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?

1000! 1000 POSTS, WA-HAHAHAHAAAAA!

Wot ‘e sez.

‘Tis true: my 1000th post, and how fitting that it should be by way of a general Nate of the Station update. For it has been a busy couple of weeks, my little cabbage-leaf wrapped spatchcocks, and much WriterGuy goodness has been noticed.

We’re five weeks into the first intake of the Australian Writers Marketplace Online SF Course, and the second intake has now begun: it’s not too late to enrol, and we’re only chatting amongst ourselves until you can make it.

My first set of students have become analytical T-Rex’s and are producing story beginning after story beginning– there will be some hypercharged writers with a trunk full of stories coming atcha in the next couple of months, and it’s been gratifying to watch as they turn on to what I’m teaching and apply the lessons to their own writing. It really is quite amazing how an author’s work can evolve in a short period of time just by absorbing a few well-placed lessons, and there are a couple of names who are going to come out of this course and establish themselves over the next year or so. At which point I shall claim bragging rights and mango beer tributes in equal measure.

The agent search for The Corpse-Rat King continues: I’ve had a number of requests for partials, and one full has been asked for as well, so even though the rejections come regularly there’s enough interest out there to keep my spirits up. The adjustment from short stories to novels is a sharp one, and I have to keep reminding myself that it was a long time between writing my first short and selling my first, and that I can’t expect to simply pen my first longer work and have the world fall at my feet. Will I sell this one? Dunno. Will I have the patience and fortitude to write three, five, eight novels before I sell one? Fuck, I hope I don’t have to. But if I do, so be it. Everything is a learning curve. Still, let’s hope I sell CRK and we can go from there…

On the appearance front, I’ll be heading out into the wide world in my WriterGuy disguise on a couple of occasions over the coming months:

Luscious and I have both been shortlisted in this year’s KSP Speculative Fiction Awards, and I’ve been invited to attend as the guest author for the day, so I’ll be giving a little speech about my writing life and philosophies (and trying not to sob) as well as giving a reading, kissing babies, and doing the watusi with any stray gypsies who may be passing. Join us on the 14th August at the KSP Writers Centre to find out the winners and share in the general bonhomie and watusiriness.

I’ll also be heading out to Curtin University on the 26th of September to deliver a guest lecture to a Web Publishing class on social media and how I use it as part of my Dayjob and WriterGuy goings on. (Part of their Internet Communications Major, and how old does that make me feel? You can get a degree in the Internet. A degree. Does your degree come in pdf? I’m going to have a Horlicks and listen to my 78s will I think about it). That’s right, me: the guy who couldn’t get Google + to work, and still can’t get it to link to FB and Twitter properly. Me. Anyone else as amused by the thought as I am? Send your reply via this blog, my website, my Amazon page, twitter feed, Goodreads page, LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Google +, AHWA member page, or Livejournal RSS feed, or just tag this blog on Stumbleupon like any reasonable person would….

Lastly, as part of Dayjob World, I’ve taken up the mantle of Municipal Liaison for the Rockingham/Mandurah region of Nanowrimo once again, and have already started to compile the activities and prizes to keep everyone racing towards their 50 000 word target. Last year we conducted a series of workshops with Simon Haynes, Dave Luckett and Tehani Wessely as speakers. This year we’ll be holding a masterclass with an internationally-renowned Fantasy author from Perth who shall not be named just yet because we’re still confirming details but she’s very cool and one of my favourite people in the biz, and I’m busy gathering prizes for The Night of Writing Dangerously event to be held on the 12th: five hours of catered writing time broken only by prize giveaways, competitions, and the opportunity to go head to head with an established pro to win yourselves goodies. More details as they come closer to hand, but if you really want to join in you could always register on the Nanowrimo website, join the Rockingham/Mandurah region, and take part in the write-ins that we’ll be holding. All the cool kids will be doing it.

And that, for the moment, is about it. How was your day, my darlings?

A SMALL MEASURE OF FLOOD ASSISTANCE, WITH BONUS READING MATERIAL

We’ve been glued to broadcasts of the Queensland floods, as I know you have. It’s scary, not only because of the sheer extent of the devastation and the tragic losses of life, property, and community, but because we almost instantly fell into a form of list-making– tallying up those friends and acquaintances from the region and realising just how many people who have touched our lives are being affected by this. To all of you: Geoff and Diane; Kate and Rob; Nikki and Damon; Kim; Rowena; Trent; Marianne; Peter; Ben; Chris; Bob; Heather; Julie; Angela; Kathleen; the Clarion South guys; everyone at QWC; all the Visioners; the mob at Pulp Fiction; and everyone else in the ridiculously long list we came up with over lunch yesterday until we stopped for fear of the sheer scale of it that I’ve forgotten to mention here; and all your families; our hopes and prayers for your safety and welfare.

