LESSONS FROM A ROAD TRIP

Karratha to Perth: 1600 kilometres.

Date of son and daughter-in-law’s wedding: slap bang in the middle of the school holidays.

Length of time we’ve had shiny new SUV: two weeks.

Of course we drove.

The plan was relatively simple: we’d bundle ourselves into the car, blast through the 11-hour drive from K-Town to Geraldton in a day, stay overnight, then hit Perth on day two. Coming back, we’d take things slower: stop at Geraldton again, stop at Carnarvon on day two, get home on day three. Take the time to see a tourist trap or two on the way. We’d have Lord 15’s best mate in the car with us, so turn the trip into a bit of a sightseeing experience rather than a race. And with the extra space we’d have, and the lack of a luggage limit, get some big-arse shopping in in the meantime.

And so we did.

Along the way, though, it turned into an important rite-of-old-man-passage. Because I learned some things, and those things are going to herald some changes. Continue reading “LESSONS FROM A ROAD TRIP”

2018: BUY ONE YEAR, GET THREE FOR FREE

Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

Let’s recap, shall we?

At the start of the year, I was a month away from being released from a job that had turned sour and toxic. I was vastly overweight, crippled by stress, and deeply unhappy. I hadn’t completed a full piece of writing in well over 2 years, and hadn’t completed a novel in closer to four (and that one had been stillborn: a melange of bad writing and awkward choices that simply refused to come to life and be sellable).

Then, of course, we moved to Karratha. Luscious took up a position teaching at the High School. I tra-la-la’d out of the job with nary a look back (How well was I respected? My going away gift was a book of art from the Kimberleys (I was going to the Pilbara, several hundreds of kilometres away), and my Director, who knew me since my first day, could only comment on the fact that I occasionally swore when asked to make a speech about my achievements over the 8 years of my time there). I started teaching relief at Luscious’ school a day or two a week, sat down to write, and opened up my recipe books and my copy of House Husbanding for Dummies.

How’s that worked out for me? Wouldn’t you like to know?

Continue reading “2018: BUY ONE YEAR, GET THREE FOR FREE”

NEW WORK FOR OLD FOOLS

Gotta hurry. Gotta hurry.

Byt’s gotta new job. But jobs don’t wait. She gotta get cross town before start time, or some other bugger gonna get it. She up and out of the squat before the suits start chocking up the street. Catch a hand-roll at a stall down at street level, scoff it quick and licking her fingers before she even lining up for tram. Slip in the out door while the tourists and the jobtypes barge out in a vomit of deodorant and stupidity. Bump bump bump against hips and hunker down in the foot well. Open the wallets quick fingers have bought, strip the cash, dump the cards. Byt knows a guy down the markets pay some dollars for wallets. Make twenty bucks off these ones, good.

Continue reading “NEW WORK FOR OLD FOOLS”

SHORT LISTED, BUT LONG ON TALENT

The 2017 Aurealis Awards were announced yesterday. Luscious was shortlisted in the Best SF Short Story category for her story The Missing Years, which you can read in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #66. She didn’t win, but to be honest, that’s almost beside the point.

I’ve mentioned at length the effects the last few years have had on my writing. But what I haven’t talked about so much is how Luscious’ writing has been affected, too. Continue reading “SHORT LISTED, BUT LONG ON TALENT”

DAY THREE AND AN EVENING WITH LEE

Day three of my residency, and apart from taking my work past a couple of notable milestones– Song of the Water passing 2000 words and Ghost Tracks cresting 20,000– today was notable for the appearance of a surprise guest.

There’s long been a rumour of a ghost here at the Centre, and sitting alone in a perfectly silent chalet in the depths of the rolling gardens is a perfect situation for a lonely ghost to come silently through the walls and hang in the space between the door and the desk, staring through you into the depths of a million alternative realities.

Continue reading “DAY THREE AND AN EVENING WITH LEE”

A DOZEN OF THE BEST

Today is my 12th wedding anniversary.

Twelve years married to this amazing, talented, wise, intelligent, stylish, caring, kind, wonderful woman:

who was told she was destined for nothing, so became an author and artist;

who was told she was stupid, so fought and scratched and refused to give up, and earned her degree;

who was denied years of family love and responded by nurturing and giving flight to two families’ of children;

who was told she had nothing to give and now prepares to give direction and education to hundreds of schoolchildren;

who is afraid of heights so abseiled;

who is afraid of snakes so held them and kissed them;

who illuminates and inspires and conquers and endures;

who qualified as a massage therapist;

who has travelled the country;

who has run distance races;

who has taken on every challenge and dismissal and marginalisation, and won;

who has potential in unlimited amounts;

who can do, and has done, anything she sets her mind to.

