THREE DEEP BREATHS, STILL ALIVE AND… YAPPING ON A BIT

Yes, I’ve been away from the website for a little while. School holidays, then not-school-holidays, and family stuff, and the whole relief teaching gig, and you know, one day I find ten years have got behind me, no-one told me when to run, I missed the starting I seem to have become distracted……

One thing I have done, is to be interviewed by the talented Karen Lowry. Karen, a super Perth poet, has just finished writing her first novel, and we chat about world building, verisimilitude, writing habits, and just whether a sense of community is all it’s cracked up to be.

You can read the whole thing here.

DAY FOUR: ONE DOWN…… A DIFFERENT ONE DOWN……

It was a day of achievement today: after kissing Luscious goodbye (there are advantages to undertaking a residency within driving distance of home- a visit from your wonderful wife is one of them), I embarked upon my first engagement of the fortnight– a forty-five minute interview by the participants of the KSP Press Club, led by my old pal and fellow author Melinda Tognini.

Continue reading “DAY FOUR: ONE DOWN…… A DIFFERENT ONE DOWN……”

IN WHICH I TALK IN REAL LIFE WITH ACTUAL PERSONS

You might remember: a little while I mentioned being interviewed for writingWA’s Cover to Cover program. 


Well, the interview has gone live! 


So if you have a spare thirty minutes, and want to hear me talk about writing Magrit, the fearlessness of children, my processes, and how absurd my children are, now you can watch it all in spectacular Life-o-Vision ™!

MAGRIT GETS SOME BRAG

How’s this for pretty? It’s a brag sheet developed by Walker Books to remind you all that all the cool kids in town like Magrit and you should definitely get yourself a copy so everyone will think you’re cool, too.

I mean, really, you really should.

In other news, I’ve been interviewed by the delightful Meri Fatin for writingWA’s online program Cover to Cover. It’ll be available on their YouTube channel from the 20th April, and here’s me looking all grown up and respectable while I pimp it:

Here’s the official poster:

Tune in from the 20th for half an hour of me talking all things Magrit, children’s writing, and how difficult it is getting through an entire novel without dropping an F-bomb…

2014 SNAPSHOT

In happier news, the Australian SF Snapshot series of interviews is being conducted again, and once again I have been snapped and shotted in what’s becoming increasingly like a 7-Up version of my again self.

This time, journalist Nick Evans has asked the questions, grilling me on the transition from adult novels to childrens works, my Australian TBR pile and just what the hell I think I’m doing with what’s supposed to be my career.

 You can see my response here.

ODDS AND SODS

A few mathoms too small for their own post:

LEGO BOY SPEAKS

Over at Paul’s Technic Blog he’s running a series of short interviews with AFOLs of various stripes. I chat about how I got sucked in, how my family don’t remember what I look like and what I like to build towards the bottom of the page.

LEGO BOY BUILDS

The Perth Lego User Group’s June challenge is to build something in ‘micro’ scale– that is, at a scale smaller than 1:1 with a minifig. Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m building in response.

No explanation for you.
 
 
 
NEW WORK. VERILY, NEW WORK.
 
Circumstances prevailed, recently, and I was forced to release my agent. A short slough of despond ensued, and frankly, I was facing the idea I might decide never to write again without a whole lot of regret.
 
Then The Hall of Small Questions stuck its head up and forced me to put aside all that rubbish.
 
5000 words in the last 4 days is the result. I should have a new novel draft finished by the end of the year. In the meantime, I’m working towards finding a home for Father Muerte and the Divine, to make up for the 3 months I’ve lost waiting.
 
Here’s a little peek at the progress of HoSQ:
 
“We are not a Holy Order,” he said as we stalked down yet another corridor between rooms whose function I could barely comprehend. “We are not by Royal Appointment. We do not have a board of Governors, nor do we accept patronage, donations, sponsorship or favour. Why…” he asked, stopping so suddenly that I almost buried my head between the folds of the gown hanging down around his arse. “do you think that is?”
           
I stuttered, thrown off balance by the sudden change in the flow of his oratory. “I don’t know.”
           
“Do not say that!” The anger in his voice was sudden, and fierce. “A Requester is not supposed to know. A Requester seeks. He questions. You do not not know, you shall do your best to find out!”