One way you can help, and get some fresh reading material by way of thank you, is to purchase a copy of the somewhat-ironically-titled-given-the-circumstances After The Rain ebook download: Fablecroft Publishing publisher/editor Tehani Wessely is in Queensland right now, being with her family, but has managed to create an electronic version of the book: 13 stories that will appear in the (larger) print book in April, including contributions from myself and Luscious, some of them in a slightly different form to the way they will appear in the print book, plus 3 essays on the floods and their impact on local communities by Queensland writers specifically commissioned for this special edition.

Tehani says of the ebook: After the Rain was commissioned in 2010 and is due for release in April 2011. However, in the face of the ongoing flood disaster in Queensland, the authors and I have pulled together this limited ebook version as a fundraiser. The authors have freely given their stories for this use. All payments will go to the Flood Appeal, and we are leaving it up to you to decide how much you want to pay for the book. We recommend at least AUD$10.00, but all donations are gratefully received.

Go here to buy it, or to query. The ebook is available until 15th February.

ALL THINGS CHRISTMASSY

Hope it’s been a good few days for you all, no matter how (or not) you celebrate (or not) the period.

It’s been a mix of most excellent (in my best Bill and Ted voice) and catastrophic here at the Batthaim. We’re currently neck deep in plastic dinosaurs, little egg-shaped iPod speakers, fishing rods, watercolour pencils, jewellery and reading material (I myself received a much-needed new wallet and a funky biography of Charles Manson), and the children are running around like mad things with their cousin Tanika who stayed the night after coming for a barbecue with Lyn’s brother Roger and his partner Cassie last night. Christmas is always a balancing act between our desire to give each other cool things and Lyn’s religious convictions (which include not acknowledging Christmas or birthdays), so we end up usually just having something that can best be described as “Present Day with Food splurge”. It seems to work well enough.

Which is all balanced by our airconditioner blowing up a few day ago, our reticulation system blowing up a few days after and our garage door deciding yesterday to come off its hinges and get stuck to the point where no human agency can move it. As it’s currently shielding the work car I have to get back to work on the 4th, this is just a teensy bit of a problem. Annnd also an indicator that I’ll be spending 2011 as poor and under the cosh as 2010.

Be that as it may, I do have something in the gift department for you all: the Christmas edition of Terra Incognita, Keith Stevenson’s fantastic SF podcast series, features not one, but two stories: my own In From The Snow, and my good friend Jason Fischer’s extraordinary Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh, which features Jasoni singing the Undead Camels song.

That’s right! Jasoni singing! How can you pass that up?

Go. Listen. Enjoy. And here’s to a happy and profitable 2011 to you all.

NOVEMBER WAS A MAD OLD MONTH, MY FRIENDS

Ahhhh, the best laid plans of mice and Lee are aft to gang aglay all over the frigging place.

See, what I was going to do was post regularly about my progress through Nanowrimo, pausing only to ruminate upon the occasion of my 40th birthday, and congratulate my favourite 5 year old in the whole world on turning into my favourite 6 year old in the whole world. And indeed, those things did happen. But along the way, the world changed ever so slightly.

Well, let’s be honest, the entire household has been turned upside down, inside out, and arsehole to breakfast by this:

 

Allo, babeeeee. No, wait, I’m the babeee!

Luc Aden Jeremy Triffitt, my first grandson, arrived in the world at near-as-dammit 11pm on the 11th of the month, having caused his Mum and Dad to finish the last mouthful of my birthday dinner and say “Well, that was nice. Can we go to the hospital now?” He was a tiny, tiny little thing on arrival– 3090 grams and 49 centimetres long, and is a tiny little thing now: at the pool this morning, two old ducks who were cooing over him had to be persuaded that he wasn’t actually only a few days old.

He’s been with us three weeks now– parents Aiden & Georgie have neither the spondoolies nor the age to live in their own space, and he is a beautiful, smiley, snuggly little bugger who has the good grace to cause everybody ructions and then fall asleep peacefully within about 90 seconds of me picking him up. Needless to day, he and me are the best of buddies 🙂

So, this the world, Luc. Try not to break it, and be back for tea.