Who is the most interesting, complete, and endlessly fascinating person I have ever met.

Who loves, and is loved in return.

She persisted? She persists.

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Who has a quite unbelievable number of photos of her poking her tongue out…

GROUP ACTION. IT’S BEEN A WHILE

With the advent of a new Writers Centre in Rockingham has come writing groups. And, as one of those groups is helmed by my very own Luscious, I found myself attending the first writing group meeting I’ve been to in something like eight years this week.

Writing groups can be a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to spend time with like-minded souls, discussing your passion and working in a supportive and welcoming environment. On the other, they can become platforms for mediocrity and personality conflict, and– particularly when work is being critiqued by a group of vastly differing levels– horribly unfocused to the point of uselessness. I gave up attending groups at my previous writers centre when it became obvious that everyone involved was more concerned with egoboos and capturing the perfect snarky put-down than actually goddamn writing.

But Luscious is on the committee of this new Centre, and this was the first meeting of the group she was conducting, and she’s an excellent professional who knows both how to write and bring out the best in others, and I’m an incredibly loving and supporting husband, and I was told I had no choice in the matter, so I went along.

Of course, Luscious is an excellent professional, and she knows how to make anyone and everyone in a room feel valued. The group was small, first time out– eight of us, including Master 10 and Miss 13, who came because both parents were going but contributed like the children of an artistic household, with creativity and verve. And because she’s good at what she does, I came away with three solid gold story openings.

So, regular Tuesday night writing group looks like a thing, and maybe just the thing to keep me in fresh material for the next wee while, which can’t be anything but good. Because when a writing group works well it’s usually because it has a strong, experienced, knowledgeable hand on the tiller, and I’m lucky enough to be married to just such a hand…. you know what I mean.

The room is littered with chipboard splinters. They’re ground into the carpet, spread like snow across my bed. My fists, and the soles of my feet, sting where a billion tiny slivers have pierced the soft flesh and now lie embedded, waiting to fester, and poison, and ooze septic pus. The pain should make me angry, or afraid. I’m not. I want to laugh. I want to laugh so hard I run out of breath. I want my ribs to ache, my heart to burst. I want to double over and collapse to the floor. I want to rub my face in the carpet until my cheeks and forehead and lips are a spiderweb of tiny cuts and splinters. I’m so happy I want to fucking scream. I want the corners of my mouth to split. I want to taste my blood. I want to hurt something else. Anything will do.

Exercise: Picture something from your childhood. Something intimate, that has great meaning for you. Now destroy it, utterly, and irretrievably. Why have you done that? How does it make you feel?

If you want to know more about the Rockingham Writers Centre, or Luscious’ Tuesday Night Writing Group, you could do worse than checking out their Facebook page.

10 YEARS

10 years ago today I got lucky. Very, very lucky.

If not for Luscious, I don’t know where I would be right now. She is my light, my direction, and my guide. She is my everything, and without her I would be lost.

I love you, my darling.

BUT I’VE GOT A HELL OF AN EXCUSE

So here we are, then. The 9th of November. By nano stats, that means I should have completed 15 000 of my unholy mess novel as of tonight. That means that, as of tonight, I’m only 7.56 days behind where I’m supposed to be!

