– writing might be my major outlet, and it might be fun, but it’s been several years since I’ve approached any writing with ‘just fun’ in mind. I’m a writer. I sell what I write. It’s always a business.– I joke about my sudden Lego addiction, and my family jokes with me, but their willingness to indulge me and gift me with sets and time to piggle about with them show they understand the pleasure I’m deriving from it.

My family made my birthday special, as they always do, but it’s the acceptance and indulgence they afford me that keeps me smiling.

40 IS THE NEW 2 MULTIPLIED BY 20

A huge call out to the immortal Seanie– master of puppets, angry young man, bon vivant, legend, and best of friends– as he puts 40 years of bolshie misbehaviour behind him and joins the rest of us in looking like the result of a zoo project to breed an endangered species of Robbie Coltrane.

Here’s to the times, dude. May they continue long into the night.


We were Gods once, and young…. oh, we really were….

SOME DAYS, YOU GET THE BEAR

Today has just been one of those days where the good arrives in numbers.

This weekend is Luscious Lyn’s annual Jehovah’s Witness convention, so this morning the kids and I dropped her off at the Burswood Dome and shuffled into the Perth City Centre to pick up Blakey Boy’s birthday presents for next weekend.

As always, kids + me + Perth = the museum, to gape at the mummified thylacine, boggle at the size of the muttaburrasaurus skeleton, open all the drawers in the discovery centre, and generally run up and down the corridors pretending to be dinosaurs. Where the kids used some of their going-out money to make their Mum a badge because they decided she needed one to make up for not being with us. And the birthday-shops in question had mega-cool stuff just begging to be Blaked. And Connor was pulled out of the crowd around a street magician to be his assistant for a bunch of tricks. And even the happy meals the kids had for lunch contained exactly the right random toys to make them happy (A Wolverine for Connor and a singing Smurf for Erin.)

An anonymous street magician and the C-Train deliver the famous ‘Making Sure the New Pope is a Fella’ trick….

I, of course, did not have a kiddie-toy happy meal. Because I had already picked up these in the shop before lunch. I am 40, and I play with grown up toys….

Even my Ninjago will be ex-ter-mi-nated….

And to top it all off, my first short story acceptance in several months has dropped into my inbox this evening. Subject to editorial requests, Comfort Ghost will appear in the upcoming ASIM 56. I’ll let you know when.

Some days, everything comes up sunny.

AND AT HALF TIME, THE SCORE IS: LIFE 3, BATTERSBY NIL

So this is what 40 feels like, is it?

If you’d asked me a year ago, I’m not sure what I’d have told you about how I felt at the thought of turning the halfway marker and heading for home. (I’m working on an average lifespan of 8o here. Anybody who knows better about the avergae lifespan being shorter can keep it to themselves. I bet you never get invited to parties….).

I was trapped in a job that did nothing for my soul except eat it, with little to no hope of escape. I was unhappy about the flow of my writing career– I had become becalmed, and felt only isolation from my peers. My family life was happy, at least: I have a truly beautiful and wonderful wife, who is the central happiness around whom the family revolves, and my kids are the perfect combination of delightful and insane. But as good as it was was as good as it was going to get, and once I left the house it really wasn’t that good at all. Truth be told, I was spending more and more time not leaving the house: my sick days were piling up, my lunches were long and my leaving times earlier and earlier, and once the front door shut behind me, the last thing I wanted to do was drag myself out to spend time with people I knew weren’t that happy to see me and weren’t heading in directions I wanted to go.

39 wasn’t a particularly good place to be. The prospect of spending most of the last half of my life in the same situation wasn’t even depressing. It was just… numbing.

Then it got weird.

For the first thing, I escaped my job. Out of the blue, a position in arts administration became available, and bugger me, I got it. By the skin of my teeth– my gaffer will cheerfully admit they took a chance on me, and thankfully, cheerfully admit it’s worked out– but I was able to walk (Walk? Fucking RUN!) away from my soul-destroying job (the one I ate to find comfort from, the one that had helped me gain 20 kilograms, the one that had my wife begging me to stay home most Mondays so I wouldn’t come home so miserable and depressed) and start again.

Six weeks after I started I was on a beach, helping to install a sculpture exhibition. I spent the week of my 40th birthday administering the first art exhibition I’d ever curated. I’ve spent the last month organising 2 art exhibitions; 3 writing talks; an online writing group; liaising with the Navy, local yacht club and three bands regarding our Australia Day celebrations; and running a Nanowrimo region. I travel a third of the time that I used to, actually speak to my colleagues, oh, and enjoy going to work. It’s not too mad a claim to say that I saved my life by finding this job. Not too mad at all.