THANK GAWD THAT’S OVER!

What a bloody awful month and a bit that’s been! First Lyn’s sent to bed for a week with a filthy sort of chest infection. Then Connor ends up in hospital for a weekend with a weird sort of croupy thing the doctors can’t quite identify. Then Erin ends up in hospital (and just for fun, a completely different hospital) with pneumonia. Then I get a chest infection of my very own, and spend the next four weeks hacking my lungs up every time I giggle.

What a bloody laugh.

Thankfully, it’s all back to normal now, such as we is, and somewhere along the line it seems to have inspired the normally scary and frightful Martin Livings to get quite sweet in his old age, so all’s well that ends with a metric fuckload of tissues in the compost….

THERE HAS BEEN WORK, OH YES THERE HAS.

Sigh. apologising for the lack of posts seems to be a habit these days. Let’s just take it as read, shall we?

There’s been a couple of reasons for my absence. Work has been mad– we’re coming up for the 2010 Nyoongar Art Awards, a major art award the City of Rockingham co-presents with the Town of Kwinana, and part of the grand prize each year is a solo exhibition for the winner. And I’m the one who puts it together, so the last couple of weeks I’ve been hip-deep in phone calls to art galleries to arrange transport of artwork, organising invitation designs, sourcing catering, talking to wineries about label printing…. all the fun things that go on behind the scenes before an exhibition hits the gallery space.

Then there’s been the sickness. No sooner had Luscious and Aiden recovered from bouts of bronchitis than Connor decided to have a turn. By last Friday his coughing was so constant that he ended up at Rockingham hospital, then spent the weekend at Fremantle Hospital whilst Lyn and I took it in turns to stay the night and run back & forth to Mandurah to transport toys, clothes, and other sundries. Turns out our little boy doesn’t do things by half– the bronchitis triggered a series of asthma attacks, which helped bring on a bout of croup. At least, that what the paediatrician said. A week off school seems to have helped– now he only coughs when he needs to remind someone he’s sick, usually if it means getting dessert early…

So, mad as it’s been, it’s been Life. Still, I’m back now…

AND THE BEST THING ABOUT VOTING IS….

… the conversation you have with the peoiple who hand out “How to Vote” pamphlets, which is the same every time, and invariably goes like this:

ME: No thanks, guys, I’ve already decided.

SOME DODDERING OLD OCTEGENARIAN WITH A LIBERAL PARTY OR FAMILY FIRST T-SHIRT ON: Some variation of a didmissive snort or croaky plea to reconsider and put things in the “right” order if I want to save Australia for White Jesus and get rid of all the niggers, brownhatters and young people.

ME: Seriously, do you really think I waited until 10 seconds before I line up to start thinking about this?

SDOOWALPOFFTO: Assorted sputtering while the Greens hander-outerer sniggers.

There’s probably a really good reason why they have a sausage sizzle near the front door and not a gun stall…

HELLO? IS IT ME YOU’RE LOOKING FOR?

I’m still alive.

I realise things have been deader then Dannii Minogue’s career around here lately, but things have changed significantly since last I jotted something down in this space. Reality has eaten my life. My new job— Cultural Development Officer at the City of Rockingham — takes up every ounce of my day: it’s been 17 years since I’ve been anything but a Commonwealth Government employee in my day job world, not discounting a couple of years in the middle where I was afforded the luxury of being a stay-at-home Dad. It’s not just that things are done differently in my new environment, it’s that people think differently, even when confronted by situations that are inherently the same. Whilst it’s been an education to learn just how many attitudes and processes I’ve internalised over the years, breaking out of those modes of thought and adapting to a totally new way of doing business, amongst a completely different set of personalities (people’s personalities are defined by their workspace— another adaptation I’m having to learn) is taking time.

To add to the hilarity, we currently have more than a full house—Darth Barbie has been back with us for the last three months, after having left a relationship which went bad in the way that knife fights go bad when you don’t realise the other guy is packing an M-60, and working through the scars of it has been, well, shall we say, hard for all concerned (Not for him, as far as I can tell. Just hard for those of us who give a damn.) And Aiden, whilst still in year 12, has found a steady girlfriend, who is now his fiancé, and is 15, and is pregnant, but not to him…. Oh yes, it’s a simple life we lead.