 
 

THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT or HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BLOG

Ye Gods. Where does the time go? Busy busy busy. There’s been a 2 week holiday in there, somewhere: two weeks where I kept the hell of Facebook and the internet and writing while I bent my back over exercise and gardening and house maintenance tasks that needed doing—and lost 2 kilos into the bargain—and entertained myself with my Lego addiction. And damn it if I’m not happier for having done so.
So. What’s gone on in that time? Bits and bobs, my friends. Bits and bobs.
DAGGER, DRESNIA, ONE THEREOF

Swancon happened over Easter, and I wouldn’t have paid much attention this year except that, for reasons known only to her, the lovely Satima Flavell-Neist asked me to say a few words in her defence as she launched her debut novel, The Dagger of Dresnia.

Satima’s a fantastic inspiration to anybody who feels like they’ll never achieve their publishing goals:  The Dagger of Dresnia is the result of 11 years of hard work, faith, and perseverance, and it’s pleasing that she’s managed to partner with an aspiring press like Satalyte Publishing, who are looking to stake out a permanent place in the Australian publishing landscape. It’s a bold venture, and I’m hoping that both Satima and Satalyte receive the very best of fortune, not to mention sales.

If you can judge a person by the quality of their enemies then Satima must be rubbish indeed, especially if you can get the likes of Juliet Mariller and Glenda Larke to speak at your lunch. Or maybe that just speaks to the quality of your work, and of you as a person, non?

The Dagger of Dresnia is book one of a trilogy, and you can purchase it from the Satalyte website here. I managed to snaffle a few quick snaps of the launch in between talking-type duties:

A formidable ‘Dagger of Dresnia’ cake, baked by local author Carol Ryles

Satima reads an excerpt

Busy at the signing table
Guest speakers Juliet Mariller, Glenda Larke and Michelle Drouart wonder where to stick the knife, while Carol Ryles stands by and lets them kill her cake.

STEPS FORWARD, SAYS A FEW WORDS

Rockingham children’s author Teena Raffa-Mulligan has started a new blog, In Their Own Write, dedicated to writing advice and experiences from the mouths of established authors.

In her wisdom, she’s asked me a few questions, and I’ve told the world to milk cows and have sex. And some other stuff. Go here and read my interview, and catch the rest of her line-up here while you’re at it.

THE BOY IS BACK!

Almost a year to the day ago, Master 9 came down with a mysterious illness that caused him to vomit more than 40 times a day. School quickly became impossible. A normal life became just as impossible. Luscious withdrew him, put her life on hold, and set out to home-school him while she and the medical profession set out to determine what was wrong.

A year later, with a diagnosis of Rumination Syndrome under his belt, a year of the hardest emotional work I have ever seen a parent put into a child paid off. His vomiting has diminished to the point where he can go entire days without vomiting, and generally, if he does, it’s once or twice a day at worst. He and Lyn have battled every step of the way: against the illness, against despair; and against a medical fraternity that couldn’t give a shit about doing anything more than convering their own insurance premiums. They’ve never given up, never taken negative advice at face value. Bit by bit they’ve dragged GPs, specialists and surgeons in their wake, and changed both our lifestyle and environment until this week, for the first time in 12 months, this:

His first day at school in a year. For now he goes back one day a week, under the care of a teacher who is so understanding of his condition she has organised special care and infrastructure to ensure he has a safe space to retreat to should he be unable to stay in class, and coping strategies for when he can. But even one day is a victory, and he’s already talking about how soon that one day can become two, and two become three, and on until he’s back at full time.

I am so proud of them both I can barely find the words.

STUFF YOUR LUFTBALLONS, I HAVE LEGO

A year ago, a chance remark from Luscious prompted me to embark on a scheme of grand stupidity. I would build all of my Lego sets once more, and when they were built, I would photograph them, because reasons, that’s why.

Naturally, that didn’t take into account the umpteen set I would buy over the course of what I dubbed The Great Set Rebuild of 2013, because things go better with 1950s Hollywood titles, so that, eventually, it became the Great Set rebuild of 2014 and, finally, the Is This Frigging Thing Not Over Yet of It’s Never Going to be Bloody Finished.

And yet, here we are. 99 sets, in all. It would have been 100, but for an incomplete set that arrived last week with filthy, unusable parts that I’ve had to source from third parties. However, sets were built, photos were taken, and here, for what it’s worth, you can wallow in the glory that is my Set Rebuilding Fu.

I’ll tell you this for free, though: I can’t wait to get back to building bloody MOCs…..







99 sets. Count them…. or better yet, don’t count them, I already had to…. 99.

