ON THE SUBJECT OF REAL LIFE……

Writing remains dead. Teaching eats everything; I spend most of my spare time creating resources, marking, or just plain dealing with the steepness of the learning curve that comes from being out of a game for twenty-five years. There’s a writing group in town: Luscious and I went to it a few times, but haven’t been in something like 9 months. We’re talking about going back, just to get in touch with the joy of words. Watch this space. Or, if you care about the outcome, maybe don’t…

Weight loss has tapered off in a major way. See above for the reasons why. I’m still under 100kgs, which is a good thing, and trying to fit workouts into the gaps. Call it maintenance rather than loss, perhaps. I have still lost centimetres, which is positive, and my chest has gained half a centimetre of muscle where there was once only fat. It’s a long haul. I’m still hauling.

The Lego remains in the cupboard. Time, community, opportunity to display are all lacking. But Luscious and I have just swapped offices because reasons, and mine now has a Great Big Giant Table ™, so possiblymaybeperhaps I’ll have a chance to get it all out and noodle around with some pieces just for fun. We’ll see.

Life decisions have been decisioned. We like it here. There are opportunities for us. We’ll be staying for at least another three years.

Have I missed anything?

SURVIVED, ALIVE, AND ALL THAT JIVE

So, it’s over. Tropical Cyclone Veronica became Very Strong Wind Veronica, and finally, Was That It? Veronica. Port Hedland was battered to within an inch of improvement, Wickham and Roeburne received a bloody good wash, and Karratha lost a few trees and spread an awful lot of leaves about to be the mulch of the future.

As to us, we evacuated from our house because we were advised that our house was likely to be flooded, and spent three nights camped out on air beds on the floor of our local indoor basketball courts, surrounded by as much food as we could cram into two eskies, a veritable fort of water bottles, and the hacking coughs and sneezes of 60 or so other people who received the same advice… only to return home and find that up the half a dozen of our emergency sandbags had become partially moist.

I make light, of course. This is the blog of a bitter and broken curmudgeon. News sites start to the left.

But, we’re okay, the house survived, we’re all back at work and school and regular service is resumed. So, on that note, I shall resume my position of rough radio silence for at least a few more weeks while I go back to trying to resolve my future as a writer, artist, failure, empty vessel, and hermit-best-treated-as-a-sort-of-roundabout.

Thanks to all who got in touch to make sure we are okay. See you all soon. Ish. Probably. Maybe. Probably.

CYCLONE VERONICA: THIS IS SERIOUS, MUM.

Breaking silence just to update you on our current state of Real Life ™.

As many of you know, we located to Karratha, in the North of our State, at the beginning of last year. Right now, that puts us in the path of Cyclone Veronica, a category 4 cyclone off the coast that is expected to reach category 5 by the weekend, when it is expected to cross the coast somewhere within 350 kilometres of my side of the bed.

By tea-time Sunday, we are likely to be gifted with winds in excess of 125km/hr, potentially reaching to over 165km/hr. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, we’re also highly likely to receive rainfall in excess of 150mm within a 24 hour period, resulting in major flooding and a very dangerous storm tide.

Continue reading “CYCLONE VERONICA: THIS IS SERIOUS, MUM.”

HIATUS

Time for a break here at the Batthaim, I think.

After a year of relief teaching I’ve accepted a contract to teach English at the local High School part-time, and to say I suck at it would be like noticing the Antarctic is a touch nippy at this time of year. Consequently, running full-pelt just to keep up with everyone else’s strolling is eating my life. Writing has come to a shuddering halt, and frankly, I’m dispirited and disillusioned enough that it’s entirely possible it will never start up again. Thanks to an unpaid Christmas period, I can’t afford to pick kickboxing back up or renew my pool and gym memberships for months– if at all this year, thanks to all the other massive financial hits that have decided now was the right time for a multi-issue cross-over event– so fitness and workouts have taken a dive into shitedom.

Everything is all too much, and  right now I have neither the energy nor the will to pretend that I have anything to offer the Universe. I might have a handle on this new position by the end of the ten-week first term. I might not. I might be in a position to return to my dancing monkey-boy side job. I might not. After 48 years of scratching every moment to try and be something special beyond the anonymous food processing unit my family history and social stratum bequeathed me at birth, I’m ready to admit defeat. I can’t help feeling I would have been better off just settling for a life of unambitious pissheadery, as did all my forebears.

