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

Continue reading “FIVE FOR FRIDAY: BOOKS I WISH I’D WRITTEN”

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”

DAY SIX: NUMBERS FOR BETTER LIVING

Anybody who thinks numbers aren’t beautiful has never been a writer. As much as I have a love of mathematics (much like I have a love of boxing: I’m not much cop at anything beyond the basics, but by God, I love what the form can do), it’s the rise in pure numbers that gets my authorial mind smiling.

Let me show you. As of the close of business today:

  • 6700 words on Ghost Tracks, taking the text from 17,500 to a shade over 24,100.
  • 3000 words on Song of the Water, equalling 1 complete short story, taking the proposed collection to, in a beautiful piece of symmetry, a shade over 24,100.
  • 300 words on The Ballad of Arthur Williams.

Equalling 10,000 words since I arrived here.

See? Isn’t lovely? Doesn’t that make you smile? Because it make me grin like a freaking loon.

The other thing that made me smile like a loon today was my family deciding I needed to be taken out for dinner, and driving all the way here to pick me up and take me out. I’m loving this small taste of the life I want to live– writing full-time; advancing projects on a daily basis; drinking up the solitary, reflective life of an artist– but it means nothing without the love and support of those I love, and I’ve been missing them terribly. Everything I do, everything I sacrifice, everything I undertake: without them, it’s ashes.

It’s a small thing: a meal together, some laughs and togetherness. But it gives me the motivation to keep going and do them proud.

 

Batts.jpg

They followed me home. Can I keep them?

 

 

DAY FIVE AND STAGES THREE

A simple day, today. After the social butterflying and story completion of yesterday, it was time for a return to the word mines, and an attempt to get some serious traction on Ghost Tracks.

Having spent the last 4 days staring out at the same view, I decided to pack up my computer and head into the nearby town of Midland to write, just for the change of scenery. It worked: I managed 2500 words, and shaped up the next part of the narrative, so that the next day or two of writing should come as easily as today’s.

That represents an important turning point for me: I’m not a plotter, which means that I rarely have more than a general sense of where I’m going in the short term. I usually know where I want to end up– I have the ending of this novel all sewn up, for example– but the details of the journey are often only discovered very shortly before the characters find out. In loose terms, my writing comes to me in three stages:

Continue reading “DAY FIVE AND STAGES THREE”

DAY FOUR: ONE DOWN…… A DIFFERENT ONE DOWN……

It was a day of achievement today: after kissing Luscious goodbye (there are advantages to undertaking a residency within driving distance of home- a visit from your wonderful wife is one of them), I embarked upon my first engagement of the fortnight– a forty-five minute interview by the participants of the KSP Press Club, led by my old pal and fellow author Melinda Tognini.

Continue reading “DAY FOUR: ONE DOWN…… A DIFFERENT ONE DOWN……”

KSP RESIDENCY: DAY TWO

My first full day of Residency, and it was important to set in place a routine that I can follow for my full time here. To that end, I started by being woken up at 2.30am: Greenmount may be idyllic, but it is also right under the departing flight path for Perth airport, and the planes are only a few hundred metres overhead and working hard to climb. Back in the day, I lived in Huntingdale, which is under the approach path– I got used to the sound of aircraft overhead, but that habit has not yet reasserted itself.

Continue reading “KSP RESIDENCY: DAY TWO”

2017 KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD WRITERS CENTRE WRITING RESIDENCY

It is upon us: this morning, I packed myself up, hugged Luscious and the kids goodbye, and hied me to the other end of Perth to commence my 2-week live-in residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre.

I’ll be working on 2 projects while I’m here: Ghost Tracks, the children’s novel wherein the protagonist derails a ghost train and is forced to travel to the otherworldly dimension to make amends; and the collection of short stories about supernatural incursions into historical events in Western Australia. In addition, I’ll be attending some writers groups, conducting a workshop, and being a part of some events throughout my stay.

