YEAR IN REVIEW: 2019, THE YEAR THAT LITERALLY SEEMS TO BE DYING IN A FIRE.

Time for me to review the year that was. Let’s be honest: this isn’t going to be a cheery gagapalooza of cheeriness. 2019 was a terrible year, where everything was overshadowed by one moment so deeply traumatic that we will be struggling with its aftermath and connotations for years to come.

But bad should be recorded with good. That is why we journal. To lay down our own truths, and share our lives, no matter where they take us. I mean, that and nob gags, obviously.

So, read on if you wish, forewarned and foreskinned  forearmed:  this year contains more on the truths side and less on the usual level of nob gags. And let the wind grip the ashes of 2019 and blow them into the ocean.

Continue reading “YEAR IN REVIEW: 2019, THE YEAR THAT LITERALLY SEEMS TO BE DYING IN A FIRE.”

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”

2017: WELL, THAT WAS A YEAR…..

It’s that time of year again: time to look back on a year of… uh… and celebrate… that thing… that… you know…

Actually, 2017 really was a year of is that all? If not for Luscious’ breakthrough, and our impending Pilbara adventure, I’d have a hard time remembering the year at all, and we’re still in it.

Really selling this year in review post, aren’t I?

 

Continue reading “2017: WELL, THAT WAS A YEAR…..”

2016: WTFTYTW

Can anyone explain what the hell just happened? I mean, I know we had a year, and all, but what the actual fuck? Who gave 2016 red cordial and fizzy lifesavers the moment it woke up?

Anyway, if I can dodge the rain of dropping celebrities long enough, here’s a quick attempt to sum up my year in a slightly longer form than just shouting “dumpster fire!” while pouring liquid lava up my orifices.


1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Had a children’s book published. It’s called Magrit, and if you’ve not heard me mention it before, it’s doing quite well. I accepted an invitation to present at the 2017 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, the first time this writing gig has sent me overseas as the educator, rather than the student. And, though it hasn’t been announced, I’ve been offered a 2-week residency in 2017– again, the first time I’ve received one as a pro rather than emerging writer. Exhibited at the interstate Lego show Brickvention. Attended the Brisbane Writers Festival, and what’s more, did it as an invited guest presenter. (Oh, and also sold out a Writers Festival. Baby.)

See what I mean? None of these were frigging goals. None. And yet, when you say them like that……

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
 I didn’t achieve a single one, but the shape of my year changed so prodigiously that they became irrelevant around about May and simply didn’t appear on the radar after that. For 2017, we’ll be setting some goals as a family and any personal goals I set will be in service to them.

Other than writing. Man, I have to get back to writing. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My first-cousin-once-removed-in-law (she let’s me call her Jessie) had her second. 
4. Did anyone close to you die?
My cousin Amanda took her own life in July. I’ve never been overly close to my cousins, but Amanda and I had reconnected over Facebook over the last 3 years or so, and had chatted happily enough. I didn’t know it was coming, but then, isn’t that the nature of such things?

And, of course, every single celebrity in the Western world died, including several who played important roles in my cultural upbringing, not least among them David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali and Leonard Cohen. It was that kind of year.  

5. What countries did you visit?
Melbourne. Which, admittedly, is just a different part of Australia, but may as well be a different country. A different country filled with hipsters and deconstructed vegan air-fried health cafes on stilts. And late-night bookstores. And cool things. 

Also Brisbane, which is also not another country, but seems to be where I keep an awful lot of my friends, so it’s nicer to call it that than a friendcloset. 


6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Adequate meds. 
7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

27 February. The day Magrit was launched upon an unsuspecting, and somewhat distracted, world.
25 November. The last day of Lyn’s degree. She’s fought so hard, and overcome so much, for so long.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Honestly? Despite all the good things that happened, it might just be surviving the damn thing. 

Keen-eyed readers will notice I’ve said nothing about my day job. Keen-eyed readers would be right. While my writing world has had a lot of momentary ups (although no real, actual writing)– and my family continue to be my strength, my support, and my happiness– my professional life has been the kind of dumpster fire other dumpster fires dream of being when they grow up. The smoke is slowly clearing at the moment, but from October last year until a few weeks ago it was a spiralling descent into despair and depression that I genuinely saw no way to escape. It coloured every aspect of my life, killed my creativity, and came very close to derailing me permanently. 

Thankfully, some things have changed, some people have moved on, and I’m slowly clearing away the accretions, but 2016 will still be the year I look back on as the one where it all came crashing down and I had to claw my way back out of the rubble.