And theme by theme:

Classic Space, Alien Conquest and Star Wars

Atlantis

City

Creator and Racers
Various themes, all celebrating the power of flight…
Possibly my favourite of all themes, Galaxy Squad

And proving why it’s my favourite, each of the sets separated into their playable ‘second mode’.
Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Kingdoms and Fantasy Era

Monster Fighters

Ninjago, Chima and Pirates of the Caribbean

Pharoah’s Quest

And lastly, proving that themes may come and go, but my love of insane spaceships will never die, Space Police III
RIP BOB HOSKINS
Sad news the other day, with the passing of the immensely talented Bob Hoskins, at the age of 71 after a short bout of pneumonia. Hoskins had retired from acting in 2012 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, but he was one of the most talented, varied actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, and the film landscape is immeasurably poorer for his passing. A short, tubby, genial-looking bloke, his capacity to play anything from doltish mook (Who Killed Roger Rabbit?) to vicious killer (The Long Good Friday) to sweet romantic lead (Mermaids) and all points in between (The Dunera Boys, Mona Lisa, hell, close your eyes and throw a dart at IMDB and you’ll find a brilliant performance in something) placed him at the very top rank of actors, in my opinion.
See ya, Eddie.


INTERVIEW: JONATHAN K. BENTON


Jonathan Benton left Auckland University before completing a BA in English Literature and History because of a burning desire to see the world. A qualified PADI Dive-master, he spent a year working in Fiji. Then he moved to England, where he rambled the countryside for several years chasing myths and legends. Before returning to New Zealand, he stopped off in Australia; twelve years later, he is still here. Jonathan likes adventure. He has driven from Sydney to the tip of Cape York with a homemade plywood boat, which his friends then sailed across the Torres Strait. He has sailed from Sydney to Forster/Tuncurry and back, and has spent time in the Northern Territory researching factual details for a forthcoming novel. The youngest of three siblings, Jonathan likes arts and entertainment, sports and leisure, and all the other categories on the Trivial Pursuit board.

I interviewed Jonathan about his new novel, A Wicked Kind of Dark.

Robert Duncan no longer believes in magic. A mysterious call about a blood moon, however, leads him back to the magical world of his childhood and to Luthien, the beautiful girl with flame-coloured hair, whom he loved and lost. As Robert unravels the secrets of his childhood, darkness enters his life and an ancient evil awakens. To have any chance of defeating the dark forces that would destroy two worlds, Robert must find Luthien before the rise of the blood moon. He must, once more, believe in magic. A Wicked Kind of Dark mixes vast and spectacular fantasy landscapes with gritty urban reality. A must-read for people of all ages who believe in the power of imagination, and the importance of never losing touch with your inner child.

A Wicked Kind of Dark seems focused on the theme of duality: two worlds, two possible futures, two directions in which your hero Robert Duncan can travel. How important is this idea of duality to you as a writer?

Duality highlights the importance of choice, something I’m extremely passionate about having dealt with addiction. Sometimes people, like the character Robert in A Wicked Kind of Dark, feel there is no choice. There’s always a choice. We simply need to be shown.
The figure of Luthien seems to embody a sense of loss and the chance to recover lost things. 
We all experience traumatic events like the loss of a loved one. It’s unrealistic to believe these events don’t stay with us. Developing tools to overcome adversity helps build a pathway to long-term happiness. Robert must learn this important lesson if he is to have any chance of regaining what he has lost.
How important was it for you to imbue the fae world of Minaea with a believable, logical magic system? Is it necessary, in your opinion, for the rules of magic to make sense in our non-magical world?
If a fantasy world is not comprehensible, then it won’t flourish outside the author’s imagination. This is something all fantasy writers must consider.
You’ve blogged about your decision-making process when it came to creating your antagonist, the dark fae lord Jakal. How difficult is it to create an antagonist with sympathetic motivations? Is it easier to create someone whose motivations are simply the 180 degree opposite of the hero, or should there be at least some small sense of identification for the reader?
It depends on the story. The creature ‘It’ in Stephen King’s book of the same name is a wonderful antagonist that has no sympathetic motivations whatsoever. The book would be weakened if ‘It’ was a tortured soul doing bad things for the right reasons. Pure evil still has a place in literature. While there are suggestions in A Wicked Kind of Dark that Jakal has sympathetic motivations, the book focuses on Robert beating his internal demons, so that he can defeat the ‘real’ ones.  And the real ones ain’t nice!
The image of the blood moon is the initiating trigger for the narrative of the novel. How important is symbolism to you as an author? Do you use symbols consciously, or is it something that comes out of the writing process?
Symbolism is a powerful literary tool – often subtle, always poetic, and inevitably thought-provoking. I love the moods an effective symbol creates. The moon, for example, is naturally mysterious. A blood moon takes that mystery and adds a dash of darkness and foreboding. This is intentional.
What should readers expect from A Wicked Kind of Dark? Give me your best PT Barnum pitch! 🙂
A Wicked Kind of Dark celebrates the power of the imagination, using explosions of high fantasy in an otherwise familiar urban setting to reinforce this theme. As 17-year-old Robert Duncan reconnects with his childhood, his perception of London changes from a grey, lifeless city to a city full of magic and miracles.  Literary fantasy novels like A Wicked Kind of Darktreat words as preciously as the plot. While the book is written for young adults (11 to 15-year-olds), adults who loved Enid Blyton, Tolkien, C S Lewis and J M Barrie will enjoy my classical writing style.
Are there any future stories in the Minaea Chronicles on the drawing board? If so, what can readers expect?
The feedback I’m getting is that readers love the high fantasy world in A Wicked Kind of Dark – Minaea is conceptually strong and people want to know more about it. My next book will introduce a new set of characters based in Australia (not the UK this time) and Minaea. The first draft is complete. I’ve always planned to do it this way. It keeps things fresh. Too often I see undercooked sequels because nothing new has been added to the mix. 