Continue reading “2017 KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD WRITERS CENTRE WRITING RESIDENCY”

SUBMITTED!

The Terrors pulled up three hundred metres outside the town. There were six soldiers left, only half the team that had left the Reclaimed Zone a month before. They’d known the risks—that was why Reclamation Bounties were so high. But a team is a team. The losses hit hard. Nerves were shredded. Reclamation was high stakes work, but there came a time when a team wanted to bug out, claim their R&R and spend their hard-won on the few comforts available in the Zone. The Terrors had reached that point. Even so, they’d barely relaxed before Sarge took out his scope and scanned the township at the bottom of the rise.

Into the Pit, a psychedelic, post-apocalyptic, military SF story,  is completed at 5220 words, and submitted.

Along with the picture book I submitted earlier this year, that marks my second submission for 2017. Sadly, this represents a high-watermark for the last couple of years. So onto the next project, to keep this momentum rolling. I’m sure I know what the next project is……

HOW TO BE A NEW TALENT: EXTENDED MIX

Another upcoming appearance for your diaries: March 2nd, I’ll be appearing on stage with a fantastic lineup of childrens’ authors as part of the Children’s Book Council of Australia– WA’s A Night With Our Stars event. Alongside the likes of James Foldy, Kylie Howarth, Norman Jorgensen, Teena Raffa-Mulligan and Meg Caddy, I’ll be talking about Magrit, writing, and all things froody and writerly. Here’s a poster, even, saying exactly that:

 

mar17-talk

 

I’ve been amused to note that promotion for the event has referred to me as a “new talent” (although at least they say ‘talent’). It’s a risk you take when you hop genres: not every reader will come with you, and not everybody in the new field will know your track history. Still, after 16 years, it raises a smile, particularly as I’ve just been interviewed by a fellow speculative fiction author for a paper she’s writing on the subject of writing time.

So, for those of you who may be meeting me for the first time due to Magrit, or came in late, or just have some sort of vague slightly-less-than-indifferent interest in how I came to this place, here’ the potted history I provided to my academic friend: Continue reading “HOW TO BE A NEW TALENT: EXTENDED MIX”

GOT ME A FESTIVAL

Last weekend was that most wonderful reminder of why I got into this writing gig: the guest appearance at a Writers Festival. In this instance, I was flown across the country and put up in a hotel in my favourite City of them all, the beautiful city of Brisbane. 


It’s never real until the tag arrives.

I’ve always loved Brisbane, especially the South Bank, where the Festival was located. It’s superbly picturesque, and a thousand blessings to the person who had the imagination and foresight to place so many cultural and artistic nodes within such proximity to each other. The Gallery of Modern Art, State Library, Museum, State Theatre, Griffith Music Observatory, performance bowl and others stand shoulder to shoulder along the sculpted lawns, so that every morning I walked an 800 metre corridor of art between the hotel and the Festival. No surprise that I arrived each day in an uplifted, happy mood, ready to work. 


Art. Just standing there, being all arty and stuff,
like it can just be all… arty. (Sigh) I love Brisbane.

Mind you, the fun had started almost from the moment my heels hit dirt. Checking into the hotel was going swimmingly, until the man serving the couple next to me looked at his screen and went “Oh.” See, the screen had changed colour, without him touching it, and it should’na oughta done that. He pressed a key. It did the same thing. The woman serving me said, “Oh.” The man came over. They looked at her screen. Then they looked at his. I smiled at the nice couple. They smiled at me. The hotel staff pressed buttons. They came back to my screen. The man looked at me, then at the couple, then at me.

“Um,” he said. “You’re not married, are you…..?”