9. What was your biggest failure?
Not recognising the signs and looking for the exit sign.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A vicious and hard-fought 12 round split decision victory over depression. 
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our super-comfy bendy relaxation zone. Other people call it a recliner couch. I call it a horizontal puffy heavenpod.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
As always, my family amaze and inspire me.

Ms 15 glided her way to a report card that I might be able to equal if I cut up all of the report cards I ever received and glued the best bits back together again.

Luscious finished her University degree with a grade point average that resulted in her being invited to study (it seemed) every post-graduate course her University has ever offered, and saw her awarded a paid internship for the graduate diploma she’ll be completing next year.

Master 12 fought and scratched and pushed his way past illness, extreme bullying, and an incompetent and weak school administration to make his way back into the school system and graduate primary school surrounded by school friends, teachers who backed him, and a school that understood his situation.

My bonus daughter Cassie stayed strong like a mother bear in the face of a toxic and dangerous partner, and managed to extricate herself and her children in such a way that her kids remained safe and protected the whole way through. The war continues, but she wins battle after battle, and her strength is amazing to watch.

And my nephew, who came out at age 15 with grace, dignity and maturity, secure in the knowledge that his identity is strong. He’s a hell of a kid, and I’m proud of him. 

Honestly, as far as this family goes, I really am just the fat one who follows at the back and hope the cool kids let him hang out with them. 
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Holy Jeebus, where do we start? 
The filth that make up the Government of this country. America: I mean, just all of them. If you don’t know why, come back from space and pick up an internet. Vladimir Putin and the warmongering, evil, fascists who prop him up. The troglodyte State Government we suffer under, and their mindless slashing of arts finances and illegal acts on the Roe Highway extensions. Lionel Shriver, who came to Brisbane and betrayed the organisation she represented by spouting a tirade of such ignorance and racism that it still makes me angry and ashamed to be part of the same industry.
Also, a puppy shat on my lawn at some stage and never came back to pick it up. 
14. Where did most of your money go?
Credit card debt, mortgage refinancing, and as I made the mistake of letting Luscious come with me, Christmas decorations.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
2017.
16. What song will always remind you of 2016?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
Definitely happier, all things considered, and more content. I’m thinner, just– at one stage I did dip below 100kg, but I’ve wavered back up to 104kg at the moment, which is still better than the 112kg I was at my heaviest, so I’m calling it a small win. And, thanks to various refinancing efforts and redistribution of debt, the decision to move to smaller, lower-mortgage house is finally beginning to pay real dividends. which means that we may not be richer, but we’re far more comfortable on a pay-to-pay basis.

Overall, it feels like we’re in a good space, and ready to add the final pieces to make sure 2017 works its arse off for us.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Happiness.Making the most of my time away from the workplace.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stress, depression, fear, worry. Fighting for the right of my family members to simply be. 
20. How will you spend Christmas?
Tradition is for us to wake up with the kids and do presents at breakfast, before the grandparents take them for the rest of the day to do big-family-gathering things, and Lyn and I settle in with a platter, some wine, and a few good movies. I see no reason to change this arrangement. 
21. Who did you meet for the first time?
About one hundred million billion jillion gazillion Queensland schoolkids. Several very cool writers including Carole Wilkinson, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and the super-lovely Katherine Battersby, who I met when we checked into the Brisbane hotel at the same time and completely messed up the programming of the poor staff trying to check us in simultaneously.

Also, a whole bunch of very cool Lego people (IT’S A THING!), including the incomparable Shannon Sproule, Damien Saunders, and Paulius Stepanas, the last of whom helped me laugh my arse off through the most ridiculous game of Dirty Brickster I’ve ever witnessed

22. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Stayed in love. Guess with who. Go on. Guess.

Hint: she’s graceful, and dignified, and looks like this:

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Longmire was excellent, right up to the point where it wasn’t. That might say more about me than the show– I have a low tolerance for serial TV, and get bored once I perceive the characters turning into templates of themselves or the plots beginning to waver away from a strong central theme. The Flash had a great first season and a slightly-less great second season. True Detective Season 2 was an odd come-down from the brilliant first season: not bad per se, but just…. less good, relying on some fantastic performances to keep it going, instead of fantastic performances over a scintillating plot.

Stranger Things was delightfully wonderful, packed tight with fantastic performances from a collection of young actors who absolutely nailed every aspect of every moment they were given. The plot was pure fantasy brilliance: by turn delightful, creepy, outright terrifying and emotionally gripping. It was a tour-de-force on every level.

But just pipping it, for me, was Netflix’s let’s-fuck-up-the-superhero-template-and-see-how-they-like-it Jessica Jones. Incredibly bleak, powerful, fraught, and unmissable. I was hooked from the beginning and had to carefully ration it lest I run out of season before I ran out of messed-up feels.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I have a deep and dark dislike and mistrust of a work colleague who proved herself untrustworthy, malicious, and altogether the kind of person I would happily emigrate to avoid. Not outright hatred, but I’ll be glad to tell her exactly what I think of her, in  minute detail, on the day I leave.