A Wicked Kind of Dark is available now via Odyssey Books.

PRETTIES FOR YOU

Things have been quiet on the writing front in recent days as the day job has taken over my life. Two weeks ago we had the lovely Kaaron Warren over for the weekend as part of an art exhibition based upon her book ‘Through Splintered Walls’, and this last week has been eaten by the annual Castaways Sculpture Awards, which we stage on the beach every year and is bigger than a Justin Beiber-shaped rash. I normally keep the day job of these pages, but I might sneak some photos on here once I’ve got a few moments to do so, because frankly, they’re cool.

In the meantime, there’s a teensy bit of Battanalia still going on to keep you entertained. I’ve been interviewed over at Shelf Inflicted (great name!), and discuss my favourite dirty joke and how often an aspiring writer should have sex, along with a whole bunch of other fun things.

And my favourite type of package– mysterious– arrived in the mail the other day, containing these beauties:

Marching Dead audiobooks from Brilliance Audio. 9 discs, 10 3/4 hours of reading time, narrated by audiobook veteran Michael Page: I’ve had them on in the car and a fine job he does, too. They’re available now through any number of audiobook outlets.

Full updatery soon.

I WILL PERSUADE YOU, MY PRETTIES


Man, I have been all over the interwebbernets in the wake of The Corpse-Rat King Approacheth Day TM (That’d be TODAAAAAAY).


If you need persuading to part with some readies, allow me to point you to the following reviews:




Not to mention I’ve been interviewed by a bunch of people. 



Not to mention guest blogging. Oh, there has been guest blogging:



And if you still need persuading, what else can I do but offer you a bitching mega-extract courtesy of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist?

·       
Enjoy it, my fine fellows, for tomorrow we die! Well, not really. But enjoy it anyway.

SNAP! SHOT, THAT IS.

Every couple of years, the Australian SF Snapshot series of interviews gears up and pins a cross-section of the Australian SF scene under its glare with a view well-placed questions.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been questioned in each of the previous incarnations, back in 2005, 2007 and 2010, and this year I’ve come under the relentless Gene Hunt-like attentions of David McDonald. You can read the interview over on his blog Ebon Shores, and eventually all the interviews will be archived on the Australian SpecFic in Focus website.
Until then, engage in some link-hopping at the bottom of the interview and pick your way amongst the gems. It’s a huge enterprise, and there are always some excellent surprises to be had.

SNAPSHOT 2010

As part of this year’s Australian SF Snapshot, I’ve been interviewed by the lovely Tehani Wessely. You can read the results here. With the Worldcon in Melbourne approaching in September there are couple of questions on that subject, but it does, as is its purpose, provide a quick snapshot of where I am at the moment.

The Snapshots have been run twice before: you can read my 2005 interview here and my 2007 interview here. It’s interesting, to me at least, to see how my goalposts have moved over the last 5 years– my ambitions and hopes are not what they once were– not even close, really– and I’m a hell of a lot more comfortable with the path ahead of me that I was 3 years ago.

