MAGRIT IMAGE PORN!

Because that’s not a creepy weird title, given the book’s about a ten year old girl…..

Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss’anywaaaaaaayyyyy…… the publisher has sent me some groovy hi-res images of bits of the book!

Wanna see them?

Course you do.

MAGRIT: A FIRST GLIMPSE

Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of finally meeting my lovely editor, Sue, who was in town for many reasons, one of which was to meet me and hand over the first ARC (Advance Reader Copy– the version of the book given to reviewers, booksellers and various ne’er-do-wells in the hope of generating buzz before the official launch) of Magrit.

Magrit will be officially released in March next year, as a fully-illustrated hardcover. But I can, now, finally give you an indication of what it will look like. So, as a little Halloween treat, with a cover and interior illustrations by the wonderfully talented Amy Daoud, here’s a little advance glimpse of Magrit.

MY PLATE, AND THE LOTS ON IT

What time is it, Mister Wolf?

Fucked if I know, I’ve been hard up against it.

Godsdamn, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to just sit around and blog at y’all. many reasons, but suffice to say, much of it has been down to general suckage, work-based suckage, business, distraction, and the feeling that I’ve got rather more urgent and important things to be doing.

The main thing of interest to this blog, however, is that Luscious and I have started hanging out with a group of Perth writers calling themselves Perth Write Club. They meet every fortnight at the State Library and Edith Cowan University, on a turn-by-turn basis, and well, they write. Hard. For an afternoon, with a bit of lunch beforehand and a chinwag after.

It’s fab, and the kind of writing group I’ve been missing for quite some time– every group I’ve been a part of over the last five years has eventually ended up with me acting as some kind of defacto free workshop leader, and there’s only so much of that I can take before I want to hang out with some actual peers, please. Lyn and I attend the State Library meetings, and it’s proving highly beneficial to my writing. In two meetings I’ve managed to complete a 4000-word synopsis for the kids novel Cirque and write a 3000-word short story entitled General Janvier. I’ll be keeping this up!

In publication news, Magrit continues to lurk about the corridors of Walker Books. They appear to have some big plans for it– I can’t reveal what, unfortunately, but it might be a little more illustrated, and a little more hard-backy that first thought…… March next year is looking like the launch date, by which time it’ll be older than the audience it was written for.

And I’ve been podded over at Far Fetched Fables: if you’ve not read my 2008 story In From the Snow, here’s a chance to snuggle up in bed, cuddle your favourite teddy bear, and have it read to you. Sleep tight,

THIS MAY BE THE LAST THING I EVER WRITE, SO I BETTER MAKE IT A GOOD ONE

Holy Meatballs Mother of Brian, do I ever need this break.

You don’t need to have read too much of this blog in 2015– indeed, there hasn’t been very much of it to read– to know that I’ve felt under the hammer, and pretty much squashed by the hammer, for most of the year to date. Things just haven’t let up for the last 3 months, and between work, editing, family life, moving into a new house, and all the other million and one bits and bobs that strike you in the face as you walk through the days, I’ve become increasingly stressed, and increasingly fragile. Thankfully, I’m beginning to emerge from it, but there are still a few lingering weights, and I need some time out from underneath them.

Edits of Magrit are progressing at what might kindly be called Hella pace: I’ve been over the manuscript 3 times in the last 2 months at the behest of my editor, and I’m reliably informed that there’s only one more before the book will be ready to go to the typesetter. It’s due to be published in early 2016: come to the launch and I’ll happily underline for you the one line remaining from the original manuscript…..

Yeah, it’s a much better book, but we both know you only come here for the comedy kvetching.

I’ve also, out of the insanity of my heart, committed to a new artistic enterprise: namely, building an enormous diorama for a public Lego display in October called, wait for it, Bricktober! The concept is fabulous, if I do say so myself– a shuttle dropping crowds off on a moon surface to visit a shrine to the Unknown Spaceman. Only downside is, the shuttle itself is approximately 4 times bigger than anything I’ve ever built before, never mind the actual shrine. It’s going to look great…… assuming I finish it…… assuming I have the skills…… assuming I haven’t bitten off way more than I can chew……

Yeah, I’m not afraid to admit it: I may have been the
teeeeeeeeensiest bit over-ambitious……

This isn’t even mentioning work, which is, you know, work.