But, like Jesus said when his Mum wanted to know who pinched all the tuna sandwiches, I have a hell of an excuse. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Wednesday 29 October: Agree with Luscious Lyn that the Batthaim has become too big, expensive, difficult to maintain and draining. Decide to sell the place.
Thursday: Appoint real estate agent we’ve been sniffing around for a while. Receive list of final renovations necessary to bring house up to saleable standard.
Saturday 1 November: Received square metre of soil. Spend half a day carting the bastarding thing out to the back yard to fill the giant empty garden bed that’s been sat there empty for two years. Plant colourful plants. Trim giant sprawling half-dead passionfruit plant. Patch cracks in upstairs room ceiling and kids bathroom. Do some actual writing, by virtue of mad panic and previously undiscovered wizard powers.
Sunday: More patching, sanding, and carting heavy bloody things all over the place. Pack family up and sod off for an hour while real estate agent brings people through.
Monday: Write the 2 thousandth and change words on the novel. Do shoulder stretches. Use bendy shoulder muscles to help pat myself on back.
Tuesday: Accompany Luscious to hospital. Be supportive husband while she undergoes horrendously invasive surgery.
Wednesday: Continue husband support role while trying to persuade increasingly grumpy wife that resting in bed does not involve any form of cleaning up or housework. More patching. More fucking sanding. More fucking painting.
Wednesday evening: Pack sore and sorry wife into car and spend what’s supposed to be an hour at cafe while real estate agent brings people around the house even though he’s been bloody told specifically not to do this today because Luscious is supposed to be resting and not gallivanting around the bloody neighbourhood.
Slightly later Wednesday evening: Real estate agent sells Batthaim. Becomes best friend for life.
Thursday: Packing. Lots and lots of packing.
Friday: Meet with mortgage broker just to make sure we can afford to actually move and won’t end up living in a shopping trolley and smelling like cat pee.
Yesterday: Fucking patch. Fucking sand. Fucking paint. Get in car and drive round and round and round suburb of choice looking at interminable series of ugly, run down and general piece of shit house I wouldn’t use for a crack house, never mind a place of residence.
Saturday, 3pm: Find the perfect house. Cry tears of relief. Wipe eyes, Put in an offer.
Rest of yesterday: drive from Baldivis to Southern Bloody River because the idiot not-local real estate agent didn’t actually have the forms to sign an offer. Sit around for the better part of two hours while idiot not-local real estate faffs about like an idiot, including actually having to read the forms to himself to make sure he’s got the right damn forms…… out of there by 6pm, nobody dies, it’s a close-run thing.
Late last night: idiot real estate agent rings. Lyn. I think he worked out who best to speak to. Our offer is accepted.
All today, starting at 6.20am and finishing at gone 5pm when I stopped caring about life: MORE FUCKING SANDING AND PAINTING. Empty, box, clean and deconstruct entire shed. Entire. Damn. Shed.

Yeah, so, all of which is an overly dramatic way of saying, hey, what a week: the Luscious one has had surgery, we’ve sold our house and have bought a new one, and for the rest of the year we’ll be packing and organising finances and– all being as per instructions– we’ll be moving house the day before Christmas.

Turns out, Real Life ™ trumps writing. Who knew?

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL, PART TEN

Over at Facebook, I was tagged in a meme that required me to list three things that made me grateful, every day for three days.

So I thought I’d list them here, too.