Outright hatred? Let’s mention my daughter Cassie’s former partner Ashley: an abusive coward who threatened the safety and welfare of her and their two children under the age of five. Room 101 is too good for him– he should be expunged.

25. What was the best book you read?
I gave 5-star ratings to a couple of old masters this year: I revisited Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange for the first time in 20 years, and was blown away by it all over again; and Elmore Leonard’s Fire in the Hole was more of his typical brutal brilliance.

I didn’t read anything that was truly atrocious this year, largely because I stuck mainly to graphic novels. But Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Guardians of the Galaxy was the last word in blandification, turning Dan Abnett’s wonderfully screwy and charming collection of lunatics into just another pale B-Grade Avengers clone. 

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
It was a good year for music. A whole bunch of songs found their way down the tube to the iTunes account. Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker and Nevermind were stunning, as was Montaigne’s Clip My Wings. Bowie’s final album produced three songs I keep coming back to: Blackstar, Lazarus and ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Say My Name by Peking Duk. Jen Cloher’s cover of The Slits’ Typical Girls. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s wonderfully odd People Vultures.

But my number 1 pick, when Hottest 100 time comes around, is Illy’s joyful Catch 22. I’m not the hugest hip-hop fan, but this balances all the right components perfectly. It’s tuneful, catchy, with a great turn of phrase, and compulsively singable. It is, quite simply,  my favourite song of the year.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?
It was a wonderful year for movies, or maybe I just didn’t have the money to fling on too many outrageous dogs.

Honestly, three weeks ago, when I watched Doctor Strange twice within 24 hours, I’d have said it was the most enjoyable film of the year by the length of the straight, At the time of writing, having watched Arrival last night, for the second time in just over a week, I’d say toss a coin. Either or. Or, to quote Chris Hemsworth’s hilarious Kevin from first runner-up and Fuck-You-Whiny-Fanboy delight, Ghostbusters: Potato, tomato.

Doctor Strange. Arrival. Go watch Ghostbusters, too.  Whichever one, I don’t care. You’ll thank me.

And this year, I’m adding a new award to my filmic list. The Those Who Can Do-y Award, which I’m awarding to the much-maligned Suicide Squad. It might be because I’ve been a fan of the Squad since I was knee high to something that isn’t quite knee high, but damn it, I bloody well enjoyed this movie, despite every critic in Christendom parping on about what a despicable piece of shite it was. Well I enjoyed it, and I pre-ordered it on Blu-Ray, and I enjoyed the extended cut even more than the theatrical cut, and I’m giving it an award, so fuck you, headless ghost of Roger Ebert!

I may be working through a few issues at the moment.

The Shut Up And Die Already Will Ferrell Award for 2016? I can’t remember if I saw the terminally tedious and overblown snoozefest The Martian this year or last: either way, I’d rather get the 19 hours I spent watching the damned thing back than talk about it, so I’m giving a great big bear trap to the filmic gonads of Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not even naming this film’s mother Martha would have made me like it. And if you get that gag, you know.

You. Just. Know.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

46, and I worked. Yay. But Lyn did make me my favourite meal, and I was showered in money for a most unusual present– my very first tattoo, which I’ll be having inked next week– by friends and family, so it was pretty symptomatic of my year: not the way I expected it to go down, but pretty bloody good nonetheless.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Financial independence.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Indifferent.

31. What kept you sane?
Lyn. Always Lyn.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Heh. Heheheheheheheheheh……. Whadda ya got?

American elections. Australian elections. The rise of fascism (Fuck you with your ‘alt-right’. If it marches like a Nazi, and salutes like a Nazi…) in my own country and across the Western world. The Henna Nazi’s return to the Australian senate like some zombie boil that refuses to be lanced. The destruction of arts funding in Australia. The rise and rise of Donnie Drumpf. Having to listen to that freaky little piss-stain Malcolm Roberts talk. Ever. The climate of fear, bigotry and outright terror that friends, peers, and people I admire are living through simply because they do not conform to the outdated and ignorant world view of people who wear suits on Sunday or tie a flag around their shoulders like a cape when they get pissed on National Nationalism Day of Your Choice.

Take your goddamn pick.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Change is inevitable. The rate of change should be in my hands, and nobody else’s.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim.


      — You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen.

2015: THE YEAR THAT WHATEVER WHATEVER WITH SOME GOOD BITS AND STEAMING GYPSIES THROWN IN FOR GOOD MEASURE.

