SAME THING WE ALWAYS DO, BRAIN…

All the Gods pass through here. The walls are thick with photos: Odin, back in the two-eyed days; Zoroaster poking two fingers up behind Zarathustra’s head; Kali with her arms around Mister Vitelli. A lot of Gods with Mister Vitelli. He might own the place, but you’ve never met a bigger starfucker in your life. And Mister Vitelli has lived several.


Four weeks ago, I started an online writing group — The Ministry of Reformation — with the brilliant Chuck McKenzie for the purposes of encouraging a group of writing friends who had fallen away from our regular habits (for whatever reason) to simply pick up our keyboards and hit a small, achievable target each week, to be the intervention we all needed just to sit us back in front of a screen and recover the words we all miss so mightily, no matter how few we capture at each sitting.


Declan pulled his jacket closer round his shoulders and kicked his way through the mud towards the pressing shed. The vines surrounding him were stunted and blackened by sleet. They wouldn’t bloom for countless months. Declan shivered. He’d lost track of time while he wandered aimlessly along the rows. He had no purpose, no drive. Nothing is as useless as a vintner in winter, he rhymed to himself, striking a rap-star pose and then sighing self-consciously. Time to head back to the homestead. Hot chocolate and a Jason Statham DVD, that was what he needed. The opposite of the thinking that threatened to drive him into an office job every time he stopped to contemplate what too many more weeks of this blight would do to his savings. He reached the end of the row of vines, and turned towards the small cottage tucked away at the back of the vineyard.

            “Hello,” he muttered.


In 4 weeks I’ve managed to complete Vitelli’s, a short story that’s sat unfinished for well over two years — that’s the first excerpt, up the top — and put 1500 words down on something that feels like it’s going to be a novel, but is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever attempted before. At the moment, it’s shaping up as a thriller very much in the LeCarre mould of retired bad-men-on-the-side-of-good being drawn back into games they thought they’d left behind. It’s called The Retiree for the minute, and that’s where the second excerpt above comes from.

I’ve no idea how well any of these projects are going to go; whether they’ll end up being remotely sellable; if I’m even capable of pretending to scale the tiny heights my writing career reached before everything fell apart. But I do know that I couldn’t go on as I was, blocked and miserable and depressed at the mundanity and featurelessness I had devolved into. So this group, as gentle and minimal as the targets we’ve created and the interventions we perform are, has become uncountably important to me over the last month.

If I can keep producing something, I can at least believe I can get back onto the treadmill, sell the odd story, perhaps a novel again, and lay the foundations of a second attempt at being something more than just a middle-aged nobody doing his five days a week while he waits for retirement and decline.

Second chances don’t travel in herds, and this is the best shot I’ve had at one for a while. It’s only four weeks, but the signs are good.

So it seems to be working for me, at least, is what I’m saying…


He hung up, finished his cold meal, paid, and left. As he swung out of the parking area he pulled up to a rubbish bin. He pulled the sim card out of his phone, snapped it in half, crushed the phone beneath his heel, and threw the whole mess into the bin. Then he drew the car onto the highway and drove away, keeping respectfully to the speed limit the whole time.


BABY STEPS. NEW STEPS. WRITING STEPS.

Three weeks ago, as part of my determination to make what might be, perhaps, one last attempt to take the sputtering embers of my writing career and see if I can fan them enough to light at least one match head, my good friend Chuck McKenzie and I invited a few colleagues — all of whom were in a similar situation, and had spoken of a similar mind-frame — to create an online group dedicated to supporting each other as we tried to reignite what we all once had, and at least occasionally enjoyed.

After some discussion around format, and desires, and structure, we set our first writing target this week. Very small, very simple, real ‘hurdles for baby bunny rabbits’ stuff: 100 words, or half an hour cumulative writing time.

It’s easier to aim low, and surpass, than aim high, and not even try.

So this morning, gifted with a third consecutive sick day (thanks, inflamed lung!), I finally sat down to try my first writing session since determining to do so at the start of the year (Turns out new jobs and house moves are time-consuming. Who knew?). I dusted off Vitelli’s, a short story I’d churned out a couple of thousand words on the last time I tried to restart things, and which fell apart before I could finish it and even contemplate what came next.

Today, armed with the knowledge that I had to get at least 100 words down, or front up to the writing group I started and explain why I couldn’t manage the first, smallest target I set, I managed 800 words and brought a long-dormant short story from somewhere in the midst to just about finished.

That, my friends, is a good feeling.

Baby steps.

First steps.

But oh, they do feel nice.