See, when you’re talking literary Battersbys in this country, there’s me, and then there’s the stupendously lovely and talented Katherine Battersby. And we’d never met. Until that moment. And then we discovered that we share the signing tactic of offering kids a choice of coloured pen to sign with. And then I managed to sneak a graffiti note into her pencil case that she didn’t notice for a day and a half, and well, frankly, meeting her would have been reason alone to love the Festival, if I hadn’t also caught up, and had such joyous and happy responses to my lurking presence, with a series of old friends, each of whom treated me like some sort of lost prodigal: meeting Trent Jamieson, Angela Slatter and Kim Wilkins again was like an extended gathering of the clan, and getting to see Kate Eltham– someone Luscious and I genuinely hold very close to our hearts– was like catching up with family.


Slatter and Jamieson. Comics at large.


Sweet, pretty and talented. It’s a Battersby thing. 



To have that, and to meet new friends like Katherine and Yassmin Abdel-Magied; and work with delightful and warm-hearted peers like David Burton, Amie Kaufman and Jaclyn Moriarty, was a visceral and wondrous reminder that my community is a lot wider than I think of it, and that my horizon is a lot broader. But the Festival was about more than just hanging out being a writah-dahling (although I can do that like a fiend). It was about work. 

And work I did. 5 presentations, a panel and a Masterclass across 4 days — which is exactly what I love to do at these events: I’m not one for propping up the bar when I could be geeking. And the volunteers, particularly Green Room co-ordinator Kristy, were some of the loveliest people I’ve ever worked with (to give you an idea, one of them– the entirely-too-sweet Olivia– realised one of my signings was going so long it was beginning to impact upon my arrival time at my next presentation, so ran up to the Green Room and filled a box with lunch so I’d get something to eat). 



Getting my work on.


And the kids I worked with were incredible. Kids are usually pretty damn fearless when it comes to art, much more so than adults, but even so, I was blown away by how many had actually read the book, and how many had taken the time to formulate intelligent and critical questions about the text. Every session began with an introduction speech given by a student, and taking the time to chat to them helped me realise just how much some of these kids were prepared to work just to get there. In my very first session, I was chatting to Michaela, my MC, who came from a school called ‘Chinchilla’. (No spoiling it for the others, those who know where that is).


What’s the name of this thing, again?



“Cool school name,” I said. “Where is that?”
“Four hours away,” she replied.
Four hours. To attend a 9.45am session. Turns out, thee kids had boarded a bus at 5am, just to get to Brisbane in time for my session. They were seeing me, and one other 45-minute session, then trooping back on the bus for another 4 hour journey home.


Brisbane. Where even the seagulls are front-rowers…

Yeah. I’d come from Perth and it had only taken me 90 minutes longer. Faced with that, how can you do anything but work yourself into the ground to try and give these kid something worthwhile for their dedication? It seemed to work: by Friday morning, the Festival’s stock of Magrit had sold out, I was the 3rd highest-selling author for the day, and I’d resorted to signing school hats, casts, programmes and water bottles– frankly, anything the kids pushed across the table at me. What else can you do?


NUMBER THREE, BABY!

After spending so much time entertaining kids, I finished the festival with a 3-hour Masterclass on the subject of short fiction, in which I managed to pack about 4 hours of theory-based ranting and half a dozen writing exercises, and a panel on YA Survivalist fiction for which I was eminently under-qualified, but managed to survive through a combination of smart-arsery and monkey-boy dancing– which, incidentally, is pretty much how I intend to survive the actual apocalypse.

Short Fiction Masterclass: Work, you dogs!

And then it was over. Like a cheesy Hollywood movie– think of me as a fat, hairy Renee Zellweger– my last act was to walk alone through a deserted library, nod goodbye to a single, uninterested security guard, and step out into the failing light and pouring rain of an evening thunderstorm. Seriously, even I could hear the rising strings. I did not, however, break out into song, Brisbane did not need that. Nobody needs that.

When it was sunny, South Bank was a riot of outdoor dance
floors, buskers, and music venues. I took this
picture when it was pissing down: ironically, not one person singing.
So, I miss it. I miss Brisbane. I’d forgotten just how much I loved the City– it’s been several long years since my last visit. And it all came back in such a rush of goodwill and graciousness that I’ve been in an extended funk ever since I returned to Perth and to the day-after-day dreariness of my long-soured day job. So, all I can do is recover my pen, get back to work, and try to make my next visit of the permanent variety.
Tally ho. 