Added to which, somewhere in amongst all that, I turned a corner in my writing career. Perhaps it was the change of heart that came with the change of job, but suddenly, I forgot to give a damn what people thought of me. I forgot to get caught up in the politics of the scene. I forgot to keep in touch with people, and in doing so, went a long way towards learning who the people were that wanted to keep in touch with me. The only thing I remembered to do was take joy in the writing act itself. I wrote a novel this year, and a bunch of poems, and drew some cartoons, and none of them will see the light for a while, if ever, but the novel’s good, and the cartoons were fun, and I like poetry.

And I have no idea what the rest of the world is doing. I haven’t read a blog for nearly a year– sorry to those of you who have blogs and are taking the time out of your lives to read this. I apprecaite your interest. But when it comes to reciprocating, for the first time in a long time, I’m too damn busy, and it’s good. I used to read blogs to keep away from writing, and now I’d rather write. My peers interact with me when they want to, if they want to: the lovely people at the Australian Writer’s Marketplace commissioned me to write an online SF course during the year, and I’ve had a constant trickle of communication from friends and colleagues that I’ve accepted on its own merits rather than going out searching for it. I’m more balanced, obviously, and happier. But I’ve also shucked away a lot of dead wood, a lot of former friendships that I had to realise were dead before I could comfortably offload them. Life is lighter now.

And now I’m halfway through another novel– the Father Muerte one I mentioned at the start of November. 51 000 words, to be reasonably precise. I’ll be finished it by the end of January, by which time it’ll be something like 2 years since I’ve seen a short story in print. But I’m even writing them again: I’ve got some markets I want to try, and a rewrite that an editor is asking for, and strangely, the writing life is enjoyable again.

So, cliches about life starting and blah blah blah aside, being 40 looks pretty good so far. My happiness isn’t perfect– I’ve got an awful lot of excess weight I have to lose; I’m in pain a fair bit of the time, although I’ve come to live with that; and seven of us in a house on a single wage means we won’t be seeing Rome any time soon.

But I am happy, and that alone is a massive change of outlook from a year ago.

There’s a lot gonna happen kid. Don’t forget to duck.

WHILE WE TALK ABOUT BIRTHDAYS

November is a mad-ass month for birthdays around here. In three weeks, half of our family have one, not to mention my neice Zara (Hi, Zara!), starting with myself on the 11th and culminating in Erin in the first week of December. That’s 5 in all, in 24 days.

So to my sensational 6 year old, the Connorsaurus, and my beautiful 9 year old Erin Jane Butterfly, all my love. There’s no end to the joy and wonder you both bring to my life.

EIGHT ME ALIVE

Erin is 8 today.

It is too easy to lapse into hyperbole when talking about your loved ones. But it is nothing more than unvarnished truth to say that, without Erin, I would not be alive. The story of why belongs in the past, but at the time, she was the rope I clung to in order to climb back to the world. Without her, I would not have met Luscious. Without her, I would not have found a new family. Without her, I would not have seen the life I have seen over these last 8 years. She carries within her the part of me that I lost, and could only regain through her.

She is a child of caring and delight, who thinks Captain Sensible is marginally better than Pink; who sees no problem in growing up to be an artist, dancer, teacher, and nurse all at the same time, as long as she can still play basketball; who will thank a friend for coming to play by making her a set of earrings; who can make horns with her lower lip and turn her tongue upside down; and I cannot look at her without a blinding pride.
Happy birthday, my most beautiful daughter.

HIGH FIVE!

5 years of my wondrous, joyous, wildly brilliant boy.

He can’t decide whether he’s going to be an astronaut or the Stig when he grows up, so he plans to be both. He knows that his secret Santa is Santa, and is the terror of face-painting ladies everywhere with demands to be made up as The Hulk or Four-Arms or (on one memorable occasion), two dragons fighting. When he hugs he does it with his entire body—arms, legs, and head—and he is the inventor and proud copyright owner of the noggin bonk kiss. He will be the first man to set foot on Mars, and while he’s there he’ll probably wee-write his name in the sand for a laugh.

He is unutterably, indisputably, and infinitely precious to me. I would burn the world rather than see him suffer a single moment of pain or misery.

Happy birthday, my beautiful little boy.

THIRTEEN LOTS OF THREE

I’m 39 today.