Which is why the next six days are necessary. Because tomorrow, we fly out to Bali for the first time, armed with instructions on how to navigate the Waterbom water park, and which shops in Discovery Mall are best for teenage girl clothes shopping, and when best to take the Night Safari (hint: at night), and me insisting all the while that I want to go to the Archaeology Museum, dammit! and sketchbooks and notepads, and camera, and damned if I don’t intend to come back sun-browned, exhausted, refreshed, recharged, and with enough material to get me writing again and not stopping until the Christmas holidays because fuck it, I’m sick of where I am and who I’ve become and it’s time to get back to getting on with it.

Also, Luscious has never flown overseas, Master 10 was Master 3 Months the last time we flew anywhere for a family holiday, and it’s bloody well time.

I’ve got a Thumbnail Thursday and Fetish Friday posts booked in the interim, but as far as live words go, this is me over and out for the interim. I shall return, with photos, in April.

WRITING, SPELLED WITH A SILENT ‘RE’

Sorry about the lack of action round here, folks. I’m bang up against an editorial deadline for Magit and BugratMagwitch and Bugrat with editorial feedback regards naming conventions applied– and haven’t much time in my off hours for anything else. After an edit-heavy weekend, in which the entire structure of the novel was revamped, and chapter one was disassembled, scattered throughout the rest of the novel and reassembled, I’ve completed the first round of edits and inputs and am now just smoothing out the seams and bumps that such a major edit usually leaves. It’ll be back in the hands of the editors by the end of the week and then you and I can sit and chat.

Except that I’ve got to get Father Muerte & the Divine to Agent Rich. But I’m just about done with those edits and I reckon I’ll have them to him by, what, mid next-week. Then we can sit and chat.

Except I have to rewrite Cirque and add the 35 000 words it needs to get it finished and sent to Agent Rich because it’s on my goals list for this year and I don;t want to spend the entire goddamn year just editing: I actually want to write some new words if it’s all right with everyone. But after that….

After that, we can chat.

Unless I start work on something else.

IF LIFE BEGINS AT 40, WHY AM I 43 AND HAVE NO LIFE?

So, I’m 43 now, and it’s weird, but I don’t feel any wiser then I did when I was 42.

Actually, it was a good turning, this year. For a start, the day of my birthday fell on my RDO, so, you know, free day off. I was gifted up the wazoo– a massive Lego set from Luscious and the kids and the 4-DVD box set of Sealab 2021 from Aiden, which pretty much covers my geekdom from front to back so I was a happy fat man. And I was the victim of a surprise birthday lunch attended by several friends, so I ended the weekend feeling like a suitably pampered and satisfied birthday boy: my thanks to Kris & Kim McMinn, Stephen Dedman and Lily Chrywenstrom for coming down to the Batthaim and making my afternoon such an enjoyable one. And thanks to my darling wife and beautiful children for reminding me that they’re sneaky bald-faced liars who can’t be trusted…. but lovely ones, who are good to me. 🙂

Multiply 9 by 14, divide by 9.14, add 9, subtract 14, multiply by some other number and take away some stuff, and it’s suitable for age 43!

Professionally, I don’t know what to make of my life. I’m at the best day job I’ve ever had, but, well, it’s still a day job, and when it comes down to it, I begrudge anything that takes me away from Luscious and the kids, and equally begrudge anything that takes me away from the one thing I want to do with my life, which is to build this writing career I thought I’d have by now. I resent work when I’m writing because it takes me away from that writing, and when I’m not writing I resent it because it’s the block that stands between me and the writing I should be doing.

And right now, I’m doing a bunch of writing. Having signed up for Nanowrimo again this year I’ve managed just under 8000 words on Canals of Anguilar, my latest novel, which isn’t Nano speed but it’s 8000 more words than I managed in October, so it’s doing what it needs to do. And while I can’t reveal details until contracts are finalised and formal announcements are formally announced, I’ve been invited to present a workshop at a pretty damned decent writer’s festival in 2014 and I’ve sold Magwitch and Bugrat, so you can officially add “children’s author” to my list of crimes against humanity. All in all, despite feeling like I’m betwixt and between in my writing career, I’m making some advances which– I’d like to think– are going to take me further afield than the small genre pond in which I’ve been swimming so far.