2020 PLUS A TUTU, TOO

It’s traditional, at this time, to publish my end of year list. But as a) it’s more than thirty items long, b) I’m currently lying in a chalet in Fremantle, a long way from my computer, and c) I’m typing this on my phone, that one’s going to have to wait.

Instead, let me end this year of neck-deep shite with a list of goals for my first year back in Perth for almost half a decade. To whit:

Continue reading “2020 PLUS A TUTU, TOO”

TELL ME WHY: I NEED TO LIKE MONDAYS

Monday has become my writing day. I finish work at noon, head to the local library, and spend some time — if not actually always putting words on the page, then at least doing nothing else (I’m still hesitantly working my way back into things).

Today, I managed another 1000 words on Vitelli’s, the short story I started a month or so ago. It’s now up to just over 3000 words. Was a time I’d knock that over in a week, but I’m trying not to compare myself to Past Lee: those days are gone, and I was a different country, then.

I have a story, it’s past 3k, and there’s more to come. It’s a tiny draining of the swamp, but it’s real.

WELCOME TO THE BUNGLE. AGAIN.

So…… lot of weather we’ve been having lately, innit?……

All right, let’s talk serious shit. I’ve lost my way since our son Blake completed suicide back in September 2019. Of course it’s understandable — Luscious and I have been swallowed by grief, and anybody who can’t understand how that level of grief can affect you has my permission to stay quiet — but the ultimate end of that process is that my life has turned in upon itself and started eating its own tail. Everything that was supposed to be good about coming to Karratha — gaining fitness, writing more, lowering my stress levels, finding my post-50-year-old-future, etc etc and so forth — was destroyed, and what’s more, I didn’t care.

This can no longer be supported.

Continue reading “WELCOME TO THE BUNGLE. AGAIN.”

NO EXPECTATIONS, BUT MAYBEEEE…..

All the Gods pass through here. The walls are thick with photos: Odin, back in the two-eyed days; Zoroaster poking two fingers up behind Zarathustra’s head; Kali with her arms around Mister Vitelli. A lot of Gods with Mister Vitelli. He might own the place, but you’ve never met a bigger starfucker in your life. And Mister Vitelli has lived several.

Truth is, nobody knows how long Mister Vitelli’s been around. I tried to map it out, once. Build a chronology using the photos as a guide. But times runs kinky here. Gods are natural phenomena. Black holes with daddy issues. Supernovae with bar tabs. The laws of physics and men get bent for party tricks in this place. All I know is, Mister Vitelli is old. Like, cosmic old. All the Gods call him ‘Mister’. That should tell you all you really need to know.

I saw him, once. From a distance. I was tending bar, trying to keep Circe and Freya from turning the bar top into a live action porn show. Again. He was at a table with a God I didn’t recognise. Someone lean, and modern, all darkness and bad intentions. Even through a halo of Goddess hair and love sweat, I could tell—this was a bad news kind of God, a no-future kind of God. And whatever he was pitching, Mister Vitelli was angry.

I’ve been trying to preserve half an hour a night for writing this year. No expectations, no markets in mind, just half an hour where, even if all I do is stare at a blank screen every night, I’m doing nothing other than writing behaviours. I’ve managed bugger all for a week, but tonight, well…… that. What you just read.

Maybe it’s a start. Maybe it’s nothing. I have no expectations.

But maybe it’s a start.

DAY TWO

Day two of my self-enforced return to writing via Nanowrimo. I’ve set myself a target of 500 words per day, and so far, I’ve managed just that. 506 yesterday, 780 today. Small feed compared to some of the days I’ve had in the past, but the past is just that. Nothing I’ve done before matters.

I’ve managed two five hundred-word days in a row, for the first time in at least two years. So far, so good.

ON WRITING, OR THE NOT THEREOF, OR FINDING YOUR FEET IN THE DARK WITH YOUR EYES POKED OUT.

It’s been a terrible couple of years. For a variety of reasons — workplace bullying, depression, and family tragedies being amongst those you know about — my writing output since Magrit saw publication in 2016 has dropped to zero, and that only because it’s impossible to write negative numbers of words. I haven’t sold anything in something like two years, haven’t seen myself in print since I don’t know when, and earlier this year decided that I was no longer going to consider myself a writer. That course had run itself. I was toasted.

Continue reading “ON WRITING, OR THE NOT THEREOF, OR FINDING YOUR FEET IN THE DARK WITH YOUR EYES POKED OUT.”

DIPS TOE BACK IN WATER……

It’s been a long year and a bit.