What an odd year it’s been. 

2015 started out positively, with a major life change that boded well for our financial stability and lifestyle– a change that played out happily. But it’s also been a year of creative moribundity (Is that even a word? See what I mean? SEE?) and professional dissatisfaction that has soured my day job almost beyond salvation. 

As always, it seems that my life consists of my wife and family, creative career, professional career, health and well-being concerns, financial concerns, and the need to take time out to draw breath. And, as always, it seems I can’t get them all to balance. 

So, here goes. 2015 in review:


1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
 Visited Bali. Made a concerted effort to lose weight. Threatened to sue a school. Exhibited at an art show– the fabulous Bricktober.

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
Honestly, I didn’t really have any goals for 2015, and the year rather reflected that. I spent most of the year drifting, to the point where my writing career, in particular, has suffered greatly and has almost disappeared. 

In 2016 I want to achieve a couple of things, to whit:
  • Continue my weight loss. I peaked at 111 kilograms this year, which is rather a lot for a bloke who tickles 5 ft 10 in his stockinged booties. I’ve managed to get down to a smidgeteenth over 102, but I won’t be happy until I’m at 90, looking towards 80. I’m trying to develop some muscle mass as well, and enough flexibility and conditioning that I can do something I’ve never before attempted: step into a boxing ring and go a couple of round with someone. I’ve never been muscular, I’ve never been able to fight. There’s nothing about it that wouldn’t be a challenge. Which is why I want to have a go.
  • Rediscover my writing mojo. I dried up this year, almost completely. 2 short stories published, neither of them above 3000 words, 2 further short stories completed, neither above 2000. Father Muerte and the Divine is so bad nobody wants to touch it with a hazmat suit on. I’ve scrapped it, and next year, I’m starting my whole career again, getting out of Dodge and finding a new place to hang my shingle, metaphorically speaking. Don’t know if it’ll be crime fiction, kids fiction, realism, humour or whatever, and I don’t really care. I just know I don’t want to hang around here anymore.
  • Change my work situation. I’ve been at my current job for almost six years, and I’ve grown tired of devoting so many weekends and evenings to a job that returns only slights and complaints. Either my situation changes or my place of employment will. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, I got a year off.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Luscious’ cousin Andrew died of a DVT aged 51. Andrew was one of the good ones: always friendly, open to new experiences, a real teddy bear of a guy. He’d just come back from a trek to Nepal to explore a burgeoning Buddhist faith. It was a real loss. 
5. What countries did you visit?
After how many years I finally get to fill this one in! We spent five days in Indonesia, in the Seminyak region of Bali.
6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
A sense of purpose.
7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

10 January, the day we moved out of our expensive, crumbling, dead weight white elephant of a house in Mandurah and moved into a smaller, far more affordable house closer to work.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I really don’t feel as if I achieved anything worth noting this year. I’ve lost some weight, which is good, but every kilogram I take off is burdened by the knowledge that I should never have put it on in the first place. Returning to a healthy normality shouldn’t be viewed as some sort of grand victory.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Slipping into despond over my writing and not being able to find a way out.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I did all right, although Luscious managed to snap two ligaments in her ankle slipping off an aerobics step, and has been hobbled for the better part of three months. 
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our new house. By moving into it we improved our financial situation, moved closer to a good school for our daughter, and streamlined our lifestyle. With the extra money we had from not servicing a crippling mortgage we were able to book two holidays, one overseas; fund Lyn’s Weight Watchers membership, which resulted in her getting a job with the organisation and me joining; join Master 11 up to Scouts; and generally just enjoy a standard of living we haven’t been able to give the family for over half a decade.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My darling wife, who came to the cusp of graduating her degree, lost 15 kilograms or so in (as I recall) about three days, coped with an horrendous campaign of bullying at school that brought Master 11 back to home-schooling, started a new job, wrote, left her old faith behind and sought out a new spirituality, and still found time to discover a love of, of all things, American college football (Go Huskers!). She’s an absolute inspiration to me, and she does it all while still thinking of herself of somehow not worthy of celebrating, Go figure. 
Master 11, who set a goal of returning to the schooling system two years after illness forced him to leave, and who had the maturity to stand up to a concerted campaign of bullying and a weak and insipid school administration who refused to do anything to combat it, and make the decision that he was happier, more fulfilled, and better cared for by being home-schooled. And then knocked year five out of the fucking park.
And if 2014 was the year of Ms 13, what with the dux and the Head Girl and the Junior Council and the plaudits and the whatnot, then this year saw her adjust to a new school, and a new area, with quiet aplomb. So, you know, not bad all round, really. 
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The disgust I feel at the behaviour of our ruling parties, and that cancerous boil Tony Abbott in particular, s barely expressable. People are dying because of their corrupt brutality. May they all die slowly, in pain.
The administration of Master 11’s school, who allowed bullies to run rampant and make his life a misery, and when victim-blaming didn’t work, proceeded to throw up their hands and claim it was all too hard, that the system didn’t allow them to make any real impact or changes, and couldn’t Master 11 just make an effort to stay out of the bullies’ way? A gutless, spineless, quivering jelly of a principal, weakening and deflating the entire school administration underneath him.