All in all, 43 is not a bad place to be so far.

So, for the moment, work will continue apace. Between now and 44, I’ll complete Father Muerte & the Divine and Canals of Anguilar and send them off to Agent Rich, and I’m itching to get my teeth into a crime novel, so I’d like to be well into the wordage on one by this time next year. And if I’m going to be a children’s author I’d better do that properly, too, so let’s say I’ll have another kid’s novel under my belt as well. The artists who fascinate me– and who I’ve most wanted to emulate– are polymaths, and while adult novels/children’s novels is hardly the spread of talent to match the ‘trumpeter/actor/poet/comedy God’ skill set of Spike Milligan or David Bowie’s ‘musician/actor’ oeuvre, it’s what I’ve managed to score so far so I’d best make the most of it.

That’s an awful lot of writing, especially as we continue to deal with master 8’s illness and the range of issues that come with cramming a family of 5 into a ginormous house on a single wage, but what am I going to do? I’m two years away from the goal I set myself when I got into this game– writing full-time by the age of 45– and while I’m prepared to adjust that goal I’m not resigned to doing so. All I can do is get on with it.

And while I’m wishing, I’d like a unicorn…

RELEASE THE BUGRATS!

After much prevarication, faffing about, and spending too much time locked into the day job, I’m please to report that Magwitch and Bugrat is finally finished.

I’ve sent it off to Agent Rich tonight, and now all I can do is sit back and see whether he decides to take it on.

Oh, and turn my attention to the line-edits for Father Muerte & the Divine. Yeah, that too.

SILENCE OF THE HAMS

There’s been a peculiar silence round these parts recently: we’re changing ISPs, and thanks to the 19th Century, it’s going to take 2 weeks without internet to have all the connections connected and the contracts contracted and the… well, fuck it, I’m on my phone and public computers until then.

Still, it has enabled me to do one worthy thing in the meantime: finish Magwitch and Bugrat, my palate-cleansing sorbet project between novels which has transmuted into a 16 000 word kids novel. Thanks to the upcoming long weekend– made a day longer by a strategically placed RDO– I’ll be running through a first edit this weekend, and will hopefully be gently prodding Agent Rich as to his interest within the next two to three weeks, while I eye off the enormous pile of paper that is Father Muerte and the Divine and try to persuade myself that, seeing as I’m already in an editing mood, I may as well throw myself at it.

And now that the month of insanity at my day job has finished, I’ve been able to catch up on other, more personal things, like visiting my father and greeting my Aunty Celia and Uncle David a few days before they flew back to Nottingham after having been over for the better part of a month or more.

But, ultimately, this is a brief missive before the coins run out. More later, my little friends, but for the moment, imagine me snuggled under a blanket somewhere in the 19th century, pen in one hand, paper in the other, with a hot toddy or whatever it is old people in the 19th Century drink, waiting for the internet wallah to bring me my connection.

Sigh.

AWARDS 2: BATTERSBY 0

A busy weekend for the rest of the Australian SF community this last weekend, with Conflux 9, the Australian National SF Convention, being held in Canberra. Sadly, Olympic-level skintness kept us from attending, which was a pity, because my one Conflux, back in 2006, ranks as my favourite convention experience (barring the Swancon at which I married Luscious, naturally. Yep, for those of you who don’t know, I married my wife at an SF Convention. Some might call it geeky. Some might call it realising that everyone we would have invited to the wedding were already going to be gathered in one place anyway…). Marc Gascoigne, Angry Robot head honcho, was Guest of Honour, and it would have been great to catch up with him the flesh for what would likely have been the only time ever. Ah, well.

The Australian SF ‘Ditmar’ Awards were announced at the Con, and The Corpse-Rat King was beaten to the Best Novel gong by Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts. There’s no shame in that: Lanagan is an immensely popular, multi-award winning author, and Sea Hearts has already collected a  swag of award nominations and wins. After losing out to Kirstyn McDermott in the recently-announced Australian Shadows Award, it makes me 0 for 2 in short lists this year. I’m disappointed– if you’re on a shortlist you want to win the thing– but not hardly surprised.