After the emotional battering and non-stop workplace bullying I experienced in my last couple of years at The Job That Soured, I was without mojo. All my mojoes had gone. No mojoes for me. Then we moved Very Far Away ™, and settled into A Very New Way of Life ™…

And there was a new industry to work in…… and a new role within the family…… and, well, a whole bunch of various things and thangs and otherthangs…… and long story short, my writing career took a Titanic pill and sank without trace.

Last year I completed a novel, sent it to the publisher who had been nagging me for it, and had it bounced back to me in less than a fortnight. At which point I pretty much quietly packed away my pens to no public outcry or notice whatsoever, and that was all, folks.

But it’s officially up-to-a-bit later, now. I’m six months into a regular teaching gig, and while I’m new in the role, I’m also experienced in an awful lot of the skills required to fill it, so I’ve adjusted. For the most part. And we’ve settled into life here in What Used to Be Far Away But Now Feels Like We’re Here and You’re All Far Away rather nicely. For the most part. And something quite seismic occurred to me while we were traipsing around Perth and Fremantle on our recent trip back for the school holiday– my first since we’ve come up here.

Continue reading “DIPS TOE BACK IN WATER……”

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?

G’WAN TO YER POPE, UNIVERSE. YOU’RE ELEPHANT’S

Sometimes I really don’t like the way the Universe pretends to be conscious. Exampley-poo:

I started writing The Boy from GOBLIN three weeks ago. In the very first session, I needed to name the woman who runs the Home my protagonist, Daniel, runs away from. I call her Miss Fitch: it’s a nice, harsh sounding name, a name you can hiss as much as pronounce. Sorted. One passing mention, move on.

Today, a whole bunch of scenes later, she comes up in conversation between Daniel and his new friend, Gygax: a Grotesque, and total wide boy, from the East End of London. I look up the Cockney rhyming slang for ‘bitch’………

I don’t like you, Universe.

THE BOY FROM G.O.B.L.I.N

“Don’t move.”

The voice at his shoulder was deep, and filled with gravel. Daniel started in shock. His legs tensed, pushed off from the roof. The bag of liquorice fell as his arms rose. He dove away from the intruder…… and made it as far as half a centimetre before something heavy and enormous fell upon his shoulder, pinning him to his place.

“You deaf, or summat?” the voice whispered in his ear. “I said don’t move.”

Daniel froze.

“I’m not afraid of you,” he managed to croak.

“You ain’t seen me, yet.”

Daniel’s voice gave up. His mind watched it leave, and joined it. Millimetre by millimetre, he risked shifting his gaze towards the hand gripping his shoulder. What he saw turned control of his body over to his bowels. The hand wasn’t a hand. For one thing, it was grey. Dark grey, like stone that had been left out in the elements for too many years without being cleaned. For another it, was stone. Actual stone, heavy and unforgiving. And it was huge, easily twice the size of a normal hand, more a paw than a human appendage. Long, thick fingers ended in curved claws that hung down Daniel’s chest, their tips resting gently across the base of his pectorals.

As Daniel stared at it in terror, a head slowly slid into view. Massive, monstrous, the size of a bear’s skull. A vicious hooked beak came first, like the prow of some predatory ship. Fangs peeked out from under its upper lip. A heavy, leonine head followed, sleek carved feathers coating it in an obscene, terrifying, rippling, head dress. Predator’s eye peeked out from beneath a heavy brow. As Daniel watched, the beast blinked. A stone lid closed with an audible click, then slid back upwards with snake-like grace. The eye rotated towards him. He could see the stone iris widen, then narrow again as the best focussed on him. The beak opened. A grey, marbled tongue protruded, ran along the line of fangs, then slipped back inside. The beast leaned closer.

“What about now?” it said.

 

Writing again, writing again, jiggety-jig. First project of the year is The Boy from G.O.B.L.I.N., a humorous kids novel about a boy recruited into a secret organisation of monsters. Four days in, and I’ve got 3500 words down. There’s some urgency to this project: 4 weeks from now, I’ll be working part-time at the local high-school, teaching two English classes a day, which will cramp my writing time substantially unless I become a master of time management. Which, as I haven’t managed it in 48 years so far, requires me to get as many words down as I can beforehand.

Continue reading “THE BOY FROM G.O.B.L.I.N”

2018: BUY ONE YEAR, GET THREE FOR FREE

Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

Let’s recap, shall we?