14. Where did most of your money go?
For a pleasant change, it went on advancing the lifestyle of my family, rather than servicing a crippling mortgage. A family holiday to Bali was taken, and Luscious and I are visiting Melbourne in early 2016. Master 11 joined Scouts. Luscious, and then I, joined Weight Watchers: a move that has brought us extra motivation, extra energy, and towards the end of the year, extra income as Lyn took on the role of coach.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Once I was there, the trip to Bali. I didn’t really want to go: everything I’d hard about the place indicated that it was a cargo-cult toilet of over-beered commercialisation, where cashed up topless bogans went to drink themselves stupid while wearing $2 beer advert singlets. And there’s no denying that that side of the island can be easily located. It’s Kuta. But we were fortunate to be domiciled away from it, in a beautiful semi-rural area, where we could take the time to absorb the underlying culture and expose ourselves to the history and people of the region. And the more we did so, the more excited I became. By the time I found myself at the base of a 40 foot waterfall in a deep gorge halfway up a mountain, watching my little boy stare around at the surrounding forest, with not an AFL banner or cheap DVD stall within two hours’ travelling time, I had found a side of Bali that was easy to love. I can’t wait to return.

And, in the same way, I’m excited about returning to Melbourne in January, after 14 years. This time I won’t be alone. Lyn will be with me, and we’re looking forward to wandering throughout the City wherever the will takes us.
16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

Delilah, by Florence and the Machine. Not for any real thematic reason, as much as it was the stand-out in a series of strong female voices that coloured my listening throughout the year.


17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?

I’ve struggled with depression this year, especially as my writing career pretty much withered and died due to my day job. I struggled under a demanding and unrealistic boss, and my weight and pain became an increasingly difficult burden. Surprisingly, the last 3 months of the year have seen a turnaround in everything but my writing, and so I find myself happier, thinner and richer than at the same time last year. 
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. My career pretty much died from dehydration this year.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Torpidity. It’s been very hard to get going for much of the year. The passion for many of the things that have sustained me for the last 5 years– my day job and writing, in particular– dried up, and it was hard to motivate myself to correct it. I feel very much at a crossroads, and I’m not sure where things go from here. 
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Luscious really embraced Christmas for the first time since leaving her previous religion, so we had trees and home-made baubles and crackers and stocking stuffers and tinsel and the whole gaudy, fun, production. We laid out pillowcases for the kids filled with little bits and bobs, then had a big breakfast and shared our presents, before the kids went off to their grandparents’ for big-timey Christmas spoiling and Luscious and I settled back with a big-ass platter and I had my first beers for months, and we spent the rest of the day watching movies with the airconditioner on.

Perhaps my favourite part of Christmas this year were a pair of new traditions: firstly, this was the year when our adult children hosted the family get-together for the first time, meaning we took ourselves off to Aiden and Rachel’s place the weekend before the big day for a slap-up meal, present exchange, and general love. Which was just utterly lovely. And second, there was the Secret Santa book exchange:

Way back when I was a student and skint, my best friend Sean and I would buy each other a second hand book for Christmas. The rule was that the book had to be *perfect*– exactly the kind of book the other would have bought for themself, if only they’d seen it first. When Lyn and I started doing Christmas together, we took on the tradition, with a small addenda– the book had to be the kind of book the other wouldn’t have bought for themself at first sight, but having received it, it must elicit an “Of course!” response.

Then, earlier this year, that meme started floating around Facebook. You know, the one about Iceland, and Christmas Eve, with the books, and the hot chocolate, and the eighteen foot snowbanks outside the front door. And the kids discovered Secret Santa….

Upshot: we ended up Elizabeth’s Bookstore two days before Christmas, one by one, with a $20 limit and our Secret Santa victim written out on a gift tag. The result was us all unwrapping our mystery books together on Christmas Eve, and spending the morning reading with the cool drink, and the 40 degrees celsius outside the front door.


It was brill.


21. Who did you meet for the first time?

Nobody. It was an insular year. The Bogan Sloblord next door, who has since moved on to boganny pastures new, was a particular delight, and probably enough for one year. 
22. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Really, I should get rid of this question. 
23. What was your favourite TV program?