Time for a break.

HAPPY AUSTRALIA-FOR-MOST-OF-US DAY

I love living in Australia. I love being Australian. I get highly shitty when anyone plays the “You’re a pom, you’re not a real Australian” card on me. I’ve been resident in this country since I was 5, a citizen since I was 11. I watch the world. This is, in many ways, a truly great, great country in which to live.

So wouldn’t it be nice to make it great for everyone? Not just in the relative political, judicial, and social safety we enjoy without thinking about; but emotionally and (though I hate to use the word), spiritually, as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a day we could all feel that good about, without having to really consider the implications? If, instead of hearing somebody say This date causes my people pain because of these reasons, the response was less Strayaloveitorleaveitturnbacktheboatsfootygobackwhereyousecamefrom and more How can we help lessen your pain? ? More, I don’t know… Australian?

Wouldn’t it be nice just not to have to argue about it, because we could simply. just. agree? Continue reading “HAPPY AUSTRALIA-FOR-MOST-OF-US DAY”

5 FOR FRIDAY: THINGS LEFT BEHIND

The car went first. Then the furniture. Finally, on Wednesday, I drove Luscious and the kids to the airport and they went too. I’ve a couple of days of work and house tidying left, and then I’ll follow them. Rockingham is over, and our future– at least for the next 2 years– lies in Karratha.

I’ve lived in Rockingham, on and off, since the age of eight. That’s a gnat’s breath short of forty years. It’s my home. No matter where I travel– including this move, for however many years it lasts– no matter where I move to, my new location is viewed in terms of where it lies in relation to Rockingham. I’m not moving 1600 kilometres to Karratha, I’m moving 1600 kilometres away from Rockingham.

Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY: THINGS LEFT BEHIND”

5 FOR FRIDAY: TO 2018 AND… WELL, JUST THAT

It that’s time of the year, when we turn away from days past with a muttered Well, I won’t be doing that again and look forward to the bright, blank pages of the year to come. Time to lay down a few markers so that when we turn away from days past in a year’s time we’ll know exactly what we should have been doing instead of playing Candy Crush and watching The Biggest Block Kitchen Bake-Off Survivor.

You know: New Year’s resolutions.

So, with a move to a new town in a new (hotter, redder, moister, farther away) part of the world on the horizon, it’s time to make this…… flee change?…… work to my benefit. Here are five resolutions for my upcoming year, to take advantage of my new-found status as the domestic-based partner in my marriage, and help allay Luscious’ fears that it’ll all come crashing down around our ears as she dies of work-related stress and I turn into some sort of obsessively masturbating, inanimate, Jabba the Hutt-shaped, couch-based life-form.

Five For Friday: New Year’s Resolutions in a Furnished Cage

Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY: TO 2018 AND… WELL, JUST THAT”

SPIKE

Everywhere I go, I take Spike. I first bought him when I moved into a flat by myself aged 23. He’s been with me ever since. When I bought my first house, I planted him. When I moved, I took a cutting. The plant remained behind, but Spike still travelled with me. Every time I bought a house, I planted Spike. Every time I’ve moved on, the plant has stayed behind, and Spike has renewed himself in cutting form. I’ve given a cutting to all of my bonus kids so they can have their own Spike. Still, Spike stays with me.
To whit, 24 years after I first brought him home, say hello to Karratha Spike.

ARTHUR, MARTHA, KARRATHA

Big news on the 18 Month Plan front, my friends. Big news indeed.

On Thursday morning, Luscious received a phone call from Karratha High School to inform her that they had a position open, and would she be okay with them undertaking a reference check.

On Saturday morning, she received a job offer. And accepted.

Tomorrow, I will dance into work and deliver something I’ve been wanting to deliver for… well, 18 Months (#18monthplan, duh): my resignation letter. And in late January, we will up and move for two years to Karratha: a town of 17,000 inhabitants, 1500 kilometres away, with an average temperature somewhere in the mid 30s; with a new $43 million arts centre; with a swimming pool (for some reason, having a swimming pool has become a running joke during Luscious’ job search); with one shopping centre; with one single library and a TAFE.