  1. I’m grateful for my art. It has provided me with friendships, income, travel opportunities, and was the vehicle by which I escaped the soul-destroying depths off despair I was slowly being crushed by while working in the Public Service. I’ll never be famous, I’ll never be remembered, and I’ll never be considered at even the middle of the tree, but my art has been the thing that has kept me from disappearing into the obscure midst of my mediocre family tree, and I’m grateful.
  2. I’m grateful for a reasonable income. Yes, we struggle, and we juggle finances on a fortnightly basis, but I’m aware that we do so from a level of decent comfort. My children go to a good school, my wife is able to study, essentially, full time, and we have room to both expand our horizons and entertain our hobbies & indulgences. We never suffer, and having both come from backgrounds of grinding poverty, Lyn and I have only ever wanted our children to appreciate a good upbringing.
  3. I’m grateful for the respect of my peers. I get little of it at work, and I rarely feel like an author doing good work, so when a fellow artist expresses their respect or admiration for the work I do then it usually comes as an enormous, and humbling, surprise, because, to be quite honest, I generally don’t know what I do to merit it. I’ve undervalued my work for so long– it’s only in the last fortnight, for example, that I’ve decided to set a minimum fee for appearances, despite doing them regularly for the last 12 years– that I’m always a little stunned when others do value it. And grateful, because sometimes, I doubt I’d go on without it.
  4. I’m grateful for my readers. Despite all the mechanical hoo-ha-ra that goes into writing, ultimately it comes down to entertaining a stranger with the power of your imagination and your words. Anybody who comes back for a second helping, or who picks up my work because they like the cut of my snippets, is someone who has chosen to invest their time and imagination into my maunderings. It’s a weird kind of long-distance love affair of the mind, and I’m thankful to all who take it on.
  5. I’m grateful for my children. As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve read this Facebook page for long enough– by which I mean half a day or more– my kids constantly entertain me, fill me with wonder, and enrich my life by keeping me innocent, impish and focused on doing good for others who need me in their life. Whether it be my naturally-arrived Miss 12 and Master 9, or my inherited bonus kids Cassie, Aiden and Blake, granddaughter Little Miss 2, grandson Little Man
  6. I’m grateful for the quickness of my mind. I’ve mentioned before that my father’s mind is failing, and it’s killing me to watch a charming, erudite, quick-witted man struggle for words and concepts he used to fling about like gossamer. I love being funny, I love being deliberately unfunny to spark a funny exchange, I love to tease, to argue, to explain, to build worlds and concepts out of nothing more than my vocabulary and my ability to knit words into never before-seen shapes and tastes. All my other gifts belong to the people who bestow them upon me. This is the only thing I have going for me that is purely mine. If it ever begins to desert me, I don’t know what I’ll do.
  7. The care and love shown to Master 9 during his illness by people who have no other investment in it than they are his teachers, or our friends. From just-because gifts, to messages of support, to structuring his classroom, people have gathered round him for the 14 months of his illness and provided him with an atmosphere of caring and support that has done wonders for his morale and self-esteem. To Kris, Kim,Grant, Lilysea, Mark and countless others, my gratitude.
  8. Free education. I went to a shitty High school in the 80s, when my pre-Child Support Agency divorced mother raised two teenage boys and covered a mortgage on a single mother’s pension and a $30 a month in child support payments, and thanks to a nominally free education system I still managed to claw my way through 4 years of University. Now, it’s going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to send my children to a good high school. Much as I would love to do my Master’s degree, I simply can’t afford it. My wife’s attendance at University each semester is a matter of financial negotiation. My eldest sons struggle to hold down shitty part-time jobs and find enough time to attend to their study obligations. If I were starting my educational career today, I’d be working at K-Mart full-time, because that’s the best that people like me could have hoped to afford. I’m grateful that free education enabled me– and subsequently, my children– to escape a lower-class existence through education.
  9. A stable political system. Yes, Tony Abbott and his Ant-Hill Mob of witless cronies are a blight on our culture, and yes, we can argue back and forth about the relative merits of our chosen allegiances until we’re blue in the nads. But nobody shot at me today, and I own my house, and my children are safe and my wife can wear whatever she wants and get herself a tertiary education, and any meal I’ve missed since I was at Uni has been by choice, and I have freedom of travel, speech, religion and thought. And I’m an artist, and a well-paid member of the permanent workforce. I’ve never been conscripted, I’ve never fought in a war, or against my own people. I’ve never been gaoled for my beliefs, tortured, or disappeared. My neighbours don’t spy on me. I’m safe, and warm, and comfortable and educated. And I’m grateful.


And, things being what they are, here’s a little bonus extra grateful content:

10. Above all else, I am grateful for the presence of Luscious Lyn in my life. We have been together almost twelve years now, which boggles me to think of, and in that time we have faced innumerable struggles, traumas and hardships, but throughout it all she has been the pivot around which our family revolves. She has brought me unparallelled joy, belief and support, and whatever happiness I have managed to gather unto myself has been, in large part, because she is beside me, pointing me always towards positivity and joy. I cope, and occasionally flourish, because of her. I am a better person because of her.

And for that we should *all* be grateful.

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.

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.


NINE YEARS AND COUNTING

Nine years ago today, this happened:

It was the best decision I ever made. Marriage to my wonderful Lyn continues to provide me with love, support, and peace, and nothing in this world makes me happier than making her happy. It’s been nine amazing years, and the only thing better than the time we’ve had together is the knowledge that there are many more to come.
Love you, my darling.

LUSCIOUS GETS CRANKY

If you enjoyed yesterday’s post on Charlotte Corday for the Cranky Ladies of History Blog tour– a woman for whom I have some intellectual admiration– then get across to Battblush, Lyn’s blog, and see what happens when she writes about two women who have had a profound and lasting effect on her from an emotional and inspirational point of view: her family friend Maureen and the superbly cranky Beate Klarsfeld.

MANFLU 2: THIS TIME IT’S TERRIFYING.

Typical, isn’t it? As one rises, another falls……

Recently, I blogged about the problems our youngest son has been experiencing with something called Rumination Syndrome, a condition which causes him to vomit in excess of twenty or thirty times a day. It was a post touched with more than a little despair.

About a week ago, a good friend of Lyn’s visited for the first time a while, and offered a potential management solution: Lyn’s friend has been suffering from cancer, and has responded by ‘going raw’- eating nothing but raw food, avoiding anything that has been processed, and eliminating all possible toxins from her system. I’m happy to say that it seems to have been working, but one of the things she mentioned to Lyn was a method of raising the alkali levels of our boy’s stomach: a freshly prepared juice of green apples, celery, and mint, with a bit of beetroot every now and again for added flavour.