We’ve kept it low-key this year. Lyn’s faith is such that she’s uncomfortable with making a fuss about birthdays, and whilst I take up the baton and organise the kid birthdays (My Facebook friends can tell you about how sweary I became recently whilst organising Connor’s McDonald’s party last week…) for myself, I’m not so fussed. I picked out my own present a month or so ago– massive gag cartoon collections from Punch and The New Yorker– and a certain level of skintness has meant that, rather than head out to dinner as is our normal wont, I’m about to be fed a massive plate of home-made butter chicken, crack open a beer (in honour of the way I generally feel these days, we’re trying out something called ‘Fat Yak’ ale), and then trough my way past a bowl of amazing slow-cooked peach & apple cake with custard.

Yum 🙂

However, one tradition remains untouched, and that’s my moment of birthday morbidity. To whit, my annual list of far more famous and talented people who I have outlived. This year’s offering involves pirates, porn stars, junkies and suicides, which should tell you the sort of company I’m keeping these days 🙂

Ta, as they say in the classics, da:

  • Blackbeard
  • Charlotte Bronte
  • Harry Chapin
  • Dimebag Darryl
  • Ted Demme
  • Lolo Ferrari
  • George Gershwin
  • Florence Griffith Joyner
  • John-John Kennedy
  • Sam Kinnison
  • Mario Lanza
  • Sonny Liston
  • Louis XVI
  • Anna Malle
  • Marie Prevost
  • David Rappaport
  • Charles Kingsford Smith
  • Johnny Thunders

MY GOD…. IT’S FULL OF TEENAGERS

Aiden had his 16th birthday party last night. He actually turned 16 a fortnight ago, but curses of curses, it happened on the first day of school, so apart from taking him out to dinner and giving him his presents, he had to wait until he could actually invite his friends over before he had a bash.

So last night, Lyn and I came home from the SwanAid picnic to a house full of teenagers, pizza boxes piled to the ceiling, zombie-rampage-killing games on the TV, and enough noise and general chaos that we took our dinner guest (the always lovely Sonia Helbig) and ran out to the patio in disorganised retreat.

Our soiree broke up some time after eleven. The ‘kids’ (two of whom are taller than me, mind…) were still going. They were still going when I got out of bed to tell them to turn the noise down. They were still going when I fell asleep.

Aiden’s cooking bacon, eggs and hash browns for breakfast, and the house is full of muzzy-headed teenagers talking in variations of “whuuummmuuh?”. It’s great 🙂

Happy birthday, Aidey-baby!

NO REST UNTIL… WORK TOMORROW?

There are times when having a big backyard and jumbo sized patio makes this house the best investment we’ve ever made.

Yesterday, for example.

Whilst a dozen kids aged between Jack (one) and Cassie (seventeen) rampaged their way back and forth from sandpit to swings to multi-ball brandy to climbing logs and back, we adults who had gathered for Erin and Connor’s joint birthday get together sat around the patio table in relative peace and quiet, quaffing mint juleps and watching the sun set over the cotton fields….. okay, so we had a sausage sizzle and beer and stuff, but it was still good. And Connor and Erin made out like bandits, the lucky doers.

We started the occasion with an influx of friends and family at 11am, and ended it 12 hours later with our in-laws and Cassie & her fiance Mark, who had been unable to get to our place before the evening due to work. We had a brilliant time, and the kids were in kid heaven, so a big thank you to everyone who joined us.

Now to clean up…..

FULL OF SUGAR, SHOWERED WITH GIFTS, HAPPY

Well, we managed to avoid a watermelon dinner 🙂

Thanks to a concerted campaign from Mummy, the brand-new four year old settled on tacos for tea, and scored himself a whopping great jam doughnut for his dessert. Needless to say, he was pleased with his choices, as were the rest of us– much wolfing down was accomplished.

And see if you can guess what present he loved most– the play-doh and accessory set from the whole family; the two Ben 10 Alien Force figurines (Spidermonkey and Swampfire, I’m told, for those with a need to know. I know them only as ‘the blue one’ and ‘that one looks pretty cool’) from the same source; or the Ben 10 soccer kit his big brother Aiden bought him?

I’ll give you a hint: he’s sleeping with his shinpads on….

I think it’s fair to say he had a good birthday 🙂

LAUGHING MY ASS OFF

When the kids have a birthday, one of the things we do is let them have whatever they want for dinner— doesn’t matter if it’s McDonalds or Chinese or Sizzler or something home cooked, as long as it’s not too outrageous, they get what they ask for. For Aiden’s birthday, went out to our local curry house. For Blake we made pizza pie and home-made wedges, and so on. We asked Connor this morning, fully expecting the answer to be one of pizza, sushi, or McDonalds.

He said ‘pineapple’

He’s said ‘pineapple’ now for just on 5 and a half hours. Until Lyn rang me five minutes ago to say she’d finally, after 5 and a half hours of solid negotiation, managed to get him to change his mind.

Now he wants watermelon……