Eventually, all the interviews that make up this year’s Snapshot are going to be archived in one central location, but for now, start at Tehani’s and go LJ-jumping to read those you find interesting. They finished something like ninety in the week the snapshot was running, so there’s bound to be someone who takes your fancy.

SATIMA’S QUESTIONS

A new set of questions via the 5-questions meme, this time from the lovely Satima Flavell, although I get a little more ranty than usual on this one:

1. When I first met you, back in about 2002, you had just received recognition in the Writers of the Future contest. Since then, you’ve had many more short stories published, including your collection “Through Soft Air”; you’ve been a tutor at Clarion South and you’ve written one or two novels as well. Of all your achievements since WOTF, which one stands out for you?

Probably being invited to tutor at Clarion South. Most of the things I’ve done as a writer have been at the small press level, but Clarion was the first (and to date, only) time I was really ranked amongst the big boys by someone, which I think was a massive show of faith by the organisers. I’d like to think I didn’t let them down, but, to me, if you look at the names of tutors over the years I do stand out like a sore thumb as the “Who?” guy amongst them. My entire career seems to have been a case of stepping above my station on one occasion and then working my arse off not to have that step be a one-off. To date, that Clarion appearance is my biggest step, and my biggest one-off.

2. Which of your own stories do you love the best?

I don’t have a favourite. Once the stories are written and published, they’re yesterday’s news. I don’t have a huge amount of reprints because I rarely look backwards. It’s more important to be working on the next thing, the new project, than to think about what I’ve already done. (As Michael Keaton said about playing Batman: I don’t want to find myself at a car show in twenty years, still in the suit, with a kid on my knee, saying “Is that your Mom? Tell her to meet me after the show.”) I have several stories that stand out, because of awards, or because they’re good to use at readings so I use them more than once, but there’s no real star of the litter. I’d much rather hear that a reader has a particular favourite than have one myself.

3. Your wife Lyn is also a writer of no mean repute. Which one of Lyn’s stories do you love the best?

Ah, see, now this is easier 🙂 Lyn’s best story is called ‘A Whisper In The House of Angels’- to date, it’s unpublished, because it’s a very hard sell: it’s subtle, disturbing, and gives the reader very little in the way of sure footing. It just needs the right editor, and when it finds publication, it’s going to win everything. Of her published stuff, I have a real soft spot for ‘Of Woman Born’, in Daikaju II. It’s very short, only 600 words or so, but it’s everything Lyn is capable of: feminine, mature, imaginative, unique, all the elements that make up a Lyn Battersby story, plus it manages to be more than a little twisted and giggle-inducingly funny into the bargain. I think it’s been sadly ignored, and vastly underrated.

4. You’ve made it clear on many occasions that traditional fantasy is not your favourite genre. What do you think of some of the current drop of writers, such as Margo Lanagan, who are putting new, darker spins on some of the old tropes?

Actually, I’m not a fan of Lanagan’s writing. I find it contrived and soulless. I’m also aware that I’m in a tiny minority on this issue. I am going to raise issue with your statement, though: the thing is, I am a fan of traditional fantasy. What drives me to such public distraction is the sheer amount of bad trad-fantasy we see served up to us. It’s precisely because I love the good stuff that I rail against the Eddings’ and Brooks’ of the genre. Despite all his flaws, Tolkein’s work was incredible, as was Dunsany’s, and Stephen Donaldson’s original Thomas Covenant trilogy was amazing. It’s just that trad-fantasy seems to be the logical extension of Sturgeon’s Law, and nobody seems to say “Stop! The good stuff is over here!”

I also don’t see the usurpation of standard fantasy tropes as a new thing, although I’m a fan of writers such as Mieville and KJ Bishop who are spinning it out in new directions. You don’t have to go too far back to see Tim Powers doing wonderful things within ‘standard’ settings (witness ‘Anubis Gate’ and ‘Drawing Of The Dark’) and you can go back even further to writers like Wolfe, Vance, Moorcock, Le Guin and Poul Anderson to see some astonishingly wonderful ‘non-traditional’ fantasy stories.

It’s writers like these who point out how well you can do epic fantasy (Trad-fantasy, high fantasy, call it what you like), which makes it all the more annoying to me to see readers settling for the latest installement in whichever pale ‘Witches Guild of the Wheel of Shannara’ Tolkein-shadow you care to name.