It was worth a shot. Fuck it, at this point just about anything is worth a shot.

In the last 4 days, his vomiting has decreased to little more than half a dozen times a day. On occasion, we’ve even managed to get him into bed without having to change his bedding. This, my friends, is a major breakthrough. He still has episodes– it’s possible he’ll never not have episodes– but for the moment we seem to have found a temporary abeyance, and it’s enabled us to visit the touring Egyptian exhibition at the museum, travel to the WA Scale Model Expo, and generally travel around town without having to pack a change of clothes and a three-pack of sickbags just to go food shopping.

He can do things like this now.

Which is just as well, because since last Thursday….

Luscious woke up with chest pains on Friday, which became a trip to the doctors, which became an ambulance ride to the hospital with a suspected heart attack after a dodgy ECT result. A terrifying eighteen hours later she was released back into the wild with a diagnosis of muscular spasms so sever that they had affected the ECT monitor, but nonetheless, we’ve been edgy and clingy ever since: she’s still in bed three days later, and any but the simplest of movements leaves her wincing in pain.

And our daughter has turned lung-hacking coughs into a diagnosis of bronchitis, so she’s lying on the bed next to her mother watching Pretty in Pink and other assorted girlie movies for the next two to three days at least.

I am, literally, the last Batt standing.

CAN’T ANYBODY IN MY FAMILY JUST GET FUCKING MANFLU?

First my wife dies of an infection that was, quite literally, a one-in-a-million occurrence.

Then my mother, after a ten year battle with three different types of cancer, finally falls victim to GANT, a type of cancerous tumour so rare there had been less than 50 recorded cases in the US when she was diagnosed, and that delay in diagnosis was a significant factor in her inability to combat it. (Yesterday would have been her 72nd birthday. So it goes.)

More recently, my father is diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a somewhat obscure form of lobar degeneration resulting in a loss of linguistic ability and semantic dementia.

About four months ago, our youngest son started throwing up. Twenty, thirty, sometimes more than forty times a day. Every day. From the moment he woke up to the moment he fell asleep. He hasn’t been able to go to school. He can’t swim at the beach or the pool the way he loves to. We can’t plan a trip of more than half an hour’s duration without making sure we have a supply of sick bags handy. For four months we battered our heads against doctors, specialists, emergency rooms, constant referrals to hospitals that took one look at him and sent him home with a shrug and a command to keep him hydrated until a specialist could look at him….

Last Wednesday night, Luscious and I snapped. We packed two overnight bags and, as soon as he woke on Thursday morning, Luscious drove him to Princess Margaret Hospital, the children’s hospital in Perth, where she plonked herself down in the waiting room and refused to move while the staff watched his sick bag fill up. When it was so full it burst, what do you know? They admitted him.

This is what it takes to get action from the health system in my State. The butt-covering only stops when they can’t ignore the vomit dripping onto their carpet.

24 hours later, we had a diagnosis.

He’s suffering from Rumination Syndrome, a condition with no known cure but an 85% of positive response to treatment. In short, his body has tricked itself into regurgitating food for further digestion, and all we can do is attempt to train the associated swallowing and breathing muscles back to ‘normal’ behaviours in the hope that muscular reflex will limit the occurrence of the regurgitation. It could take months, possibly years, and there’s a good chance he’ll never be free of it completely. We’ve an idea about some of the potential triggers, and we’re combating them as much as we can, but that’s little consolation when we have to change his sheets twice a night because he’s thrown up on them, and his home-schooling takes place between vomiting attacks and medication for the constant burning in his throat and gut.

This is a kid who was almost not born at all– he almost miscarried on several occasions– and then was born so cross-eyed he needed corrective surgery to stop him going blind before he was five. He’s had more surgery at eight than I have at almost 43, spent more time in hospital than I ever have, whose calmness in the face of needles, MRIs, and invasive procedures is so pronounced that nurses comment on in it in genuine wonder, and the reason is simply that he’s so damn used to it that it’s as normal to him as picking up a book.

Just for once, couldn’t he get a good old-fashioned manflu?

CON REPORT: BATTCON 13

It was a good weekend, so it was: three days alone in Margaret River with the delectable Luscious Lyn, with no plans beyond writing, enjoying the view, and sampling the local produce. Having been excluded from recent Eastern states conventions by dint of skintness, we decided to dub the whole thing Battcon, and act like we were at a convention of our own.

Which, from my experiences, usually involves getting pissed as a weasel, facing fan abuse because I don’t like the same shows they do, and buying a metric fuckload of books I’d never find in the shops.