Then there was this 😦

AN ASIDE ON THE SUBJECT OF LIONEL SHRIVER

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a Festival invites a famous author to deliver the keynote speech. The author represents the Festival. There words are the distillation of everything the Festival stands for; every prism through which the public, the media, and the other authors will view each other. Even if that author has a personality so large, so iconic and even inconoclastic, that their personality is a large part of their delivery– still, even then– they will take the audience on a journey of discovery that will leave all present examining their own points of view through the filter of the Festival and the artistic aims for which it stands. Picture Lenny Bruce’s “Nigger, Nigger, Spic” routine. Picture Graham Chapman’s carrot-clad non-speech to the graduation class at Cambridge.

Picture me at the back of Lionel Shriver’s Festival keynote speech, watching Yassmin Abdel-Magied leave in tears, seeing Alexei Sayle’s face turn a peculiar shade of thunder, waiting for this speech of derision, and contempt, and utter entitlement to turn, to twist, to get to Bruce’s self-turned finger and single word, “Yid”.

Picture me walking out, between the doffing of the sombrero and the Q&A, not able to be in the same room anymore, feeling diminished by the act of witnessing a speech that was not only the antithesis of the artistic creed of enlightenment and community, but was a sweeping dismissal of any notion of those concepts.

The internet has since lit up with argument and counter-argument. Yassmin was the first, her blog post subsequently picked up by the Guardian and other markets (Don’t read the comments. Never read the comments). Since then it’s gone viral, with both sides throwing mud, shit, sputum and ancestry at each other in the hope that something will stain.

I am not so affected as others. I can get up any day, any place, and write whatever I like, comforted by the fact that I’m white, male, prosperous, politically unhindered, sexually validated, and my fucking voice doesn’t have to fight anybody because it’ already won. So, this:

There’s appropriation, and then there’s exchange. There’s riding in like Vasquez, and then there’s approaching a culture with respect. Shriver not only claimed that it was not necessary to approach another culture with respect, she claimed it was our right as artists to strip-mine anything we set out eyes on, and if we did a bad job, well, too bad so sad, because at least we had a go. It was unapologetically imperialist thinking at its worst.

Lionel Shriver betrayed the BWF, who asked her to speak on a specific topic, by agreeing to do so, then wilfully and gleefully going off-topic from her first word and leaving the organisation looking complicit with her views. 

She betrayed her fellow artists by using a high-profile moment to throw us under the bus by portraying any who didn’t conform to her extreme views as ignorant weaklings.


And most disgustingly of all, she betrayed those that we artists should be standing beside– the weak, the disenfranchised and the voiceless– by openly telling them that their status was deserved and that their only value was as narrative grist for those better placed.

It was a loathsome piece of punching down by someone intelligent enough to be better. We should all be better.
So that was a shitty way to end a blog post.
Have a picture of the curve of the sky to cheer you up. 

KSP GHOST STORY NIGHT

Last week, Luscious, the kids, and I met up with our good friends Kris and Kim, and moseyed on up to the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre for their spooky night of ghost stories. Lyn and I had entered stories in their ghost competition, and had been informed that we had both been shortlisted and would we like to come along and read? Of course we would. The KSP is one of the loveliest and most atmospheric Writers Centres I’ve ever seen, and it’s always a real pleasure to head up there. So we hooked up with Kris and Kim for dinner in Midland, paused to let Master 11 get into costume (prizes for dress-ups!), and toddled off, stories in hand.

Master 11 takes his zombies seriously. 