5. And finally, what are your ambitions for the next five years, both personally and writing-wise?

I’m 38 years old. I want to be supporting my family through my writing by the time I turn 45. I want to make a concerted effort to move away from the short story/small press/horror story niche I seem to have been tarred with, and move into a wider publishing base– novels, more in the line of guys like Chuck Palahniuk and Jonathon Lethem, who are writing genre, to all intents and purposes, but who seem to have avoided being hemmed in by the label. If I get a chance to write another screenplay, or work outside my current boundaries, I’ll be eager to do so. I didn’t start out wanting to be an SF writer: I wanted to be a writer, non-specific, one thereof. I’ve become distracted, rather, since I started selling– small press SF is a bit of a honey trap, psychologically. I really want to go back to my original, pure desire– to write, and publish, whatever I choose, without thought of genre, or form, or purpose. I love writing poetry, and comedy sketches, and plays, and screenplays, and short stories, and cartoons. And I’ve published all of them over the years. That’s what I want.

Of course, what I’d like to do is really push towards achieving a significant artistic and commercial impact over an extended period of time. People like Spike Milligan, David Bowie, Stephen Fry, Alice Cooper, and David Hockney are my template: multi- form artists who can move from medium to medium as the need arises. It’s a very British way of thinking, to me- defining the artist by themself, rather than what they produce. Nobody over there tells Stephen Fry he can’t write a novel because he’s an actor, but over here we tend to look down on people who try to cross boundaries, as if they should be glad to work in one form. I’d like to break past that.

Either that, or I’d like to dress up as a bat and fight criminals. I’m still undecided.

CALLISTRA’S QUESTIONS

1. How do you get past the annoying Issues when writing?
My only annoying Issue is my own dedication, or lack of it. I still have massive lapses, so I’d say that’s one that’s not yet dealt with at all 🙂

2.Would you have liked to attend Clarion as a student?
Not Clarion South- most of the tutors who have taught there I consider peers, rather than mentors. One of the US Clarions, or Odyssey, maybe, but I’m never going to have the money so it’s all a bit moot.

3.What is your superpower?
The power of failure.

4.What is your biggest issue with your own writing?
How long is a piece of string? I hate every single aspect of my writing. I’m not good enough, successful enough, famous enough, talented enough, skilled enough, whatever enough. I keep plugging away in the hope that one day, maybe, I’ll craft something worthy of being remembered. But frankly, most days I think I’m slipping farther from that goal the harder I try.

5. Who’s writing *always* provides you with pleasure, and you’d be happy to read their shopping list?
Nobody. Even writers I’m big fans off, like Jonathon Lethem and Chuck Palahniuk, have had at least one stinker, which means I approach each book with a slight veing of caution. Of course, I’m still approaching their books, so perhaps that’s a sign that I retain faith in their ability to satisfy me.

GRANT’S INTERVIEW

1. What is, ultimately, your dream writing gig?
Full time, on my own cognizance, choosing whichever project interests me as I go. My writing fantasies revolve not so much around any particular ‘dream project’, although there are certain media tie-ins that would be fun, but around the fantasy of independence, answering to nobody but myself. Yup, I’m destined to die disappointed 🙂

2. Why did you choose to get married at a Swancon?
All but a few people we would have invited were going to be there anyway, we’d already paid for the venue by booking a membership and room, and the idea of combining something traditional and non-traditional suited our attitudes at the time.

3. Zombies have been big lately, but I personally think they’ve peaked again and the impetus has died off. What’s the next big trend in horror?
Penguins. You heard it here first.

4. Who plays you in the film of your life?
Hmm. I’d like some great heroic actor of the age– a Burt Lancaster or Laurence Olivier. I’d be more likely to get Dom Deluise or Cheetah.

5. Tell me – as briefly as you like – a treasured childhood memory.
I don’t really have any treasured childhood memories: mostly, even the good times were tempered by bullying, or isolation, or upheaval. Perhaps– evenings during school holidays in my late teens, wandering along the seafront by my home, alone or with one or two friends, eating a hotdog, standing outside both the darkness of the beach and the lighted strip of shops, feeling like the world existed without me and all I had to do was observe as I wished. How’s that?

SNAPSHOT

A couple of years back, Ben Peek interviewed me as part of a series of mini-interviews that came to be known as Snapshot 2005.

Over at ASiF, they’ve decided to do it again, and Tansy Rayner Roberts sent me a set of questions yeaterday, to be added to their list of interviewees, hopefully some time today as the whole thing’s supposed to wind up before tomorrow.

