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.