Somewhere in the haze of get up-go to work-come home-have dinner-take part in the latest crisis-watch the World Cup-snatch a couple of hours sleep-get up that my days have become, there has been writerly stuff. Not actual writing, you understand, that’s just crazy talk, but associated writerly stuff that at least keeps my fingers in the pie. My withdrawal from the writing world, forced and voluntary though various elements of it may be, seems almost complete: I managed to bump into a few old writing colleagues at the WA Museum’s breathtaking A Day in Pompeii exhibit yesterday, and it was pleasant, but hardly the fiery, passionate mental affair of days past. Perhaps I’m just growing up—it’s impossible for me to be interested in writing if I have writers and my family in the same place.

Still, writer-coolness abounds:

­ I’ve just attended my second Writing Race at the AWM Online, a fun online forum where an invited writer hangs out with attendees, swapping tips and anecdotes and writing like a mad thing for an hour, which is always a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

­ I’ve stepped up to the plate and agreed to act as a judge for this year’s Aurealis Awards , in the Graphic Novel category, comics being a long-held love that’s been shunted into the background while the SF thing became established but which is rearing its wonderful head again.

­ The ever-lovely Tehani Wessely has accepted a reprint of Claws of Native Ghosts for the upcoming Australis Imaginarium anthology she’ll be publishing through her bright and shiny new publishing venture, Fablecroft Publishing.

­ I’m involved in developing and pitching an online course in Science Fiction Writing (of which more details when it’s a going concern).

­ And I’ve just received through the mail the podcasting materials for an upcoming episode of Keith Stevenson’s Terra Incognita podcast.

All good, clean fun.

Added to which, there’s some interactive Battcool which you can be a part of: Lyn’s brilliant story of family and loss, The Mikarr Way, has been posted as a free web story over at Electric Velocipede. Go, read, enjoy, marvel at my darling wife’s talent.

Lyn and I will also be appearing at the A Toe in the Ocean Writing Festival, two weeks from now, where we’ll be giving a science fiction writing workshop. If you’re in the area it’ll be well worth coming down and having a look.

And, of course, the biggest writing news item of my day…….. which is the subject of my next post 🙂

MOVING ON

New home, new environment, kids happy in school, Lyn studying, everybody happy.

All we’ve needed to complete the sea change was for me to find a new job.

Let’s be honest, working for the Tax Office was only the base line– it was drudge work, more often than not, soulless and uninspiring, and whilst I might have liked the majority of people I worked with, it was no longer enough– a 75 minute train journey each way to a workplace that was in great danger of becoming just another rostered call centre was not how I envisaged my working life. I liked the people, but the work and the infrastructure has become increasingly restrictive, increasingly unskilled and droneworthy. Something had to go. I had to go.

I’ve been looking. And I’ve found.

From tomorrow, I’ll be the Community Development Officer in the Arts & Culture Office of the City of Rockingham. Ill be working with a team whose responsibility it is to enable artists within the local area to access the range of skill sets, grants, and busines structures available, to help them to become self-sustaining. I’ll also be part of a team making sure the public art within the region continues to reflect and emphasis the values and attrributes of the City.

Cool job, but the title will look terrible on a t-shirt.

I grew up in Rockingham, at least, I lived there between the ages of 8 and 21. When we moved there, in 1979, it was a town of 26 000 people, connected to the somewhat-distant state capital by a bus service that can only be described as sparse. Now there’s over 100 000 people in the area, it has its own University campus, and is a large part of a conurbation that stretches to Clarkson 100km to the North and Mundurah 30km to the South. Art flourishes within the region, particularly public art. It’s a vastly changed place from the one I left 17 years ago, but then, I’m a vastly changed person.

The truth is, I’m 39 now. I’ve settled into the town, and house, in which I hope to spend at least the next 20 years as my children grow up and move into their own adult lives, and grandchildren begin to arrive on the scene. I want to enjoy my life. I want to create art, and be with my family. I want the space and time to become the successful artist I’ve wanted to be for a decade. To support these goals, I want to be at a job that rewards me and doesn’t take 75 minutes just to get home from.

It’s taken me until almost 40, but I might finally have found the final piece in my puzzle– a job that satisfies me and gives me the chance to do something concrete in a field of endeavour that means something to me. Time will tell, but maybe, just maybe, I’m set.