Anyway, if you can’t wait, or like me, need some content for this blog, here’s the interview in its entirety. (Don’t let that stop you going and reading the rest of them at the ASiF site)

You recently had a Doctor Who story published in the Australians-heavy Short Trips: Destination Prague. What was your Doctor-Companion pairing, and just how awesome was it to be writing in the Who universe? Would you do it again?

4 of us contributed to the book: Stephen Dedman, Rob Hood, and Sean Williams, along with myself. Not bad, from 21 stories. It was fun to write for the Doctor, and I was lucky enough to be allowed to write for the 2nd Doctor, who is pretty much my favourite. It was an… interesting… experience. Big Finish and the BBC have very definite rules and regulations surrounding the characters, and my story was heavily (and, I thought, badly) edited before it saw print. I was really unhappy with the end product of that editing: I felt a lot of the nuances were cut out without a lot of thought as to the resulting shape of the story. But that’s the compromise you make when you play with someone else’s toys, and you know, it’s The Doctor! I’d do it again in a shot. It’s just one of those childhood wishes come true. Short of being a companion…

I’m talking to an editor about writing for another anthology they’re proposing, and trying to make some contacts of my own in the hope of pitching an anthology idea I want to edit. It’s a purely selfish fun– I’m a big fan of the first Doctor Who run, and I enjoyed Torchwood (much more than the current Doctor Who stuff), so it’s a chance to contribute to something that gives me enjoyment.

What has changed for you since the 2005 Snapshot?

I’m less involved in the local genre scene than I was. I’ve fallen out of love with it a lttle bit, I think. In the last two years, a number of projects have been announced amidst fanfare and pomp, only to fall apart when it came time for the people behind it to make sure it was viable. I really became sick of working on something, only to find its intended home had disappeared. Stories take time and energy, and I don’t just slap things together: it pisses me off to put my heart into something and then find that others can’t be bothered getting their end of the deal sorted out.

I’m a bit more disillusioned than I was when the last Snapshot was put together. I’ve had some bad experiences, and being part of the Australian small press environment is much less important to me than it used to be. I’m much choosier about what I get involved in, and my out-of-writing life has changed to such an extent that I have to be very sure of a project when I commit my time to producing something for it. I can’t afford to invest what has become very limited writing time to working on a story for a project just because someone I know (often only electronically) is helming it, only to see it fold, for whatever reason, somewhere down the line. I work full time now, which I didn’t back then, I have a new house, and my kids are older. When I write now, I’m much more interested in using that piece to advance my credentials than I used to be, because I’m lucky if I have three or four hours a week, and I have to make them count.

I’ve become a lot more insular, as well. I’ve never been particularly popular, and these days, I have a very small circle of friends, and an only slightly wider circle of acquanitances with whom I share a mutual respect. Outside of my wife and kids, I really don’t have any regular contact with people. Much of that is by choice, but it’s a choice with which the world seems comfortable. I’ve never really fit in, no matter what community I’ve been a part of, and SF continues that pattern. I’m *of* the community, rather than *in* it. Much of the focus of the Australian SF small press is aimed towards local magazines, and that’s not where my greatest interest lies at the moment, so I’ve fallen out of touch quite quickly.

What are you working on right now, and what does your writing future hold?

Most of my year has been taken up working on a film adaptation of Lyn’s short story The Memory of Breathing, which has been optioned by production company Azure Productions. Thanks to the wonderful Karen Miller, I’ve been in touch with an agent in the States who’s shown some interest in taking on my novel, which has also been an ongoing process. I’ve written and sent a few short stories, but nowhere near my usual pace. I have stories upcoming in Daikaiju III and Dreaming Down Under II, as well as Brimstone Press’ Black Box anthology, and that’s all the print I have in the near future. I’ve been recreating my catalogue from scratch, and that takes time.

I’ve also spent the last three months acting as a mentor for the AHWA, working with AHWA member Mark Smith-Briggs to improve his work. So I know the name of at least one person who wants to kill me 🙂

Much of this year has been about divesting myself of the past: I suffered a catastrophic computer meltdown at the start of the year and lost something like 80 stories I was working on, and quite literally had to start from scratch with new work. I took that as somewhat of an omen, and decided that my focus from now on would be about doing what I *want* to do, rather than what I feel duty bound to do in order to build a ‘career’, particularly as that career wasn’t developing along lines that satisfied me on a personal level. The people I look up to, artistically, are the likes of Spike Milligan, David Hockney, David Bowie– artists who were able to create a place for themselves across several forms of media. I’d like to build something similar. I don’t want to be an SF writer. Not *just*, anyway. I’d like my wings to spread a little wider.

