First time I’ve written in over a fortnight. 776 words, which means this story has passed 2000 words.
I can’t tell you the last time I wrote 2000 words on a story.
First time I’ve written in over a fortnight. 776 words, which means this story has passed 2000 words.
I can’t tell you the last time I wrote 2000 words on a story.
I’m just going to say it very quietly, so that we don’t get unduly excited or anything, but for the first time in I genuinely don’t remember how long, I’ve just written a thousand words.
I spoke earlier this week about my plans for 2021, including returning to my regular blogging features, such as 5 for Friday. So what better way to kick off a new year of this feature than by expanding on my previous comments and detailing five goals I want to achieve, and maintain, during the coming year.
5 for Friday: Days to Come.Continue reading “5 FOR FRIDAY: 2021”
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.”
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 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.
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.
A is for antimony
You drop a little in their tea.
Their hair falls out, their frame grows thin.
They die a bag of bone and skin.
I used to write like Legolas walking over snowfalls without leaving footprints behind. Continue reading “A IS FOR ANTIMONY…”
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.
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?
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 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.”
“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.
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?
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 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.
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.
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.
Every City, no matter how beautiful, has a corner into which the shit floats.
Yeah, I’ve decided. Next project off the rank is my dilapidated-City-on-the-edge-of-reality fantasy novel, The Canals of Anguilar.
5 pages, 8 pages, 201 pages, 305 pages.
Let the editing begin.
With the finishing of the first draft of Ghost Tracks, it’s time to turn my attention to my next project. Here’s a quick look at five projects that are lined up to work on.
5 for Friday: Working It.
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.
The longer you write, the more you begin. The more you begin, the more you accumulate false starts, mis-steps, and generally unusable fragments.
Writers are hoarders, at least of ideas: a good writer never throws anything away, and it can be years between writing a false start and finding the one perfect moment, idea, or circumstance that allows us to finish the story. My personal record is 11 years between abandoning an opening, and completing– and selling– the finished story (At The End There Was a Man, which appeared in the Coeur De Lion anthology Anywhere But Earth). I know of other authors who have gone more than 20 years between beginning and finishing a story. Ask around: we’ve all got one.
So, for your entertainment and education, here are five openings I’ve been carrying around for over 5 years, waiting for that spark to see them through to completion.
Gotta hurry. Gotta hurry.
Byt’s gotta new job. But jobs don’t wait. She gotta get cross town before start time, or some other bugger gonna get it. She up and out of the squat before the suits start chocking up the street. Catch a hand-roll at a stall down at street level, scoff it quick and licking her fingers before she even lining up for tram. Slip in the out door while the tourists and the jobtypes barge out in a vomit of deodorant and stupidity. Bump bump bump against hips and hunker down in the foot well. Open the wallets quick fingers have bought, strip the cash, dump the cards. Byt knows a guy down the markets pay some dollars for wallets. Make twenty bucks off these ones, good.
Those of you who still don’t roll over and pretend to be asleep when I mention my Patreon campaign will know that patrons of a certain level (Okay, it’s 3 bucks a month. We’re not talking high finance, here) get to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, this week I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my writing, my performing, and my approach to art.
I grew up in a time when an episode of a TV show was shown once, at a specific time, and if you missed it, well, you might just never see it. As I grew into a teen, and then a comedy obsessed young adult, the list of shows I obsessed over grew and grew into, well, an obsession. One I should have followed all the way to a PhD thesis, but that’s a story for another time. I compulsively purchased books of sketch scripts, and spent hours picking apart and analysing Beyond the Fringe, The Goon Show, Round the Horne, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, A Show Called Fred, Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour…… the list is enormous, and largely British. I recorded scripts on tape– sometimes with friends, sometimes solo– playing with voice, and timing, and pitch. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I collected LPs– and did up until my second marriage. And I watched: over and over, episodes of every show I could find: first on TV, and then, when video cassettes became available, on tape, then disc. I am a fan. I could easily have become an historian. Here are five shows that changed the way my brains works.
5 FOR FRIDAY: AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Back from the air-conditioned comfort of the library, and it occurs to me that I’ve not actually mentioned how my new writing world is coming along: given that the majority of you know me as a writer and not some sort of work experience weight-loss guru for the aged and blimpically-inclined, maybe I should actually talk about the stuff that brings us all together for a moment…