JUST DROPPING BY TO TELL YOU…

Agh, it’s been hectic. Sorry I haven’t been around, but Real Life (tm) threatens to swallow me alive at the minute. Job searching has been uppermost– the 75 minute travel each way to my current job is really beginning to take its toll, and I’ve spent much of the last 2 weeks running through the interview process for a very cool job much closer to home. I have my fingers well and truly crossed: this would be a dreamy one, should I get it. Still, we’ve stuff to talk about, so let’s get to the postings, shall we?

A WEEKEND MOST PRODUCTIVE

It started out well: Lyn rang me on Friday afternoon to tell me she was picking me up a couple of train stops early, because she was at our friend Tehani’s place and they’d decided to stay for dinner. And a fab evening it was, too: I committed Australian Man Adultery (cooked on another man’s barbecue without his consent), we sat and chatted far past the kids’ bedtimes, and Tehani let me borrow her copy of X6, Coeur de Lion’s collection of novellas by 6 Australian authors. I’d forgotten just how much I love sitting around and jawing about writing and writers. Part of the reason I’ve yet to really find a village for myself in the writing world– I’m a writing geek, not an SF geek, when it all comes down to it.

And much satisfaction there has been this weekend. I’ve completed another 2 cartoons, and sent out another two short stories, as well as inputting line edits for half of a third (dinner calls me, or I’d be finished that one too). I’ve finally finished chopping down a diseased hedge that’s been spoiling our front yard, spent an enjoyable afternoon drawing with the kids, and even managed to fit in a couple of good exercise sessions with the Wii Fit Plus– love that rhythm karate, folks! Luscious and I even found the time to watch a DVD together without the kids– looxury, bloody looxury.

The new week starts tomorrow: I intend to lose another 500g, finish another couple of cartoons, and start wading my way through the first round of Corpse-Rat King edits, as well as send out the remaining shorts in my ‘In Progress’ folder. But for now, it’s dinner, relaxing with a nice glass of Myalup Vines Wineries port (okay, my second glass…) and resting my bones before heading into the new week.

Slainte!

HITTING THE GROUND

It’s been a good start to the year.

  • I’ve lost just over a kilogram in weight. I set myself a loss of 12 kilos for the year, so this represents a good beginning.
  • I’ve completed and submitted Plot or Pants?, an article on novel planning to WQ, the monthly magazine of the Queensland Writer’s Centre
  • I’ve line-edited the five stories currently in my ‘In Progress’ folder and submitted the first of them. My plan is to have all five out in the world by the end of next week. Not a big goal, perhaps, but I only saw print twice last year, while I was focussing on Corpse-Rat King, and that’s just not up to my usual standards.
  • I’m up to date with reading for Midnight Echo #4, and about to start filtering the stories I kept for a second stage of reading. If you were thinking of submitting but haven’t got around to it, might I suggest you do so soon? I’ve received 157 submission so far, of which 33 have made it to a second reading. Submissions close 31st of the month.
  • I’ve completed 2 cartoons of the 24 (minimum) that I plan to complete and submit.

Not bad so far. There’s a lot of year left, and some big goals to achieve (2 novels to edit and submit, ya know?). But I’m on the way…

SHIVERS ALL UP AND DOWN MY ARMS

The only known footage of Anne Frank, watching from a window as a wedding procession begins in the summer of 1941. I found it via an article on The Smart Set, which sums it up far more articulately than I am capable of. Much more can be found at the Anne Frank House Museum Amsterdam.

What’s always been the defining nature of the tragedy of the Franks, for me, was the ordinary nature of the family: these weren’t war heroes or spies or members of the Resistance fighting the brave struggle. They were simple people just trying to keep their heads down and survive an onslaught that was beyond their understanding– in short, they were me if the same thing happened to my world. Watching this very ordinary footage, with its very ordinary teenager doing what any young girl would do with such an event happening under her window, amplifies that.

Knowing what happens such a short time after this footage was recorded makes it tragic beyond words.

NATE OF THE STATION

Bear with me, folks. It’s been an odd period, these six months since we moved here to Paradise-By-Sea. Somehow, this shift in location has turned into the sea change I’ve been searching for over the last five years or so. It’s prompted changes at every level, from simple matters like the change of phone number through to re-evaluations of the way I conduct my life, my aims, my behaviours…. all in all, it’s keeping me busy.

