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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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5 FOR FRIDAY: A MATHOM OF OPENINGS

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.

 

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NEW WORK FOR OLD FOOLS

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.

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5 FOR FRIDAY: TV COMEDIES THAT INFLUENCED ME

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

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ALL THIS WEIGHT LOSS STUFF IS FASCINATING, BUT WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE WRITING, HUH? HUH?

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…

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5 for FRIDAY: A NEW LIFE IN THE OUTER COLONIES

It’s been a month since I left the cultural hub (BWAAAAHHHHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!) of Perth behind, and joined Luscious and the kids in the Northern Sunlands of Karratha. It’s been a breath of fresh air for us– hot, dusty, red-tinged air. Luscious has taken to her new life as a High School teacher as if it’s the job she’s been waiting 25 years to do, because it is. The kids are exploring social opportunities they wouldn’t have accessed where we were living before, and there’s a new sense of freedom in being by ourselves.

As for me, well, not having to report to the hated day job has resulted in exactly what we wanted: I’m writing again, with purpose and intent. After months of stagnation, I’ve taken Ghost Tracks past 40,000 words and on towards a final first draft tally that should come in somewhere between 50 and 52,000. It’s entirely conceivable that the first draft will be wrapped up well and truly before the end of March. I’m enjoying a sense of freedom that I had forgotten existed, and slowly, those part of my creativity and soul that had withered are beginning to recover.

So, by way of recording some of the things that have changed with this new location, here are five aspects of life in the Northern Sunlands that have provided new impetus for me, my writing, and my overall well-being.

 

5 For Friday: Life in the Northern Sunlands

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FIRST STEPS

“What does a nobleman need more than anything else?”

“I don’t know.” Paul considered the question for a second. “A big castle?”

“No, stupid. An heir. He needs an heir.”

 

First Karratha writing session achieved. 1000 words on Ghost Tracks. Not a marathon effort by any stretch, but the first new words I’ve typed in months, so it’s a positive start to my new working arrangement. I’m aiming to hit 2000 words a day for the remainder of my time here, so I’m giving myself one week just to get back into the swing of things, and then it’ll be head down, bum up and working hard to make this new writing life pay off.

 

If you’re a Patreon patron, this is the work you are supporting. If you’re not a Patreon supporter, consider hopping over to my Patreon page and pledging. Apart from helping a fat, middle-aged author attain independence from Der Man, you’ll receive a rogue’s gallery of writing-related goodies every month. 

FIVE FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS I WISH I’D WRITTEN

As a reader, there’s approximately one hundred million billion zillion gajillion books that I love with great loveness and which are my squishy and that I pet and love and call my squishy. Approximately.

As an author, there are times when it’s impossible not to see the man behind the curtain. For all the individual skill involved, there are certain cornerstones of the craft that are apparent to anyone else practising that craft.

Occasionally, however, I read a novel that rocks me back on my heels, makes me blow out my cheeks and shake the book gently, all the while muttering “Man. I wish I’d written that.”  Here are five.

Five for Friday: Books I Wish I’d Written

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QUARTER OF A CENTURY

I’ve just realised, as I was writing an upcoming Five for Friday post: I took the stage for my first stand-up comedy performance in 1992.

A few fevered, and not particularly serious, attempts at publication in my University years aside, that performance was the start of my continuous arts practice: after that night, via cartooning, theatre, and writing, I have been a practicing artist in one form or another for 25 years.

 

Bloody helllllll…….

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”