It was a good year for television. We don’t have terrestrial television, so apart from missing out on the dubious pleasures of the unending stream of reality TV humiliate-the-ordinary-folk shithouses of the Fattest Block Factor Kitchen variety, it means we have to source our viewing in other ways. A combination of Pay TV, DVDs, and downloads gave us a parade of exceptionally strong fiction, of which the first seasons of True Detective and The Blacklist knocked our socks off, and of the myriad of true crime shows we watched, Murder Book was the most compelling. A short, brutal and charismatic reality show called SAS: Who Dares Wins tied in with our fitness focus in an inspiring way.

But it was two family shows, in the end, that really capped our year. Firstly, the return to form of Doctor Who after years of frustrating mediocrity was an utter joy. Peter Capaldi gave us a mature Doctor in control of his environment that harked back to the very best of Troughton and McCoy, and the scripts and direction (usual pile of shite from Mark Gatiss not withstanding) made for the best single season since the heights of the Tom Baker era.

But it was The Flash that brought us together, as a family, in a frenzied need to know what next what next? week after week. Engaging characters, warm and personable performances, a real sense of danger, and just good family-oriented fun made this the standout show for me for 2015.

Special mention, of course, to the worst show of the year. The Memorial Steaming Pile of Gatiss this year goes to Season 2 of Broadchurch. Flaccid where the first season was taut, unlikeable where the first was damaged, and simply unpleasant where the first was flawed, season 2 took characters that struggled with demons and secrets in it first iteration and made them simply arseholes. I lasted two episodes before giving up and choosing life.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. I’ll try to do better next year. 
25. What was the best book you read?

How ironic that I spent so much money on books this year, and yet the best book I read was recovered from a ‘free to a good home’ box at a community Centre.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale is a true crime classic on par with my absolute favourite of the genre, The Maul and the Pear Tree by TA Critchley and PD James. Its examination of the murder at Road House, its dissection of the criminal justice and policing systems of the 19th century and the formation of Scotland Yard, and its exhumation of the life and character of its star turn, the feted detective John ‘Jack’ Whicher make it a gripping, un-put-downable classic. 

Two books made my DNF pile this year: A Perfect Spy by John Le Carre is a flatulant, self-indulgent pile of blancmange by a true master of the thriller genre, and all the worst for its author’s provenance. And The Bloody White Baron by James Palmer is an biography of an immensely compelling figure, delivered in such a gossippy and incoherent manner as to make it unreadable.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
An awful lot of dance music came back into my life this year, in particular the fantastic banger Freaks, by Timmy Trumpet with Savage, that was never played at anything less that fuckmethat’sloud!

But even more prevalent than that was a trio of strong female voices that really shaped the musical soundscape of my year.

Adele first came to my attention with her theme for the generally awful movie Skyfall. Her theme is an anthemic classic that went on to high rotation, as did her widely-known single In Too Deep.

My fancrush on Courtney Barnett started last year, when I discovered Pickles In the Jar through the Hottest 100. I followed that up with the even better Elevator Operator, and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.

But, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, Florence and the Machine was my big breakout this year. Starting with Ship to Wreck, then the utterly sublime Delilah, and ending with Queen of Peace, her incredible voice and theatrical arrangements really were the sound of my year. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

2015 was a fantastic year for films. Right from Predestination in January to Suffragette last night, we saw a procession of stunning, wonderful, entertaining or just downright brill movies that makes for a list that’s just too damn long to provide a rundown for each. So, in no particular order (and keeping in mind that the year of production may not be 2015. This is just the year in which we first saw them), movie highlights for the year were:

  • Julius Caesar (1953)
  • Big Hero 6
  • Inside Out
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  • Predestination
  • Ant-Man
  • Stardust
  • Suffragette
  • Interstellar
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
But the absolute best, the most surprising an enjoyable, movie was, for me the low-budget New Zealand vampire comedy What We Do in the Dark. It was funny, touching, absolutely on point in every moment, and brought back nostalgic memories of the days when I took me to the sadly-defunct Lumiere cinema to see arthouse treasures like Man Bite Dog and Cube, movies that fit no particular template but barrelled along through sheer bravado and a damning of the torpedoes. All things considered, and particularly when placed alongside the bloated, epic clusterfucks I’m about to mention, it was the movie I most enjoyed this year, and gets my pick.