Several friends have fallen by the wayside, either because of the increase in distance between us or the final stages of the natural atrophy that the relationships have been experiencing lately. Others have become more prominent. We’ve altered our finances. Our work situations have undergone drastic and fundamental change. We’re a family in evolution, and in many ways, I also am evolving into a different beast than the one who started the year.

Much of that evolution is artistic. Nanowrimo has proven to be a bust—I’ve managed 13000 words of the Cirque project, but my heart’s not been in it, and in the end it was too easy to put it down and not pick it up again. Perhaps in the New Year I’ll revisit it—it’s a decent enough idea, and I know where the story goes. But setting aside Corpse-Rat King to do it was a bad idea, especially with the first draft of that novel being so close to completion, and I’ve taken up the cudgels again with an aim to completing it by the end of the year.

I’ve rediscovered my interest in cartooning, and have filled a small bunch of notebooks with thumbnails and sketches that Luscious is currently prodding me to complete properly. I’m still reading for Midnight Echo #4, and looking forward to making some final decisions early in the New Year—if you’ve been meaning to submit, do so before you run out of time– the sub period finishes January 31st, but if I wasn’t a patient man I could probably be thinking about filling the magazine now. And there are more novel projects planned, but none so close to the Oz SF heartland that I expect to be flogging them off at a Swancon near you.

2009 has been a very quiet year for me, artistically speaking. I’m still popping up here and there—you can read a brand new story, , Rabbit, Run over at Dark Recesses this month (if you really want to drive an editor barmy, start your story’s title with a comma….) and The Claws of Native Ghosts has been chosen for the upcoming Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Volume 4. Last weekend I joined the Queensland Writer’s Centre as a guest for their regular weekly writing race. I’ve also accepted a commission to provide the Centre with an article entitled Plot or Pants? on the differences between tight plotting and my own aimless methods. Compared to my relatively high profile in Australian small press SF circles over the past few years, however, I’ve been almost invisible, and things are likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future. My literary interests are moving further and further away from the things I have produced in the past. Frankly, I like the distance, and I have aims and desires that are not simpatico with the Australian SF small press, so there’s no need to be in quite so severe a proximity.

By this time next year I’ll be 40, and if half the birthday cards at the newsagent are to be believed, I’ll have just started my life. So perhaps it’s just a mid-life crisis, or perhaps I’m just cleaning out my closet, but one phase of my life has most definitely ended, and the one that is beginning has different colours.

So bear with me while all this stuff gets flung about in the washing machine of my life. I’ll undoubtedly emerge one sock short, with a shirt that wasn’t the colour it was when it went in, but I’ll be clean and smelling slightly of lemon, and that won’t be a bad thing.

NOTHING TO REPORT

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last reported, and I wish I had something gosh-wow-amazing to talk about, but we’ve just been getting on with life these last couple of weeks: fitting in bits and bobs of writing around whatever edges we can find; working, cleaning; doing our taxes; catching up with various TV shows and fillums, including the deeply disappointing True Blood; the infinitely more interesting and enjoyable Being Human; the excellent soundtrack with an ordinary movie attached The Boat That Rocked (which, incidentally, features the superb Philip Seymour Hoffman doing the single best impersonation of my bestie, the immortal Seanie, that I’ve ever seen); the suprisingly not as shit as I secretly hoped it’d be The Day The Earth Stood Still remake; and generally just being a smoothly-running family in a seaside suburb.

Sorry ’bout that. I’m sure we’ll have an interesting catastrophe soon…

A CONGREGATION OF CANTLETS

1. I’m sick, Connor is sick, we go to the doctor’s for a checkup. It’s sniffles and running noses all round, so it’s bound to be just a cold, but Connor’s got a chesty cough and I need the sick note for work, so we find our nearest medical centre and make an appointment.

This is our first visit to a doctor in Mandurah, so Connor receives The Talk before we go. Once there we’re called up; enter the doctor’s room, and the doctor, who is the kind that keeps a big plastic tub of his jelly beans on his desk, turns to Connor first. After the usual “What’s your name? And how old are you?” pleasantries, and assurances that no needles will be utilized (Connor’s current doctor fear); he asks Connor what’s wrong with him.

“I have Spine Flu!” is my son’s cheery reply.

He earns three jelly beans for that one.