And, well, we did all right. A prize for Master 11 for his zombification, the announcement of Luscious’ brilliant story Cross Words as the second prize winning story, and then — after clearing the room of under 18s and telling everyone that the organisers had been forced to refine the running order of the evening specifically because of the graphic nature of the winning story– my own tale, The House of Jack’s Girls, a lyrical little thing about men bringing their sons to a haunted brothel specifically to have sex with Jack the Ripper’s victims, was announced as the 1st prize winner.

Lyn silenced the room with her reading of her tragic and powerful story.

A good night for the ego, and a good night for the sense of fun. KSP organiser Tabetha was overwhelmed by the sheer weight of attendees, so here’s hoping it makes a reappearance again next year. You can read all about the night, including judge’s reports, from the KSP perspective here.

Not a bad night’s work……

TWO MONTHS AWAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you like me to talk about?

EXERCISING THE WRITE

Yesterday I headed down to the Mundijong library to give a workshop as part of the 2015 Write Along the Highway calendar. It was a small, but vibrant, group, and plenty of exercises were burned through and words written.

This one was a lot of fun, and people came up with a fantastic range of responses, so I thought I’d pop it up here for anyone else who might get something out of it. It’s called Macbeth’s Porter, because, well, that’s what it is.


MACBETH Act 2, Scene 3
Enter a porter. Knocking within.
Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of Hell Gate, he should have old turning the key. (Knock.) Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ the name of Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer, that hang’d himself on th’ expectation of plenty. Come in time! Have napkins enow about you; here you’ll sweat for’t. (Knock.) Knock, knock! Who’s there, in the other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator. (Knock.) Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither, for stealing out of a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may roast your goose. (Knock.) Knock, knock! Never at quiet! What are you? But this place is too cold for hell. I’ll devil-porter it no further: I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire. (Knock.) Anon, anon! [Opens the gate.] I pray you, remember the porter.

Write the scene as if:
  1. He actually is the porter of Hell Gate;
  2. One of the named possibilities actually is knocking; or
  3. The porter is describing what he actually sees, but reality is different. Why, and how?

THE FIRST RULE OF OCD CLUB….

… is that there has to be a second rule because we have to have an even number of rules…..

I’ve spoken before about the benefits– and far too often, otherwise– of writing groups. But in Write Club, a loose conglomeration of practicing and aspiring authors who meet fortnightly to have lunch before invading the State Library or the Edith Cowan University library (on a rotating basis) with the sole aim of bashing out words, I think I may have found my intervention.

Due to Real Life (TM), Luscious and I only manage to attend on a monthly basis, when the group meets at the State Library. However, the opportunity to sit in silence– well, relative silence, given that my entire music library sits on a hard drive smaller than my palm and I’ve just purchased some bitching, high-end Sennheiser cans that I need to use at every opportunity– ignore the world, and simply focus on a page with no external distractions is proving valuable beyond words. or, to put it another way, valuable exactly in words.

Last month, it enabled me to crash out the first draft of a new short entitled General Janvier— my first short of the year, would you believe– which I’ve been able to redraft and get out into the world since. And yesterday, I was able to throw 2200 words at a 300 word stub called Plague Rat, finish the story and re-title it, so that the now-2500 word story Gun is ready to edit and send out. Those 300 useless words have been staring at the inside of my Incomplete folder for the better part of 6 years. This is valuable time indeed. It’s nice to be back.

Between me and the outside world lie a wooden table, a breakfast bar, the kitchen sink, and the far wall of the kitchen.

He walks through them all.

NO SKOOL LIKE THE OLD SKOOL

Life’s settled down a piece in the last week or so– the display for Bricktober has been packed into boxes ready to transport; I’ve stopped compulsively building just-one-more-Viper for the show; General Janvier has been edited and sent out into the wild; and I’ve started to turn my attention back to novels, and specifically, the search for an agent to represent Father Muerte and the Divine.

Hopefully, that means I’ll have a moment or two spare to update the blog on a more regular basis. Hopefully. But, in the meantime, I’ve guest-posted over at Andrew McKiernan’s place on the tools I use to write, and it’s made me realise: somehow, I’ve become old-fashioned!