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

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

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

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

CURIOUS FICTIONS

An experiment: thanks to Sean Williams pointing the way, I’m reprinting a large selection of my short stories over at Curious Fictions— a resource website for authors who have a decent back catalogue. Readers who are looking for a wide range of works can access tonnes of content for a micro-payment or two, and you can subscribe to my feed for additional monthly content– I’ll be posting exclusive stories, WIP snippets and so on on a monthly basis.

So if you’ve missed some of my stories along the way, or have been waiting to catch up with some of my rarer and more out-of-the-way tales, here’s a chance to get hold of them. I’ve posted three and a subscriber-exclusive to begin with, and there will be more to come.

HARLAN ELLISON: A STORY ABOUT BEING FREE

ellison

Photo via tributes.com

 

Harlan Ellison died yesterday, at the age of 84. If you’re a fan of SF, or film criticism, or have a passing knowledge of American TV, then you know what that means: we’re down one giant, and about to enter an intense period of arguing over the legacy of one of the most complex and problematic human beings ever to work in the SF field. Certainly, my Facebook feed is awash with memorials, reminiscences, and as is the way with Facebook, denunciations, already. But then, that’s the crowd I run with. At the heart of it, no matter our differences, just about everyone on my feed loves speculative fiction. We’re all true believers, and if anything, Ellison was a true believer.

Continue reading “HARLAN ELLISON: A STORY ABOUT BEING FREE”

18 MONTH PLAN PROGRESS UPDATEY STORY BIT EXCERPT OF THE DAY GOODNESS!

           The song follows Charles O’Connor along the beach, as it has followed him for nearly ten years. His horse is nervous underneath him, tugging against his lead as if ready to bolt at the slightest provocation. He tightens his grip, nudges it ahead. He knows his destination.

            The mothers are waiting for him at the water’s edge. Spray shines on their black skin, beautiful, so beautiful in the morning sunlight. They do not talk to him, nor he to them. Instead they sing, as they have always sung: their bodies still, their mouths closed. The song led him out to this stretch of beach, through Fremantle, along Cantonment Street, here to where the old jetty once stood. Now the music hangs in the air between them, swaying in time to the rise and fall of waves upon the sand.

            The horse whinnies and skips sideways. Charles lays a hand on its neck, leans down in the saddle to cluck calming noises. The horse rolls its eye back towards him, and calms. Charles rubs its neck. He has always been good with horses. He has always been good with things. His wife Susan would call it a gift from God. Charles is not so sure. Inanimate objects he is good with, but people have always eluded him. It is a strange gift for a God to give, to be so good with things that cannot rear up and attack you, and to struggle so much with those who pay you, comment upon you, and use their newspapers to smear your name into oblivion.

 

The first draft of Song of the Water, a 3900-word story about the suicide of C.Y. O’Connor that will go out to market and be included in the Claws of Native Ghosts collection of supernatural stories set throughout Western Australia’s history, is finally complete.

 

5 FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS EVERY WRITER SHOULD HAVE

It’s been a couple of weeks: full-time employment called, and while I may not have been engaged in the writah-dahlink life I crave, my son’s Scout Jamboree for next year has been paid for, so that’s a thing that happened.

While I desperately try to re-insert writing back into my daily routine, I’ll need a bit of help and guidance. Here, then, are five books that form the cornerstone of my industry reading, and the pillars upon which my library of books about writing stand.

Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS EVERY WRITER SHOULD HAVE”

5 FOR FRIDAY CALLS BULLSHIT ON YOUR WRITING MYTHS

Every month, patrons of my Patreon account who pledge $3 or more have the opportunity to choose the topic of a 5 for Friday post. This month, thanks to the generosity of patrons Narrelle M Harris and Andrew McKiernan, I’m looking at five myths about the writing process that make my teeth itch.

We all know the myths the general community believe about writers and writing: anyone can do it; we must all be rich from those sweet, sweet publishing dollars; yet somehow we’re all willing to do anything for free because exposure…… Sure, it’s risible, but at least the general community has the excuse of ignorance. We actually do the business, and yet, somehow, we manage to perpetuate just as many harmful myths about the process amongst ourselves.

Perhaps it’s because, deep down, we know that the only true secret to writing is to sit our arse on the chair and keep doing it until we get better. And because it really is just that simple, we have to build up an air of mystique  to prove to ourselves that we’re really magical, mysterious artistes. Here are five lines of bullshit you hear authors spinning to each other while we all nod sagely as if we believe it, even though we damn well know better.

5 FOR FRIDAY: HONEST, WE’RE SPECIAL.

Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY CALLS BULLSHIT ON YOUR WRITING MYTHS”