2. I’ve written the beginning of the novel. I’ve written the end. I’ve written 80 000 words of the middle. It’s just the remaining 20 000 words of holes that I’m having trouble with. Between work, overtime, the house, my family and my own natural inclinations I just can’t get it together to make a concerted effort at finishing it off. It’s enough to prove that I’ll never be successfully serious (or vice versa) as a novelist. I’d be less worried if I was any good at my job. Meanwhile, those whose career arcs roughly parallel my own sail into book deals with Orbit, Harper Collins and the like…

3. My third period of mentorship for the AHWA is drawing to a close, and third time is likely to be the last. Much as I enjoy it, I’m unsatisfied by my efforts this time round—disruptions have been plentiful, and I don’t feel like I’ve given my mentees value for money. I do what I can, but am beginning to think that what I can do isn’t enough any more. It’s time to take stock of what I want to do, and what I need to do, and put one before the other.

4. I’d be able to get medication if I could translate all this ennui into full-blown depression, but it seems like too much hard work.

5. Every time I think I should just chuck it all in and become a professional poker player I go online and some bugger beats me with something like a 7-3 off suit.

6. We finally get around to watching the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. It’s enjoyable, for the most part, although I’m of the opinion that it starts fantastically well and then gets more and more ordinary as it progresses. Late that night, Lyn and I lie in bed together and dissect the movie, and I’m struck by an experience I’ve not had to such an extent since Independence Day—that of thoroughly enjoying a movie whilst watching it but then discussing it afterwards to the point of considering it a failure. It’s a strange experience, to persuade oneself of an opposing viewpoint after the direct experience. We are agreed, however, that Keanu Reeves has found his niche over the last decade or so. As Lyn said, after the Matrix movies, Constantine, and the terminally tedious A Scanner Darkly, she can’t think of another actor as suited to effectively playing characters so utterly removed from even the most basic of human emotions.

7. No such trouble earlier in the day, when we watched Igor with the kids—that one stayed ordinary all the way through…

8. If Captain Beefheart, Captain Sensible, and the Captain from Captain & Tennille were all on the same ship, how would they decide who got to steer?

SHIT NECK HIGH AND RISING

Hello my absent friends. I have returned.

It’s been a strenuous and stressful time since we last spoke. Moving an entire household of 5 people a hundred-plus kilometres with only the assistance of a teensy tiny wife, my father, and a 3 tonne truck was, to say the least, physically draining.

My Dad, it should be noted, is not only a man of rare brilliance when it comes to packing a truck, there is every possibility that underneath his skin lies the plutonium heart of a Terminator. Seriously, this man could cut his head off, and would simply gaffer tape it back on, finish the job, and go for a beer. To paraphrase Larry Miller, if I go to the bank and the post office in the same day, I need a lie down. Without him, we may still be dragging the last of the pot plants up the driveway.

But we’re in, and the last panic over the seller’s paperwork is slowly dying down (Oh, the happiness that comes from dealing with an NESB seller who communicates through her 13 year old son and didn’t think to apply for probate when her husband died intestate. Oh, how we’ve laughed…..). And just when we thought we might get to put our feet up and crack a coldie: bad family news struck last night, rather horrible news in fact. Private news that I’m not going to discuss here (although everyone who lives under our roof is okay, for those who might be worried). Lyn and I are heartbroken, and as much as we’re there for the person to whom the tragedy has befallen, there is no good that can come from it, and it’s cast a pall over our first days in this house.

So I’m back, blogosphere, and I’m sure the whole world has fallen into disrepair while I’ve been gone– don’t worry, I’ll send a man around. As to the rest, give us a short while.

NB: If you’re a friend, and unaware of the news, don’t be alarmed. If you’re worried, just email me, and we’ll chat.

YEAH, WELL, WHATEVER

Yeah, it’s been a month since I’ve posted, but to be quite honest I haven’t been bothered. There’s a lot of Real Life ™ going on at the moment. Big decisions are being made regards life, career, writing, and general Stuff (pat. pend.)

Frankly, blogging ain’t that important.

But to keep you all entertained, and to help explain to my most excellent Bonus Boys why Criss Angel is just a little bit shit, this:

WHY THE PAUSE, LEE?

So, a lack of content here on the Battersblog recently, as well as a general lack of activity in any way, shape or form on the being-a-writer front.

Of course, I have a fair excuse.