So, in the best Con tradition, here’s my Battcon Con report, with pictures.

FRIDAY

Had the good luck to share a drive down to the Con hotel with the guest of honour, involving some fantastic conversation and only slightly dodgy music choices. Arrived at the hotel at just after 7. The opening ceremony was brief, but took in all the best Con traditions.

Battcon opening ceremony. By ‘opening’, I obviously mean the first bottle.

After a light dinner….

…. we wandered down to the video room and perused the roster for the video stream.

Settled on a comedy entitled Exeter: Space Douche, and spent the evening laughing at a time when Science Fiction was unabashedly misogynistic and racist. Unlike now, thank goodness.

SATURDAY

Decided to take in breakfast at the Margaret River Bakery, based on fifteen-year old memories and recommendations from friends. Escaped injury when a jumble sale exploded during the meal.

After a quick visit to the Con Art Show, which was sponsored this year by the Margaret River Art Hater’s Association….

…we popped down to the Dealer’s Room…

…where we browsed shelves filled with the finest Australian authors, including such well known Aussies as Tim Winton, Tim Winton, and, uh, Joe Abercrombie.

 Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Ummmm!

After that, it was down to work. My goal for the weekend was to finish Disciple of the Torrent, an 8000 word story I had promised to deliver by a week after Battcon, and which I had written to the tune of 350-odd rocking words. 3500 words later, the day was pronounced a success.

I can’t remember if these were taken Saturday or Sunday, but I present them as proof that work was completed. By Lyn, obviously. me, you’ll have to take on trust.

After recovering from an exhausting spa session with a quick walk on the beach, we headed out to the nearby Con bar for Happy Hour drinks and dinner.

This is a French martini. It’s made by combining vodka and raspberry liqueur with pineapple juice and topping it off with a twist of lemon peel.

This is a second French martini.

This is a third.

This is a fifth. Somewhere in there was a fourth, but frankly, you should be impressed that I was even capable of holding a camera at this point, never mind counting to five.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel room, and a chance to watch a nature documentary for research purposes.

SUNDAY

After breakfast it was back to the dealer’s room, this time to scope out the merch!

After filling up on essential con items like souvenirs, choc-coated licorice, chili-chocolate peanut brittle and more chocolate, it was back to the room and back to work.

Another 4500 words, and bugger me, but Disciple of the Torrent was declared closed! Following a hard-driving and keenly contested intellectual debate entitled “Which end of the spa do you want?”, we ordered some room service– in best Con tradition, some of the worst fucking food we’ve ever eaten– and took a moment to gloat over the Con swag we had assembled:

Booty!

Then, with only a million billion trillion bottles of wine to console us, we once more delved into the best SF has to offer via the video stream.

MONDAY

Alas, it was time to leave the Con behind and trundle back to the world of children, day jobs, and fucking day jobs. But not before we dropped into the winery just down the road from the Con hotel.

And the one just out of town. And the one just the other side of Bunbury.

A casual day of wandering up the coast, watching Luscious Lyn engage in wine-tasting geekery, and generally just behaving like itinerant gypsies later, we picked up the kid and became normal people again.

Such is life.

But to prove that a picture tells at least one word, and that word is often ‘Whoops’, here’s a random gallery of images from the weekend. Enjoy.

Lyn Battersby, totally sober, your honour.

 

Margaret River graffiti humour. They’ll work on it… 
Where country people think the internet lives.

My wife is gorgeous.

 My wife is gorgeous.
 My wife is gorgeous.
My wife is gorgeous.

 

And what self-respecting Con would be complete without a gratuitous selfie?

ONLY 7 FOR MURDER

It’s my 8th wedding anniversary today.

8 years married to the beautiful, talented, and generally all-round wonderful Luscious Lyn, and it only keeps getting better. Through monetary hardship, professional and personal disappointment, surgeries, illness, separations and worry we’ve carved out a life that brings us happiness, awards, successes, picnics, love, togetherness, and a life that leads us to lying in the bed together at the end of the day telling each other “That was a good day” many more times than not.

Love you, my darling.

TURNING YOUR KIDS INTO ZOMBIES, IN THE NICEST POSSIBLE WAY

Luscious Lyn has recently joined one of the strangest little groups I’ve heard of in years.

Zombies, Run is a downloadable exercise app that plays an ongoing post-apocalyptic narrative in which you, designated Runner 5, navigate your way through a zombie-strewn landscape, completing tasks and avoiding shambling herds of z-men by, well, running. It’s an extraordinarily clever conceit as well as yet another indication that SF is always amongst the first literary genres to take advantage of new technology. What’s more it is, according to the Luscious one, rather addictive. Which, let’s face it, rather the point when it comes to getting out there and exercising.

