My appearances on this blog have been brief and irregular lately: my day job eats my life, and leaves me little time to do more than throw the occasional shout out at my Facebook page at the moment. It’ll be a bit like this for a couple of months yet: bear with me. My day job/ home life balance should sort itself out soon, and I might find some more time to come here and post long, interesting, witty lines of banter to fulfil my dancing monkey obligations.
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.
So, Nanowrimo is seven days old, and amidst my Municipal Liaison duties, administering the Rod Garlett exhibition Sands of Gulgulga (and here) at the Kent Street Gallery, and organising the City of Rockingham’s own Nanowrimo events (3 rather cool writing/speaking events entitled “Nano Cafe”, with speakers Simon Haynes, Tehani Wessely and Dave Luckett), I’ve managed to get me just over 12 000 words down.
12 114 to be exact, on the long-talked about but never-anything-actually-anything-done-about Father Muerte novel, Father Muerte & The Divine.
In good old fashioned Nano tradition, word count is nothing without a widget, so here be my first Nano widgety o’meter-ness:
Plenty left to go, but a start is a start.
And tomorrow, they step through a rift in space and visit a civilisation of highly intelligent parallel-evolution dinosaur ghosts.
In all honesty.
National Novel Writing Month kicks off in a few days, and I will be bellying up to the nanobar again and trying to get some words down amidst the madness of a work-heavy month. If you’re also attempting to climb the word mountain, you can find me under the username leebattersby.
For my sins, I’ve persuaded the Nanos-that-be to create a new region—Rockingham/Mandurah—and if you’re local to that region then sign on up: a certain little black duck has been named Municipal Liaison, and I’ll be organising a bunch of stuff across the month to keep us all amused.
I’ll also be working on something I’ve threatened for a while: Father Muerte And The Divine, the long-avoided-being-thunked-about Father Muerte novel. Fans of the series have permission to send kind thoughts in the direction of my computer….
Head on over to the fabulous Mister Keith Stevenson’s podcast website Terra Incognita, and not only can you enjoy listening to the likes of Jason Fischer and Margo Lanagan reading their own fine work, but you can download the latest podcast—issue 24 features me, reading Father Muerte & The Flesh, the story that won the inaugural Australian Shadows award back in the day, and the third of the four Father Muerte stories to have seen print. Given what I’m working on during Nanowrimo next month (about which, more in a minute), it’ll serve as a bit of a taster.
Go. Listen. Wonder how Luscious puts up listening to that voice day after day after day…..
Well, (claps hands) that’s that.
All the submissions have been read, all the rejections have been sent, and now that the dust has cleared, I’m left with the 12 stories and 3 poems that make up the contents of Midnight Echo #4. Assuming nothing falls over between now and April, it’ll be my delight to present you with stories from the likes of Aurealis Award winners Chris Green and Geoffrey Maloney and international man about town Dan Braum, as well as the first poem penned by the lovely Jenny Blackford in many a long year.
I’ve received well over 200 submissions from all corners of the globe (quite literally!), and it’s a good feeling to be able to look at the final list and be satisfied that the works I’ve chosen are an accurate reflection of my views towards the art of horror writing, as well as damn good pieces in their own right. Will you enjoy them? It is to be hoped. But for now, I can move on to the second-stage editorial work— writing the editorial, shaping and editing submissions, discussing art and contracts with the appropriate AHWA Kahunas— and start to mold the final shape of the issue.
Stay tuned, and as soon as I get the all-clear from Midnight Echo Big Banana Marty Young I’ll give you the final Table of Contents.
A QUICK GLANCE INTO A NEARBY BUCKET
With the time-intensive scutwork of submissions editing out of the way, I can finally indulge myself once more with thoughts of my own work. The Battersby Art machine has been quiet of late, and there’s a lot of product to be fed into the business end. To whit:
- 2 novels need editing: Napoleone’s Land and Corpse-Rat King
- 3 stories are currently away in the world, and I have 2 more, The Possession of Mister Snopes and C to finish and send. The goal is to have completed and sent 15 by the end of the year, 12 from the partially completed work I have on hand, and 3 completely new pieces.
- 3 poems: Hart Crane, Treading Water; Wish Fulfillment; and Like A Leaf Falling need final polishes and sending out
- 3 cartoons are finished, I’ve 2 more that have been inked but not shaded, and I need at least 1 more completed after that to constitute a complete batch. The goal is to have 24 (or at least 4 batches) in circulation by the end of the year.
- And I promised myself that I’d complete a new novel by the end of the year, so I really need to get started on that as well. Still, on this score at least, you may be pleased by the following…..
SO IT BEGINS….
It began in a dream.
It has taken me a million years to leave my father’s embrace, and now I am falling. I am supposed to fall forever. I am never to touch the ground again.
Eight minutes after my fall commences, I start to burn.
Those are the opening words of the Father Muerte novel.
A QUICK WORD ABOUT PEOPLE TALLER THAN ME
He likes his privacy, so at his request I don’t make mention of him too much on this blog, but I’m breaking that rule because Aiden turned 17 a couple of days ago, and you need to know just how proud I am of the young man he’s become.
I simply couldn’t wish for a more intelligent, funnier, more capable, caring (as anyone who’s seen him with Connor can testify) and just generally excellent Bonus Son, and I’m excited by the thought of what’s coming to him in the years ahead as he navigates his final year of high school and heads on to University and the world beyond.
As soon as he acknowledges that System of a Down suck the devil’s dangly bits he’ll be perfect…..
Sat down this afternoon, motivated by the Luscious One writing an entire story since last night, and put pen to paper on the long-cat-vaccuumed Father Muerte & The Flesh. Just finished the bloody thing not 5 minutes ago, at a grand total first-draft length of 5029 words, 2979 of which I’ve ploughed through today.
Damn, I feel like I might be an actual writer again.