Says the guy who’s remained with Blogger for going on 14 years……

MY PLATE, AND THE LOTS ON IT

What time is it, Mister Wolf?

Fucked if I know, I’ve been hard up against it.

Godsdamn, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to just sit around and blog at y’all. many reasons, but suffice to say, much of it has been down to general suckage, work-based suckage, business, distraction, and the feeling that I’ve got rather more urgent and important things to be doing.

The main thing of interest to this blog, however, is that Luscious and I have started hanging out with a group of Perth writers calling themselves Perth Write Club. They meet every fortnight at the State Library and Edith Cowan University, on a turn-by-turn basis, and well, they write. Hard. For an afternoon, with a bit of lunch beforehand and a chinwag after.

It’s fab, and the kind of writing group I’ve been missing for quite some time– every group I’ve been a part of over the last five years has eventually ended up with me acting as some kind of defacto free workshop leader, and there’s only so much of that I can take before I want to hang out with some actual peers, please. Lyn and I attend the State Library meetings, and it’s proving highly beneficial to my writing. In two meetings I’ve managed to complete a 4000-word synopsis for the kids novel Cirque and write a 3000-word short story entitled General Janvier. I’ll be keeping this up!

In publication news, Magrit continues to lurk about the corridors of Walker Books. They appear to have some big plans for it– I can’t reveal what, unfortunately, but it might be a little more illustrated, and a little more hard-backy that first thought…… March next year is looking like the launch date, by which time it’ll be older than the audience it was written for.

And I’ve been podded over at Far Fetched Fables: if you’ve not read my 2008 story In From the Snow, here’s a chance to snuggle up in bed, cuddle your favourite teddy bear, and have it read to you. Sleep tight,

I AM TOO SOCIAL BY HALF, AND NOT IN THE RIGHT WAYS

July is always a strange month. For me, it’s the first month of the year: my day job is based around an annual budget that is approved in June and runs from financial year to financial year, so my programs and projects run along similar lines, meaning my work year coincides with the financial year. July is a time of renewal, of long-term planning, and new beginnings. And my Real Life ™ is beginning to take on that cycle. July is where I look at the year ahead, and institute changes that I hope will carry throughout the rest of the year.

Of course, I do that in January, too, but that’s because I’m insecure and a whiner.

My first change this month has been to abandon Facebook, and boy, are my arms tired… Not entirely, as it turns out, because many of the fan groups I’m a part of exist only on the wide blue lifewaster, and I have a public author page that it’s nice to update occasionally. But I’ve moved away from my private page for the month: I’m reading my news feed once every three days instead of six time a day; I’m not commenting on anything– some very particular posts, and groups, excepted; and I’m just generally ignoring its existence as much as possible. And, surprisingly, I’m immediately happier. It’s amazing what a sinkhole of whine and angst Facebook is, without anyone really being aware of it. It changes people, myself very much included, and like any obsessive death cult, you kind of have to escape it to notice. Half a month in, I’m noticing, and giving serious consideration to extending my self-imposed exile through August and beyond. I wonder if I can cut down my reading to once a week.

The other thing I’ve enjoyed is a return to writing. The kids have been at their grandparents’ this last week as part of their school holidays, and without having to centre our daily life around them Luscious and I were able to wander up to the City this past weekend and partake of the fortnightly writing group put together by Perth SF author Martin Livings. This group meets at either Edith Cowan University or the State Library for lunch, before an extended writing session and a debrief in a cafe afterwards, and lugging two pre-teen kids along is really not achievable.