We’re going bush, people!

Luscious will teach. I will pick up a day or two of relief teaching here and there. And write. And pick up my visual arts practice after 20 years out of the game. And act as domestic support.

I’ve a few plans in place: check out my Patreon page for the list of projects I’ll be working on, and news of rewards and patronage levels, should you be of a mind once the page is officially launched in late January (and pick up a free story by way of saying thanks for visiting). Seven novels in 2 years, and a return to the dedicated, driven author I used to be.

I can’t wait.

15/18 OF AN 18 MONTH PLAN

It’s July 2016. Every morning I park my car in the car park at work, and give myself five minutes to cry before I get out and face the day.

Today is no different. What was a dream job when I started has become a nightmare I can’t bring myself to face, but can see no way of escaping. 2 years under a manager who was psychotically work-obsessed to the point where the three co-ordinators who worked under her (I am one) would take turns in being the first to talk to her, so we could report back which personality we were dealing with that day, have taken a toll. She left some months ago, but has been replaced with someone even worse– a career monkey, utterly disinterested in the welfare of her staff and of the projects being worked upon in the name of her section. She ignores vital paperwork, distributes blame in buckets, throws her co-ordinators under buses on a daily basis, is untrustworthy, cowardly, and is ruining everyone around her. Already, of the two co-ordinators with whom I’ve worked for the last 4 years, one has left to take up a job with another City. The other will soon fall pregnant and take a year’s maternity leave. Me? I’ve cracked under the stress. I’m seeing a work-appointed therapist, and I’m on a work-management program. I can’t sleep. I’m eating every piece of badforme in sight. I’m drinking. I’ve used up all my sick leave. Writing is out of the question. There’s no hope.

Today is a therapy day. My therapist asks me a simple question: What would you be doing, if you had the choice?

Continue reading “15/18 OF AN 18 MONTH PLAN”

TWO MONTHS AWAY

Two months since my last post. All of June and July, and not a peep. 

Yeah, there’s a reason for that.
Suffice to say, things did not go well for a while. It’s a little vaguebooky, but I’ll talk more about it in later posts. 
For now, here I am, on the last day of a two week break away from the world, where all I’ve done is lie in bed, watch a lot of Top Gear, get addicted to Pokemon Go, and noodle about with a Powerpoint for my upcoming appearance at the Brisbane Writers Festival in September.
I’ll be playing about in the kids stream with a presentation called Let’s Get Spooky, all about how to write shivering stories for kids. And I’ll be knuckling 20 or so writers under my lash in a short fiction Masterclass as part of the main program, to boot. Head on over to the BWF website to see the full program. 
I’ve also managed to successfully apply for a writing residency in 2017. The organisation has not yet announced it, so I’ll stay schtum on the who, where and when for the moment, but expect some announcements semi-soon.
And I’ll also be crawling out from under my bed in early October to display some of my Lego creations at this year’s Bricktober. Once again, it will be at the Canning Showgrounds, and promises to be an absolutely fantastic day out. I’ll be displaying more of my spaceshippy goodness, as well as coordinating a table dedicated to a Micropolis group build. Once again, more details as we get closer.
So, for the moment, here I am: still swimming (just), still keeping my head above water (just), still getting involved (double just with chips). Luscious and I have had some big ™ conversations recently, and we will be making some enormous life changes over the next 18 months. I’ll be talking about them as they arrive, but for now, this much contact is just enough.

TRUMBO AND THE TRUTH IN BLOGGING: OVER TO YOU, PEEPS

Spent last night watching the dramatised documentary Trumbo, which is based, to a large extent, upon letters written by Dalton Trumbo during the period of his blacklisting. One thing that really shone through was just how literate, wide-ranging and incisive those letters were, and it got me thinking: letters are verging upon being a dead art form, now. They’ve been replaced by emails, and to a certain extent, weblogs. We’ve replaced lyricism with functionality.

As for blogging, it’s a form I’ve never used as a true record of my thoughts: I’ve dabbled with it, been flippant and irregular. As a journal– as a snapshot of my thoughts, attitudes, and experiences– it’s not been up to scratch for a rather long time.