Do you read much in the Aus spec fic scene? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

I don’t read much local SF these days. I don’t enjoy it: not the work, so much, but I fall too easily into the habit of comparing and contrasting people’s work with my own. And, to be honest, I still don’t feel like enough work pushes hard enough– there’s still too many people playing safe, producing middle-of-the-road work instead of reaching for something artistically challenging. I read a lot of non-fiction, partly beause it’s grist for my mill, and partly because of my own, personal, obsessions. For the same reasons, my TV watching tends towards documentaries. I escape into history, archaeology, true crime, et al, rather than into fiction.

Undoubtedly the best book I’ve read this year is Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII by John Cornwell. It’s an absolutely stunning dissection of a truly evil and tyrannical man, and a revelatory work. Fiction-wise, The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford has been the highlight. Lyn read it, and raved about it, and I picked it up on her insistence. A bit contrived, and the ending is a letdown, but it’s still a delightful and entrancing journey.

Finally, if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?

Ah, the obligatory wacky snapshot-ending question 🙂

Thanks for the offer, but, trite as it may sound to anyone who doesn’t understand, I already have a real life wife who satisfies all my desires. I simply don’t fancy anybody else.

So there you go.

ON THE SUBJECT OF A DIFFERENT SUBJECT

The every lovely Tansy Rayner Roberts has interviewed Lyn and I on the subject of food, kids , and how to hide zucchini, all for her website Kids Dish.

Check it out. If nothing else, at least we’re not talking about writing 🙂

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FACES IN THE WORLD

Connor suffered a nightmare yesterday morning and woke me up, screaming and crying my name. I went in to his room and picked him up, whereupon he immediately reached out and locked the death-grip-hug around my neck, and snuggled his face hard into my chest. This was one boy who wasn’t going to take well to going back in his cot. It was just before 5am, so I brought him into bed with us. He slid across me chest into the crook of my arm, wriggled about a bit, and fell back to sleep.

Disturbed by my re-entry, Lyn rolled over into the crook of my other arm, wriggled about a bit, and fell back to sleep.

So there I was, on my back, wide awake, arms around my beautiful wife and beautiful son, and enough light in the room to see them clearly. And they looked so peaceful, so restful, their faces unlined and clear of worry or upset, their hands resting against my chest so lightly, their skin so soft and smooth against my arms, that it was impossible for me to go back to sleep. I was entranced, looking from one face to another, until the alarm went off an hour later and the day began.

It’s the loveliest morning moment I’ve had to myself in a long time.

UP IT GOES!

The Christmas Tree went up on the weekend. Lyn and her kids didn’t do Christmas for years, so the raising of the tree is a big moment for them, and, you know, Erin and Connor are 5 and 2 🙂

Every year we create a new decoration to hang: in 2004 we made a star & bauble-shaped hanger, last year it was little crackers, and this year I made a bunch of frames from pop sticks, which we decorated and drew a picture to fill. Cassie chose not to be with us, for the first time, and she’s got some apology ground to make up after a performance and a half on her last visit, so there’s still a frame and paper waiting for her. But the rest of us gathered around the textas and glue, and enjoyed our annual craft moment.

And then the tree came out of the shed, and the box of decorations, and the kids slowly and inexorably lost their minds 🙂 Erin had brought home a big bag of self-made decorations from school, so the paper plate wreath and the cardboard streamer had to find homes, as well as the tinsel and the extruded plastic cheery things. The dining room was cleared of table and chairs. The branches of the this-is-not-coming-to-Brisbane-with-us tree were folded down. And then the riot began– candy canes and crackers and tinsel and picture frames and climbing Santa figurines and the hat for the top because we don’t do stars and angels and the teddy bear and the wire reindeer and the ceramic Santa kicking the soccer ball and baubles and the indescribable scribbly things and the other ceramic Santa bouncing the basketball and Connor’s eaten one of the candy canes and oh well I guess we’d better have one as well and the hangers and the danglers and the balls and the wire things and this one’s broken and when did we get that one and wait a minute wait a minute! Move that one and that one there and step back everyone and……

And you know what? It looks great 🙂

The beginning: the new picture frames are added

Aiden unwraps his new Hitler action figure with optional red party wig

Still life: loonies with tree

Still life… wait, we did that gag, didn’t we?

Shove the lid on, wrap the box, and who can we send them to?

Song of the moment: Jump, They Say David Bowie

Reading: Endangered Species Gene Wolfe