Of course, there’s also the requirement to honour the misbegotten, the damned, and the just no damned good. So, my list of contenders for the Adam Sandler Career Death Blow in the Shape of Kevin James Award, are:

  • Jurassic World: a 2 hour Chris Pratt audition tape for the role of Indiana Jones that hang together about as well as a marionette made by a chimp and is a giant-rampaging-CGI-dinosaur movie that managed to simultaneously bore and traumatise children, with added sexism and plot holes you could fit a T-Rex through. A massive snore.
  • Blitz: (1). A Jason Statham movie. (2). A Jason Statham movie that someone, somehow, persuaded Paddy Considine to be a part of. (3). A movie I forgot so hard I had to IMDB it to remind myself when I saw the title when I checked my movie list for the year. Yes, I keep a list. Shut up. 
  • The Hobbit- Battle of the Five Armies: Holy. Shit.
But even wore than those, even more pointless and bloated and whiny-fanboy-you-raped-my-childhood-whiny-fanboy-ranty, even more the death knell of a franchise that should have died with dignity thirty years ago, was Terminator: Genisys. If you ever wanted to watch a bunch of utter no-names pretending to be characters made famous by utter no-names you didn’t realise were actually as good as they were thirty years ago and now owe a silent apology to, watch that whatever her name is who isn’t Linda Hamilton, or that block of wood with neck muscles not being Michael Biehn, or Matt Smith just… actually, you know what? Don’t. You can buy the original Terminator for less than the ticket to see this giant monument of shit at the cinema cost. Do that instead. Do anything instead, 
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

45, and I spent the day at work. They can’t all be winners.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Any feeling of success in any field of endeavour whatsoever.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Fat man hiding. With Lego motif.
31. What kept you sane?
Distraction. 
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
The ongoing criminal behaviour of our finally-ex-PM. Tony Abbott is a human rights criminal, as are those members of his Cabinet who were complicit in the detention and torture of innocent refugees. I look forward to the day when they are made to account for their crimes. 
33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
My work will not thank me for my victories, but it will remember to count my failures.
34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking round on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then, one day, you find, ten years have got behind you.
No-one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.
                        — Time, Pink Floyd.

HERE’S LOOKING UP YA!

The drinks are cooling, dinner’s on the simmer, and I’m about to close down my innahnet for the duration.

I’ve decided against resolutions for the coming year: truth is, it’s been hard, at times, to keep my nose above water this year, and the idea of doing anything other than trying to get my personal and professional lives on track in 2015 does not appeal. So, rather than set up a wishlist I’ll spend a year feeling bad about not achieving, here’s a short list of things that’ll be nice to have happen, and a list of things I was glad to have happen in 2014.

  1. Lose some weight. No targets, no plans. I’ll be in a new town, with new opportunities to be active. If I lose some weight as a result, I’ll be happy.
  2. Give precedence to my writing. There have been too many distractions this year. My career has wallowed, and I’ve lost impetus. I’d like to recover that, and get back to the only thing I’m good at.
  3. Spend more time with my family. I’m moving 15 minutes closer to work. I want to make good use of that extra 30 minutes a day.
  4. Get out to some more Lego events.
  5. Be happy. I’ve spent too long this year under stress, and miserable because of it. I’d rather not do that again.
  6. Sell more work: whether it’s a new novel, more short stories, a film script, I’m not going to care. I’ve been happiest when I’ve been running my career for my own amusement. I’m going back to that.

As to the year just gone, here’s a few of the good things:

  1. I was invited to present a workshop at the Perth Writer’s Festival, a career highlight and proof that I could think about entering the wider literary world with a straight face.
  2. My family blossomed in ways that brought me to tears on occasion. 
  3. I sold a few short stories, and every one was to a new market.
  4. We sold our expensive, hard-to-maintain white elephant of a house and bought a new, smaller one nearer to my work, which should ease our financial pressure in 2015.
  5. I found a group of largely like-minded Lego fans and made it to a couple of group meetings, giving my hobby a social dimension it has previously lacked.
  6. I had a good year for passing on my experience, with a number of workshops and public appearances under my belt.
Happy new year, y’all. See you next year.

2014: THE YEAR I CAN’T EVEN THINK OF A MILDLY WITTY PUN FOR THE TITLE OF THE YEAR IN REVIEW POST REVIEW POST

Time to look back on 2014, and like SOCO in an abattoir, carefully pick through the mountains of shit in the hope of discovering something worthwhile.


1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Visited the Moondyne Joe Festival in Toodyay. And presented a workshop at the Perth Writer’s Festival. Which, basically, means that I peaked in February.

Apart from that, this was pretty much a rinse-and-repeat kind of year. 

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
Let’s be honest, I don’t even remember what my goals were, but let’s be even more honest: no, I didn’t achieve them. It was that kind of year. I’d make some for 2015, but let’s be even super-honester, I doubt I’ll achieve them either. I can’t even tell you if I’ll still be writing at this time next year, and if we’re super-duper-holy-shit-we’re-being-honest-now-aren’t-we-honestest with each other, if I’m not writing it’s not like very many of you will be here this time next year to read whether or not I’ve reached them, is it?