So, here’s a chance to change that. Post a subject below that you’d like to see me discuss, address, or just generally rant about. Once a week, until the subjects run out, I’ll dedicate a blog entry to it. I won’t lie, or prevaricate, or treat it lightly. I’ll give you utter and unalloyed honesty and truth.

What would you like me to talk about?

ENTER, STAGE RIGHT

Forty years ago today, I landed in Australia: a tiny, pale, extremely English boy of only-just 5.

I’ve never been back. Never been able to afford to. I’ve spent 89% of my life in one corner of South Western Australia– 2 years in Kambalda, 2 years in Narrogin, the rest in a conurbation roughly 160 kilometres long with Mandurah in the South and Clarkson in the North. I currently live 12 kilometres from the house we lived in from the time we moved to Rockingham until my parents divorced.

To paraphrase an old comedian pal of mine, Vic Demised: I set out to explore the world, and got as far as Baldivis.

So, despite what Luscious says when she wants to wind me up after I’ve called them ‘sweeties’ once too often, or pronounced it DARby instead of DUHby, I’m not only not English (I was naturalised on my 11th birthday, so neither philosophically nor legally), I’m not even a decently cosmopolitan Australian. I’m just a Rockingham boy with tickets on himself.

Fuck.

IF I LIVED IN BALDIVIS, I’D BE HOME NOW

This is it. Everything is packed. Everything is put away. Everything’s been disconnected.  Tomorrow the truck comes, and the Batthaim is no more.

We’ve been here over five and a half years. It’s the longest I’ve been in a single house since I shared a two bedroom duplex with my Mum and younger brother when I was a teenager, 23 years ago.

My bonus son, Aiden, reached adulthood and embarked on his own life from here. Miss 13 graduated Primary School here. Master 10 was home schooled here. We’ve had grandchildren, boarded adult family members and childrens’ friends, struggled with major illness. I sold my first novel here, and my second and third. Luscious became an educator, and fought tooth and nail to advance her tertiary education. Our kids learned to swim in this house, to ride bikes, to read and write. We’ve lived here, when all is said and done, really lived, that sort of life you promise yourself when you move to a seaside town from the city.

It’s a white elephant of a house. The gardens are too big and the weeds have never been under control. The reticulation is a bitch to operate. There’s not a right angle in the fucking place. You can’t reach the ceiling in the foyer to clean it. The taps screech and scream and not one of the washers we’ve fitted over the years has solved it. The patio was designed by a five year old with crayon poisoning, so that the rain pours down onto the seating area instead of away from it. We don’t get terrestrial TV, The mortgage is too high and we’ve struggled to afford it and maintain any sort of standard of living for the kids. I’ve grown to dislike it terribly. I’ll be glad to see the back of it.

And yet, it’s been our home. Really our home. It’s been a significant part of our lives. No matter where I’ve been since, the house I lived in with my parents between the ages of 8 and 13, before it all went to shit and they divorced, is the one I think of as my childhood home, the place where my memories really began. This will be that house for my children, I think: when they look back on their childhoods, this will be the place where their memories really begin. And now we’re leaving it behind.

It’s for a better deal, there’s no two ways about it– the place we’re moving to is closer to my work, close to Miss 13’s secondary college, closer to all the places we choose to spend our time when we’re out and about, deep in the heart of Rockingham– my old town, my home town. It’s more compact, less sprawling and unwieldy. It’s more manageable, more affordable, newer, better built. The gardens are smaller. We’ll have more money, more time, more leisure. There’s no down side to this move.

But still, this is our home. The Batthaim. And now we’re leaving it.

We’re going to need a new name.

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.

WHAT, AND LEAVE SHOW BUSINESS?

I’ve not been writing recently. It feels like a chore, like something I have to get through in order to be finished, rather than something I do for the fun of it. Part of it is my day job: I’ve just been through the busiest time of the year, where far-too-few staff and I work our arses off to stage a major open-air sculpture exhibition on the local beach (more of that later), but it’s more than that. I’m between milestones in a major way: the Corpse-Rat King journey is done and dusted, the publication of Magit and Bugrat is something like 9 months away, and with two novels sitting in my agent’s in-tray waiting for him to come out of his coma and notice them I’m a long way from any sort of progress on any sort of front, and frankly, the idea of starting anything new just fills me with a case of the giant whatevers. Be honest, even writing this blog entry is a bloody chore, but then, given I’ve done fuck all around here in ages, you’ve probably figured that one out for yourself.