What with getting everything ready for the rounds of appointments and open homes; as well as beautifying gardens; performing all those maintenance jobs that I would have got around to eventually, probably, sooner or later while we were living here but now have to be done NOW, dammit; and starting my AHWA mentorship with Mark and Grant, this year’s sacrificial victims; and listening to my kids pretend to be Hercules and Xena after watching that putrid cartoon movie of those two putrid televisual debacles thanks to the Cartoon Network; and running down to Mandurah every weekend to look at houses and put offers in and sit on the balcony at Cicirello’s and eat fish and chips while we watch boats come in and out of the harbour; and learn to play Texas Hold-em so we know what the hell’s going on when we watch the Professional Poker Tour late on a Saturday night; and occasionally sleep; and balance papers with the bank as we go back and forth organising finance and altering loan details and negotiating interest rates and all the crap you have to do with banks even though you’ve been a customer for something like twenty five years and you think they’d know you by now……… well, it’s been a bit hectic lately.

Still, we’ll undoubtedly get the offer we want this afternoon, and have the finance sorted out by the middle of the week, and then all we’ll have to do is pack up and move to our beautiful new beachside suburb and spend the rest of our lives lying on beach blankets being fed grapes by oil-smeared underwear models, right?

HELL OF A NOTE TO GET

Dear Parent/Carer,

A Year 4 student at (our kids’) Primary School reported an intruder in the boys toilet before lunchtime today. He reported a man about 40 years old with long dark hair, dressed in dark clothing and wearing a mask. The man ordered the bout out of the toilets.

There’s more, but that’s the important bit.

After last week’s murder experience, we decided to move by the end of next year. Now, we’re moving as soon as we can get everything sorted out.

A MURDER TOO CLOSE TO HOME

Keen-eyed readers will be aware that my family and I live in Clarkson, a northern suburb of Perth (or southern suburb of Geraldton, according to several friends).

Keen-eyed watchers of the news will have heard that a murder occurred in Clarkson a couple of nights ago. You can read about it here and here.

Here’s the newsie round up: two groups men got into an argument over a girl whilst hanging out at a local primary school. One man stabbed another. His mates got him to hospital, then went to the stabber’s house and, unable to break into the locked house to gain their revenge, chased a friend into his shed and stabbed him 20 times, killing him.

Here’s our round-up: we live across the road from our son and daughter’s primary school. Directly opposite our house are a number of parallel-parking spaces. Beyond them, a path leads from the footpath into the school. From our front door to the basketball courts is a distance of maybe fifty feet. Our children walk that path twice a day, every day.

On Wednesday night, whilst Lyn was pulling the car out to take Aiden to guitar practice, several men ran from the school grounds, up the path, openly bearing weapons (Lyn mentioned at least one golf club) and screaming death threats at people behind them. They jumped into a car in the parallel parking spots, and screamed away, almost side-swiping our car in the process. By the time Lyn had dropped Aiden off, picked me up at the train station and returned home—maybe twenty minutes—the area was roped off and several police were in attendance. Twenty feet from our front door was a crime scene. These men had been in a knife fight. In our children’s school. On the pathway that our children walk down from the road to the basketball courts on their way to school. Twenty feet from our front door. These men then went and murdered someone in a house in our suburb. Murdered an innocent bystander because they were angry and seeking revenge over an argument about a girl.

I’m not stupid and I’m not naïve. I know about crime: I’ve seen it, been its victim, known perpetrators and criminals of various stripes over the years. I know it happens in suburbs and in homes. I’m not blind. I don’t even bat an eyelid at the notion of murder- I live in a city that’s played host to two of the worst serial murderers in Australian history, a city where people get thrown from traffic bridges and if the bouncers don’t get you in our nightspots, the gangs will. I’ve met suicides, prostitutes, and convicted drug felons. They don’t make rose coloured glasses in my prescription. But:

If Lyn had been half a second slower on the brakes, she and my children would have been part of this crime. They would have been innocent bystanders in the way of a gang of angry, armed men who had already (and would go on to) exhibit extreme, fatal, violence. I have no shred of doubt that they would have been seriously harmed. My children’s school is a crime scene. The path they walk every day of the school week is, quite literally, a blood-soaked crime scene. One of the two places my children should feel safest in the world has been used as a backdrop to gang violence and attempted murder.

I will not tolerate my family being in such an environment.

Aiden finishes his high school career at the end of next year. We will take that time to get the house ready, and then we will sell it, and move. Mandurah appeals: we have friends there, it is close to the town where I grew up, and it has everything I consider necessary for a good family environment. It is time to get ready, and leave.