What’s more, the app is bringing groups together t talk about their experiences: Lyn is a member of a group based in Wollongong, along with fellow Clarion South alumni Laura Goodin. And now they want t-shirts.

Which is where the Battersby Family Art Machine decided to intervene 🙂

Miss 11 has designed a Zombie Run picture. I’ve designed a Zombie Run t-shirt. Master 8 has drawn a dragon, but then, that’s just Master 8 all over.

Lyn often plays the narrative while she walks the kids to school, and has taken to referring to them in her Facebook posts as Runners 5.1 and 5.2, so they just had to appear in the design. What’s more, I’ve managed to do what it took Aiden 20 years of computer games and unemployment to achieve: I’ve turned them into shambling, flaky skinned zombies of the first order.

Here’s the proof of concept sketch for your entertainment. We’ll be getting it up onto Cafe Press soon as I have a few days to design, layout and paint a final version.

Please note: advice applies only if your children are actual zombies
Just “not liking them” is no defence in the eyes of the law.

ROMANCE ISN’T DEAD. IT JUST LURKS AROUND THE LOCAL SHOPS, WAITING FOR THE UNWARY

Our local shopping centre runs a monthly giveaway. You know the type: drop your receipt in the barrel, win a prize. Every month there’s a display in the centre of the mall: a pile of gardening equipment, an outdoor setting, pamper packages,you know the sort of thing.

We never hear who wins. There’s never any promo. Frankly, we’re of the opinion that the whole thing is a scam and the ‘prizes’ are never actually awarded: it’s just some obscure head-counting or income-counting thing the shopping centre does for its own nefarious purposes.

Doesn’t stop us putting our receipts in the barrel, mind.

Which is probably a good thing, as yesterday Luscious received a phone call to tell her she’d won the most recent giveaway: $600 in Flight Centre vouchers, to spend on any of their packages.

What’s that? Romantic long weekend down south pretending we’re having a writing retreat when we’ll probably just lounge by the pool the whole time drinking bubbly and ploughing through the room service menu, I hear you cry?

Exactly what we’re thinking 🙂

BATTERSBYS, BATTERSBYS, ALL AROUND, AND NOT A DROP TO… UH…

Damn, but whilst I’ve been off lounging about the beach crapping about with artists, but people have only gone and bought stories and the like from her Lusciousness and myself.


Where, I hallucinate you asking? Funny you should bring it up….







This friendly little fellow is the cover to Midnight Echo 7, unfortunately harmless. He’s the official magazine of the Australian Horror Writer’s Association, and undoubtedly the nastiest little read you’ll read this year, at least until issue 8 comes out. It contains my short story Ghosts of You, which is quite unpleasant, and I say that with all the love in my heart. 


Purchase ye here.


Next to him… the nasty Year’s Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2011. His tiny fangs cause creeping ulcerations of the skin, and his pages contain Europe After the Rain, a story originally published in Fablecroft Publishing’s After The Rain anthology and which I thought had disappeared with a dull whoomph of disinterest, so I’m pleased to see it up and about and being appreciated. 



YBAFH11 can be found at Ticonderoga Publications.


And coming soon… my prize, ASIM 56. Isn’t she lovely? And so deadly. Her pages contain twice as many Battersbys as that of other magazines. You see, her contents include The Blind Pig, that is to say a modern fable of the depression by my beautiful wife Luscious as well as my own Comfort Ghost, and eventually… oh sod it, i can’t keep that up.


Everyone knows ASIM is a ripper of a magazine. Their website is here, and I’ll let you know when the issue is due to come out. The Blind Pig is the best short Lyn has ever written, and if you know Lyn’s writing, you’ll know what that means: you want a copy of this magazine, and you want it ASAP.


And if that isn’t enough to make you wonder at just how many people you can fool all of the time, be sure to check out Bete Noire in July, where my poem Three Messages will appear. 

7 YEARS, NO ITCH

Seven years ago today, for reasons that may have been clear only to her, Luscious threw me a bone and married me.

If she’s regretted it, she’s kept it to herself.

So, being in the fortunate position of remaining deeply in love with a woman I find more beautiful and more wonderful every day– a woman who continues to astonish me with her intelligence; talent; caring nature; capacty for forgiveness; and loyalty to herself, her family, and her ideals; it’s left to me to say, simply:

I love you, wife-man.