All of which means it’s time to get off my lazy arse– I’ll admit, I’ve been the very personification of slackness this last couple of weeks, as day job stress and general mehness overwhelmed me– and get back to finishing the works in progress. Father Muerte & The Divine is ready to line edit, I’m waiting to hear if Agent Rich can place Naraveen’s Land before I launch myself towards finishing the edits on it, and Magwitch and Bugrat, the children’s novel I started at the behest of Luscious and the kids, is 3/4 complete and needs to be rounded off.

As a way of finding the time, we set the alarm a half hour earlier this morning, rose in the dark, and I managed to shoot out 500 words before having to get ready for work. This will be the pattern from here on in. It’s nice to be nominated for awards, and sickening to watch a procession of everybody else get them all. work is the only cure.

So here’s a little extract from the first draft of Magwitch and Bugrat as a little literary sourdough starter:

              Bugrat found his own voice as he grew, and used it to ask questions, “What is this?” and “What’s that called?” and “What is this for?” and “Why?” and “Why?” and “why?” over and over again. Magwitch had never taught anybody before. She didn’t know how to make someone sit and listen and believe that she was the only one who knew the real truth about things. So she listened to Bugrat as much as he listened to her, and because he was allowed to do some of the talking, their little world slowly changed to fit his view of it, as much as it had once changed to fit her.
            “Why are they called headstones?” he asked, pointing to the slabs of stone that lay face down amongst the grass. And because she didn’t know, and because neither of them really believed that “Because they are,” was a real answer, headstones became jumpstones, because jumping from stone to stone was what Magwitch and Bugrat used them for.
            “What are they?” he asked of the stars that flickered uncertainly beyond the edges of the surrounding roofs when they night sky cleared and the smog went to bed. And Magwitch would tell him her dreams of windows in the sky, and the blackness around them where little boys and girls could play safely with no walls to hold them in, and never have to worry about anybody looking out.
            “What are these for?” he would wonder, while he stretched out to try and touch the cold, unfriendly glass of the windows around them, and Magwitch would pull on his arm until her greater weight slowly dragged him away, back into the safety of the brambles and the deep, comfortable shadows.

            “You must never touch them,” she warned him. “never, ever, ever.” “Why?” he would ask, and “Why?” and “Why?” but Magwitch would not answer. 

I GOTTA STOP ENJOYING MYSELF

These long weekends are killing me.

Luscious Lyn and I came together as a couple after our first marriages had ended: for differing reasons, certainly, but ended nonetheless. In our younger years we’d both suffered through the break-up of our parents’ marriages as well. With children of our own we have remained determined that we will devote every ounce of energy to creating an environment that is loving, supportive, inclusive, and exciting for our children. We want them to have the happy, stable, rewarding domestic lifestyle we lacked as teenagers.

We’ve made any number of mistakes over the last ten years, but right now we seem to have achieved a wonderful balance: our kids are happy, creative souls; physically and mentally active; who feel safe and comfortable enough in their home environment to contribute their voices and opinions to our decision making without fear. We give them what we can, when we can, and they respond in ways that make us happy and proud. We share a range of experiences and adventures that challenge, reward, and grow them in equal measure. As a family we’re bloody happy.


This year, we ended our Foxtel subscription, and as we don’t get the commercial channels due to a transmission black spot and no desire on our part to buy the cable necessary to view a 24 hour stream of dogshit reality TV shows, we’ve been spending a lot more time in the evenings doing art projects, reading, playing in parks and down the beach, and quietly exposing the kids to the creative facets of our artistic careers. The kids have always been aware that Mummy and Daddy were authors, but this year, they’ve started to gain an understanding of just what that means, and what it entails on a daily basis.

Now, with their new-found understanding, they’re responding like the responsible, caring, loving children we know they are. They’re demanding we write a kids novel. 🙂

Lyn’s already started: Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs is funny, creepy, elegantly written and an absolute delight– anybody who has read any of Lyn’s work knows just how beautifully she crafts a story– and is so perfectly Lyn that I was prompted to post on Facebook that she “had found her true voice”, which pleased her no end, given she’s been publishing stories since 2001….

