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…

NANOTWOMO

Well, I’ve done it: I’ve signed on to Nanowrimo again for another year. This year’s project is officially Canals of Anguilar, the fantasy novel set in a city entirely populated by cowards I’ve mentioned earlier, but there’s likely to be some switching going on– I’ve just started a mainstream project with the alluring and sexy title of Killer Thing (pick the title in progress…) and I’ll be wanting to throw some words down on that one while the impetus is still fresh.

Working on two projects is allowed, right?

Anyway, come along and join me if you’re as novelling sort, and feel free to buddy me up. I’m not fussy: I’ll be friends with anyone who smiles at me the right way 🙂

(raises glass). Here’s to words.

HI-HO, AWAY WE GO.

Every City, no matter how beautiful, has a corner into which the shit floats.

And so it begins: a new project.

There’s something energising about hitting upon the right beginning. I’ve been in a slump lately, bereft of ideas, searching for artificial ways to stimulate my creative energies, worried that I had, perhaps, exhausted my ideas and really was now nothing more than a low-level art administrator. It happens. Some of the best writers out there hit a point where they’ve simply told all the stories they have within them, and walk away. Witness Harper Lee. Witness EM Forster.

Of course, what is always apparent, once I’ve passed through it, is that I was in my sponge phase: lying dormant, letting the waters sweep over me, filtering out the salt and the nutrients from the jet stream. And then I slap on the saddle and the family bunker down and prepare themselves for another 6 months of me being a grumpy bastard, or at least, a slightly differently grumpy bastard.

It always happens like this. I always forget that this is how it happens. I always have that moment of panic, that moment of despair, and then that moment of sullen acceptance. And that’s always when the spark hits.

In this case: in the car, on my way to work, out of nowhere. Just that first line, and the knowledge of where it fits.

The Canals of Anguilar. A short story that I wrote for the lovely Kate Eltham and the Review of Australian Fiction. 8000 words long, and yet I was never satisfied with it, never happy that I’d told the whole story. Because I hadn’t, and it was that single line, out of nowhere, that made me realise it. It’s a good story, don’t get me wrong: I only submit when I’m convinced I have something good, and doubly so for Kate.

But it’s going to be a better novel. Deeper, wider, with the stories I wanted to tell but was only able to hint at because of the compressed length. The short story is my synopsis, my outline. The novel doesn’t begin where it begins, it won’t end where it ends, but it is the blueprint for what I want to write to make me happy with the idea. After which I will descend into the sullen belief that  have exhausted all my ideas and really have nothing left to say as an author. Again.

Away we go.