Then Luscious and I went to see Russell Howard at the Regal Theatre a couple of weeks ago. And as brilliant as he was, the former comedian in me took special glee in watching him riff ten minutes of angry material at a moron in the audience who was ignoring the strict ‘no photography, no filming’ rule, only to realise he’d been starting a fight with one of the floor lights leading to the exit. It was brilliant, off-the-cuff stuff, a spiralling flight of mental fancy that impressed me as much as it amused me.

Then a Facebook link led me to this youtube video. It’s Stewart Lee, possibly the most inventive and intelligent British comedian of the past 20 years, and one of my favourite comic thinkers of all time. And he’s not being at all funny. He’s delivering an address to the Oxford Union on the way writing comedy has changed over the last two decades, and how his own personal evolution has been affected by the changing landscape. It’s basically a TED talk for writers, and it’s wonderful:

And then one of my work mates sat down and blew out a monster sigh one morning, and we had this conversation:

HER: Anyone get the number?
ME: What number?
HER: The number of the truck that ran over me this morning.
ME: Dunno. I couldn’t see it from up in the driver’s seat.

And my little corner of the office broke up laughing. Immediately. And told me how quick I am, and how clever, and all that little egoboo jazz it takes for me drag my increasingly weary bones through the day.

And it’s all rather crystallised: I miss stand-up. I miss the immediacy of it, the jazz-riffing-rim-running skating along the edginess of it. I’m sick of delayed effect, bored with working for months on a piece only to realise it into the wild and watch it sink without a trace. Make no mistake: I was a shit stand-up comic. But I could write a gag, oh I really could. I could write material. I just have no way to make it all fit, anymore.

Dunno what it all heralds, I really don’t. But being halfway between fish and fowl seems to be my way of life. Damned if I know what that means for my writing.

I HAD THE BEST-LAID PLANS THIS SIDE OF AMERICA

Day job. Writing career. Hobbies. Social media. Family. Wife. Exercise. House maintenance. 

The trick is to keep them all separate. 
Now, here’s the thing: the stresses of my day job, they’ve been bleeding over into my home life. That’s put pressure on my relationship with Luscious, which has bled back into my work life. I’ve been bringing that home with me, which has affected my relationship with my children. Because I’ve been so stressed, I’ve been eating badly, which has affected my ability to exercise, which has affected my weight loss. I’m lethargic, tired and constantly in pain because of it, which has affected my ability to perform the multitudinous house maintenance tasks that need doing. And I’m tired, so I’ve been spending my spare time flaked out in front of the TV or playing stupid Facebook games instead of pursuing the one actual hobby I have that I’ve spent hours and hundreds (I’m not saying thousands, I’m not…) of dollars on over the last couple of years. And spending hours and hours on Facebook and Twitter and blogging. Hours and hours and hours. And hours. 
You notice I’ve not mentioned writing yet?
I’m fat. I’m miserable. I’m in pain. I’m stressed. My time management is for shit. My writing career has stalled to the point where I barely feel able to call it a career anymore. I’m directionless. 
Either this can’t go on, or I can’t.
This can’t go on.
Luscious calculated last night that she’s spent in excess of 200 days on Facebook since she joined 7 years ago. If that’s the case, then I’ve spent more. That’s insane. Simply fucking insane. So here’s the thing:
As of today, the Facebook games are gone. The continuous Facebook posts are gone. TV is relegated to the status of reward for work completed. Blogging will happen once a week– other than my Thumbnail Thursday posts, which take my 5 minutes and aren’t really content, not really, and those things like Goodreads reviews which flick over here automatically. But blogging will happen to a calendar: if I have a lot to say, I’ll say it once a week. If I don’t, I’ll post a picture of a cat or something. Work for everyone else.
I have to exercise. I have to eat well. I have to re-read Booklife and decide whether I really am the low-level journeyman author I’ve drifted into being or whether the career goals I once held are still relevant; and if they are, I have to sit down and put the work into redirecting my career back towards those goals. I have to spend time with my kids. I have to maintain my house. I need to reconnect with my wife and make damn sure that nothing, not a fucking thing, intrudes while I’m doing it.
If you’re here because you’re a friend of mine then you know we’re friends already and we’ll catch up somewhere along the line, and there will be carousing and laughter and starting conversations mid-sentence like we’ve never really been away. And if you’re here because you’ve read and enjoyed my work– or, at least, can recognise a train wreck when you see one– then thank you, I appreciate and relish your company, but if it’s the work that brought you here I’m sure you’ll be happy at the thought that I want to put my head down and bring more of it into the world.
I can’t get rid of my day job. I don’t want to get rid of my wife and my kids. I absolutely want to get rid of the fat and stress and feeling that I’m wasting what few days I have left to me. I want to pursue this Lego hobby that has become an artistic joy to me. And I want to write. I really want to write.
I can’t fit it all in. Something has to go. Until I can find a better balance, it has to be the web.