FREE FICTION FROM FARRUGIA’S FORCEFUL FELICITATIONS

Over at the Screaming Ink website, the groovy Mark Farrugia, co-editor of the upcoming Midnight Echo #8, has posted a list of short stories that have made an impact upon him due to their offbeat and disturbing nature. The entire post, entitled Fiction That Has Stayed With Me, is a nice little run-down of one man’s reading tastes.

If you pop down to number 46, you’ll see my beloved Luscious‘ story As We Know It. It’s a nasty, unsettling little gem of a type she does superbly: short vignettes starring a woman who says all the ‘right’ things and does all the ‘right’ things, but still ends up disturbing the living buggery out of you– femininity inverted, revealing all the rages and injustices that are subsumed beneath convention and ‘obedience’.
As We Know It first appeared in issue 10 of Borderlands magazine, back in 2008. The magazine has gone the way off all things, which is a pity as it was a classy little unit, but Lyn has kindly agreed to let me reprint it here in its entirety. So, for your entertainment, and in the hope that it will leave as lasting in impression upon you as it did Mark:
As We Know It
by Lyn Battersby
First printed in Borderlands 10, March 2008, Borderlands Publications.
     Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you like the sex. You enjoy the way he paws at your breasts, tweaks your nipples and runs his hands over your butt as he whispers eternal love in your ear. You’re even partial to the odd slap on the thigh as he grabs your hips and grinds himself into you, the rhythmic thwack, thwack, thwack of flesh assaulting flesh as you thrust against one another, him grunting, you panting, thrusting and grunting, panting and thrusting, panting, grunting, grunting, grunting, moaning, faster, faster, faster,
     breath,
     hold it,
     hold it,
     aaaahhhhh,
     And he’s come, and you’ve faked it, and you’re lying on the bed, on the grass, on the stairwell leading to the Humanities building and you recall the acrid tang of that one cigarette you had four years ago and wonder whether it’s too late to take up the habit.
     No, it’s the responsibility you’re avoiding. He doesn’t have to worry about words like breech or caesarean or placenta praevia or any of the hundreds of medical terms that share just one meaning: death.
     You search the campus surgery, ransacking the cupboards, searching for samples. You have your preferred brand, the one that doesn’t make you feel bloated or teary or furious, the one that acts as it should, regulating your cycle and preventing his little soldiers from invading your ovum.
     You find a  packet in the nurse’s station, enough to cover two months, but you’re always aware, always aware: the stocks are finite. Sperm isn’t.
     Once upon a lifetime ago, you were not alone. People milled through your life with their bad breath and sweat and the endless chatter of mobile phones and you barely noticed them, noticed him, failed to perceive the ebb and flow of one person after another.
     People were unimportant.
     Once upon a time.
     And now, you’re at the happily ever after and it’s just you and him and you can’t help but notice him because he is all there is and he wants more, many more, a world of more and you
     just
     don’t.
     “Maybe this month,” he says as he pushes you onto the table and opens you up with sex-stained fingers.
     You nod and agree, that it’s your responsibility, but all the while you’re aware of the sugar bowl, the tomato sauce bottle, the serviette dispenser as they bounce against your head and you try to distance yourself–
     Bristol, Devonshire, London, York–
     “What are you thinking about?”
     Lying back and thinking of England.
     “Maybe this time,” you say.
     –Stratford Upon Avon, Ferry Across the Mersey–
     His face screws up into a frown. Sweat drips onto your breasts, into the dip of your cleavage–
     — Eastenders, Dr Who–
     Then it’s over and you sneak off to the bathroom to flush away his semen. You pop out another pill and swallow it with a mouthful of tepid water from the basin.
You are the only woman for him, he tells you and you buy into it because it makes you special. You don’t know why you were chosen, it’s his mission not yours, but you continue on with your quest and take long walks off campus and one day you find it, the Promised Land. A chemist, unopened, unexplored, and it’s a simple matter to find a brick and aim for the window and an alarm shrieks its outraged cry while you head for Mecca, and there it lies, the Holy Grail, hundreds and hundreds of little tan tablets in their foil packets beckoning to you, promising years of infertility.
     Your lover doesn’t suspect a thing, him with his self-appointed assignment and need to repopulate the Earth in his image. You’ve seen behind the mask to the devil within and you know, you know there’ll never be one last hurrah, no last moment of giving fate the finger.
     For you, for all of you, this is the end of the line.
     Because he is the last man on Earth.
     And you still don’t want him.