But Saturday, I was able to slip my headphones on and concentrate on the screen for Three. Solid. Uninterrupted. Actual. HOURS. And in three hours, I can knock out two 1500 word synopses for novels requested by my publisher. One in particular– Cirque, a novel about a girl who runs away to join an alien circus– has been kicking around in my skull for ages. I have 15,000 words written, so by the end of the weekend I was able to complete the synopsis, organise the 15k into sections matching the action arcs in the synopsis, and determine what I need t fill in so that by the end of this week, hopefully, I can have the completed synopsis and a three chapter package in my publisher’s inbox, where naturally they will pick it up, publish it in every country on Earth, and make me rich and famous enough that I never have to speak to anybody ever again. Or something.

And that’s the change, kiddos: a year ago I was immersed in social media. I had accounts on 9 platforms at one stage. Now I’m down to 2, and am all but abandoning one of those. (The blog stays). I was at my happiest, as a writer, when it was just me, Luscious and the kids, my blog and the writing. I’m not sure why I ever strayed from that, but I think it’s time I went back to what makes me happy. And if you like my writing, hopefully that’ll make you happy, too.

WHERE DO IDEAS COME FROM? MAIL ORDER, JUST BELOW THE RUSSIAN BRIDES.

Want to know where story ideas come from?

Yesterday, as part of my day job, I travelled to Perth airport to pick up an artist from Sydney who’s appearing at the outdoor sculpture awards I administer.

While I’m sitting in the arrival lounge, waiting for the plane to land, the tannoy announces a final boarding call for Ray and Mary Nelson, for their outgoing flight.

Ray and Mary Nelson were the names of my Mum and Step-Dad. 

They died in 2003.

Yeah. Like that.

GROUP ACTION. IT’S BEEN A WHILE

With the advent of a new Writers Centre in Rockingham has come writing groups. And, as one of those groups is helmed by my very own Luscious, I found myself attending the first writing group meeting I’ve been to in something like eight years this week.

Writing groups can be a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it’s an opportunity to spend time with like-minded souls, discussing your passion and working in a supportive and welcoming environment. On the other, they can become platforms for mediocrity and personality conflict, and– particularly when work is being critiqued by a group of vastly differing levels– horribly unfocused to the point of uselessness. I gave up attending groups at my previous writers centre when it became obvious that everyone involved was more concerned with egoboos and capturing the perfect snarky put-down than actually goddamn writing.

But Luscious is on the committee of this new Centre, and this was the first meeting of the group she was conducting, and she’s an excellent professional who knows both how to write and bring out the best in others, and I’m an incredibly loving and supporting husband, and I was told I had no choice in the matter, so I went along.

Of course, Luscious is an excellent professional, and she knows how to make anyone and everyone in a room feel valued. The group was small, first time out– eight of us, including Master 10 and Miss 13, who came because both parents were going but contributed like the children of an artistic household, with creativity and verve. And because she’s good at what she does, I came away with three solid gold story openings.

So, regular Tuesday night writing group looks like a thing, and maybe just the thing to keep me in fresh material for the next wee while, which can’t be anything but good. Because when a writing group works well it’s usually because it has a strong, experienced, knowledgeable hand on the tiller, and I’m lucky enough to be married to just such a hand…. you know what I mean.

The room is littered with chipboard splinters. They’re ground into the carpet, spread like snow across my bed. My fists, and the soles of my feet, sting where a billion tiny slivers have pierced the soft flesh and now lie embedded, waiting to fester, and poison, and ooze septic pus. The pain should make me angry, or afraid. I’m not. I want to laugh. I want to laugh so hard I run out of breath. I want my ribs to ache, my heart to burst. I want to double over and collapse to the floor. I want to rub my face in the carpet until my cheeks and forehead and lips are a spiderweb of tiny cuts and splinters. I’m so happy I want to fucking scream. I want the corners of my mouth to split. I want to taste my blood. I want to hurt something else. Anything will do.

Exercise: Picture something from your childhood. Something intimate, that has great meaning for you. Now destroy it, utterly, and irretrievably. Why have you done that? How does it make you feel?

If you want to know more about the Rockingham Writers Centre, or Luscious’ Tuesday Night Writing Group, you could do worse than checking out their Facebook page.