A RETURN TO WORK

Two weeks into 2014, and the only reasonable response to life is to build a blanket fort.

Watch for the parade. But it’s okay, they have the proper permits.

This last weekend has been the hottest I’ve experienced in a number of years. Saturday night was, apparently, the hottest night Perth has ever recorded. Naturally, our air-conditioner has shat itself and died already– thanks to the fucktarded cowboy air conditioner repairmen who couldn’t even fulfil their job description last year– so we’ve resorted to living at the swimming pool, walking around with ceiling fans strapped to our heads, and this: you can’t see it, but there are three fans inside this bad boy, and the kids slept like, well, kids in close proximity to fans in an enclosed space. Still, as far as family projects go, this was a fun one.

On the personal front, ten days break over Christmas gave me the opportunity to engage in daily exercise for the first time since the last time I had ten consecutive days off, which is going back more than a year or two. Thankfully, I’ve managed to maintain the habit since returning to the day job, and I’m seeing the benefits of it. Since December 24 I’ve lost 3.2 kilograms. I’ve still got somewhere in the region of 18 to go before I’m in sight of my optimum weight, but that’s at least 3.2 that I don’t have to lose again.

I’ve been walking laps of our suburban block, playing basketball with the kids every Thursday night, and have hit the pool on several occasions to walk laps and build up my core strength by throwing children around. Cool drink had been dispensed with in favour of water– although Ginger ale and Lime made an appearance over the weekend as we tried to keep cool– and biscuit & sweeties based snacks have been discarded in favour of lashings of fruit. Nothing revolutionary, just actual changes, all at once.

And writing work has borne fruit: over the Christmas break I completed the text of a picture book entitled I Watch Monsters, and have sent it in to a publisher. It was the first– and, admittedly, smallest– of my writing goals for the year, but it’s still nice to have one scratched off this early in the piece.

So, here we are. Lyn and I are determined to achieve a much more positive year than 2013, and we’re both working hard to achieve the goals we’ve set out. Up next for me: completing the submission package for Father Muerte & the Divine and pushing the 15 000 words of Cirque up towards a full manuscript.

GENERAL BITS AND BOBS AND THINGS AND STUFF AND JUNK

Adam Browne’s book, Pyrotechnicon, Being the Further Adventures of Cyrano de Bergerac Among the States & Empires of the Stars by Himself (dec) moves ever closer to its release date of September. I’ve extolled the virtues of this wonderful book to you before, having been lucky enough to beta-read it, and you can do worse with a few minutes of your time than head over to Adam’s blog and see for yourself some of the illustrations that will accompany the book. And if that doesn’t make you salivate with anticipation, then I cannot help you, sirrah.

Word up to the froody Mr Wes Chu, latest member of the Angry Robot Waiting Club to score himself a big-ass publishing deal with the Robot Overlords. Wes’ book The Lives of Tao is full of mad space opera skillz, and will be on my pile come publication time in spades!

Also word up to Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, two of the finest Australian SF magazines to ever grace the readerverse, who both reached 50 issues in the interim. No mean achievement, especially in a country like Australia where the potential reader base for niche magazines is small, and the financial support can be non-existent at best. Props, my friends, props.