The kids were so excited they insisted we sit down and draw covers for the book (this is the sort of thing we would never have done with Foxtel in the house. It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made…)

Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs, by Lyn Battersby
Illustrated by Connor Battersby
Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs, by Lyn Battersby
Illustrated by Erin Battersby
 Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs, by Lyn Battersby
Illustrated by Lee Battersby

And this last week I’ve found myself in a calm moment between projects– Marching Dead isn’t released for another month and I’m quietly making plans for the launch; Father Muerte & The Divine is written and I’m letting it ferment slightly before I go back and begin line-editing duties; the package for Naraveen’s Land is with the agent; and we’re still waiting to hear back from the publisher as to whether they wish to go ahead with Corpse-Rat King: Fall to Heaven— so what the hey: I sat down on Saturday and started writing Magwitch and Bugrat, a kids’ novel  had the initial idea for years ago but shelved until I could arrange all the pieces in my mind correctly.

Every night for the last week, we’ve gathered on our bed to listen to Lyn read the latest day’s Peter Brown Loves Dinosaurs progress. As of Saturday, I’ve had to read the day’s Magwitch and Bugrat progress, too.

No pressure.

Here’s a taste:

“What do I do with it?” she asked.

“I told you. Kill it.”

“I’m not going to kill it. That would be…” Actually, Magwitch didn’t know what it would be. She was going to say ‘cruel’, but she didn’t actually think death wascruel. She had spent all of her life, what she could remember of it, anyway, surrounded by dead people. They didn’t seem unhappy. Dead people didn’t get cold, or tired, or skin their knees and bleed. They didn’t get thirsty or itchy or get rashes on their bottoms or have sore gums or stub their toes. They simply lay very still and quiet, and let rats use their skulls as homes and every now and again gnaw on one of their bones and they never complained. And dead people never, ever, cried. “…wrong,” she finished. Before Master Puppet could ask what would be so wrong about it she picked the baby up and held it to her chest.

“You touched it!” Master Puppet cried in outrage. “You went and touched it! Now you’ll have its smell on you! You’ll… you’ll… smell like a live person!”

So, three days later, I’ve cracked 3000 words. And what does a public holiday like today look like when you’re me?

  • 1100 words on Magwitch and Bugrat
  • 300 words on Fall to Heaven, just to get myself started so there will be something in place should Angry Robot give us the go-ahead.
  • Unpack half a dozen boxes of books and shelve them in the upstairs room, including all the graphic novels, now that we’re not going to move house after all and can start unpacking all the things we previously packed. Books come first. Always
  • Take delivery and set up the new computer for the kids, because the school demands an unbelievable amount of net access for homework and it’ll mean we don’t have to surrender my laptop for two hours every damn evening, which means I’ll be able to get more writing done.
  • Eat healthily all day, including yet *another* brilliant 400 calorie meal from Lyn (parmesan chicken bites, in case you’re interested). I’ve set myself a target of losing 12 kilos this year– not exactly a huge amount, but it’s necessitating a big change in diet, and it’s one we’re enjoying. 
  • Spend time with the kids. 
  • Get the dog washed, brushed, and cleaned of burrs. 
  • Spend nearly an hour with the whole family just having a conversation round the lunch table because none of really want to be the one to break it off. 
  • Curl up on our bed with Master 8 and Miss 11 and read today’s extracts to them.

And that’s the problem, you see. 

I keep having these brilliant, brilliant days when I’m at home with the family. And then I have to put them down and go back to work. Now, I like my job. I really do. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to say before. I really like my job. But I don’t love it. 

I love being an author. I love being a father and husband. I particularly love being a stay-at-home father and husband. I did it once before, way back in 2004 when I wasn’t a good enough writer to make it work and so had to go back to a job that made me physically ill every morning. But I have a good job now, that pays well, and satisfies me, and is good enough that I feel like the most ungrateful, mealy-mouthed cur alive every time I get all pissy and whiny because no matter how good it is I’d still rather be at home being an author and father and husband.

But there it is. Call me pissy and mealy-mouthed if you will. But these long weekends are killing me. These public holidays and weeks off and vacations are fucking killing me. Because they’re like tiny, bite-sized tastes of the life I could have, if only I were good enough, or talented enough, or deserving enough.

And I can only see 2 ways to break the cycle– become a shit father and husband and ruin the family environment so that leaving it to go to work every day is a blessed relief; or work like a frigging literary Trojan and get enough quality product out in a compressed enough time-frame that it begins to pay for the lifestyle. 

And I don’t like the idea of option number one……