A belated and sadfaced RIP to Maurice Sendak, the children’s author whose wondrous Where The Wild Things Are was such a happy part of my childhood, and which has been a shared part of my life with my children as well. The wild rumpus has ended, and we are the poorer for it.

Lastly, on the personal front, I’ve finally weakened and been persuaded to buy a dog. So welcome to the household, Rory the ball-of-fur-with-eyes. Yes, you are adorable, and I will progressively weaken to the point where I’ll talk to you in silly baby words just like everyone else.



HEY, LET’S NOT WAIT UNTIL A WEDDING OR A FUNERAL NEXT TIME, OKAY?

So the secret to blogging success, apparently, is to do it regularly. Pick a day of the week, or two or more, and no matter what, make an entry on that day. You build up trust within your readership, and regular updates lead to repeat readership.

Heh.

Lot of wevver we’ve been ‘avin, innit? 🙂

So it’s been more than a month, and there’s a very good reason for that– I keep my day job out of this blog, and my day job has been mad. Apart from being the lead officer on our Australia Day Celebrations, a task that ate my January, I’m also involved in the preparation for two major art exhibitions which will eat, respectively, my May and July. It’s a fantastic job, but sometimes it takes over.

Still, there’s been a bit of action going on at the Battheim: for starters, we’ve decided to sell up and move closer to the kids’ new school. Those who’ve been to our current house will attest to the fact that it’s freaking huge: 2 stories, and enough room to fit 7 or 8 residents, which was fine when we had 7 or 8 residents to fit. But we’re due to drop from 6 to 4 in the coming year, as our eldest and his best mate depart our rooms for digs of their own, and this place is just too damn big– and too damn expensive– to suit a family of 4. It’s time to rationalise for life in a smaller, cheaper house.

Simplify, simplify, simplify.

So it’s reno time, and cleanup time, and sitting down in the evening to watch Get It Sold and Selling Houses Australia and the like time, and losing my weekends to the garden time. Not to mention realising just how much shit my house is filled with time.

So our weekends are booked for the foreseeable future, it seems. Every time I move house I swear it’s the last time, that I only have one more move left in me, that I want to stop and put down roots and actually see the gardens I plant grow to maturity, and give my children a sense of security as they grow through childhood. But it’s okay, because I reckon I have one more move left in me……

LET THE FOCUS BEGIN

Ah, so, first day of the year. A time for looking forward. A time for making plans.

A time for breaking out, after a year spent in a holding pattern.

Every year I make a set of plans, lay out a bunch of goals. And every year I achieve…. some, at best. Last year I had 5 major goals, and achieved 1. If life was school, I’d be sitting up the back of the classroom with the guys who started shaving in year 5, wearing boxing gloves so I don’t interfere with myself in front of the librarian….

So this year, 3 goals.

Finish the Corpse-Rat King edits.
Finish and submit Marching Dead.
Finish and submit Father Meurte & The Divine.

Forget weight loss. Forget gardening. Forget nebulous feel good back rubs of the soul. 2012 is where I produce novels.

Booyah.

SPRING IS HERE, SPRING IS HERE, LIFE IS SKITTLES AND LIFE IS BEER

I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring, I do. Don’t you? Of course you do.

Okay, maybe I’m a couple of weeks early, but by God, what a glorious weekend it’s been. Sunny and 25, sunny and 25, even at midnight it’s been sunny and 25 that’s how good it’s been. And call me a sad old suburbanite if you will, but there’s something good for the soul in watching your children play on the lawn you’ve just mowed, with the smell of fresh-cut grass in your nostrils and the budgie cages going mad with tweets and twits and all manner of chirpy noises.

It’s been that sort of weekend.

 

I’M SICK, I’M BORED: ENTERTAIN ME

Off work since Wednesday with a massive lurgi, and I’ve finally read every comic in the house and watched every episode of QI a-GAIN, so now it’s your turn.

Tell me: who is the worst writer of all time?

I’ll open with Guy N. Smith, inflicter-upon of such delights as Night of the Crabs, The Sucking Pit (not as sexy as it might sound….) and Satan’s Snowdrop.

Anyone wanna raise?