I’m moving house in January. Let’s just see what a new neighbourhood and new financial situation bring before we make any rash promises. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My Bonus Daughter Cassie gave me tickly-sausage grandchild number 2, Anthony, in February. 
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Luscious’ Uncle Neville died in October. Not close to me, but it touched Luscious and that’s close enough for comfort.

5. What countries did you visit?
A country road took me home, to the place I adore. Somehow I ended up in West Virginia.

Or nowhere, take your pick.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
Inspiration, independence, the means to be my own man instead of exhausting myself at the beck and call of whatever bureaucracy pulls my strings for once.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
Because I am a time-traveller, the date from 2014 that will stick with me is 10 January 2015. That’s when we leave this white elephant of a home I have hated for over 4 years and re-establish a new, streamlined Batthaim in a house we can afford, with gardens I can maintain, in a town we want to get out and about in with facilities and social opportunities we want to pursue.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I achieved goose eggs this year. My biggest achievement was in allowing Luscious and the kids space to achieve. And did they and how: I talk about that below. But some days, the best thing you can do is be support staff for others, and that pretty much sums up my domestic and professional lives.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Burning out. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to get to this place.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, but Master 10 had enough for all of us.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A smaller, more manageable house closer to work and the activities and facilities we use on a regular basis. We move in January.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Miss 13, who was made Head Girl of her primary school, became a Junior Councillor at the City, and topped a year of hard work and academic extension programs by being awarded dux at her graduation. As far as perfect children having perfect years go, she was, well, perfect.

And, as a pair, Luscious and Master 10. Apart from an abortive attempt to enter the school system, which lasted less than 4 weeks, Master 10 was all but housebound with Rumination Syndrome for the past 18 months. Together, he and his Mum tackled this enforced isolation with a combination of positivity, focus and determination to maintain a quality of life that left me stunned in their faith in each other and the size of the obstacles they conquered on a daily basis: so much so that Master 10 graduated year 4 in mid-November, a full month early. In between times, Luscious maintained a full external load of University study, never dropping below a Distinction in any assessment, maintained a functioning household, and still found time to fit writing in around the edges.

As I began to burn out under the strain of a stupidly high-pressure job and the need to shore up a stuttering writing career, I have watched in little short of awe as they continued to confound despair, illness and ongoing stress to have the kind of year that would make any husband and father weep with pride. They have been my inspiration, and more often then not, the only thing that dragged me out of my bedroom to work in the morning. Faced with their sheer brilliance at life, I have been shamed into attempting the minimum many times more than I wished to.

I have an incredible family, but even more so, they are superb people.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Can we go past the vicious, incompetent, and downright criminal bunch of thugs, sociopaths, and bigoted zealots that the repressive, inbred right-wing of this country voted into power?

Nope. We can’t.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Keeping our heads above water, with the occasional foray into a quick weekend away with the kids.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The opportunity to start buying some of the classic space Lego sets I not only had as a kid, but also the ones I missed out on. What can I say? Escapism’s been pretty big for me this year.

Master 10 conquering his Rumination Syndrome and insisting he be enrolled in school for 2015 was the most brilliant thing in the world to witness. As of the time of writing, he’s 12 weeks recovered and counting.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
More tired, fatter, and flatter.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Getting out of the spiralling circles inside my own head and enjoying simple interactions with the real, outside world. I spent far too much of the year gnawing away at my own stresses, and far too little using the small oases of peace to find some joy.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Hiding in social media. The fucking stuff is a virus, giving me far too many opportunities to spit out pronouncements instead of reflecting and taking positive action. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… all we do is shout at each other in simple sentences (verbal or visual), all of us at the same time, until the signal to noise ratio is so overwhelming, so all-encompassing, that we wire ourselves up to it and stop believing in the real world. And maybe, if you have a great work-life balance and your keel is set to the optimum angle, that’s okay. But I’ve spent too long this year scurrying into it as if it was some kind of refuge from the process of dealing with my real world careers, interactions, and problems. And because I’ve viewed it as a refuge, I’ve used it to build up walls of unhealthy behaviour and statements I would never say in the real world, because this is my refuge, dammit, and here I can choose the manner of my interactions and structure the world to suit my own uneven psyche.

And here’s the thing: I don’t even like it. And somewhere, this year, I forgot that. Because, when it comes down to it, I’d rather kick a football than tweet. And I’d rather read a book than a status update. And while I recognise the irony of announcing all this via a blog post, the truth is, I don’t care: why am I happy to live in a house without terrestrial TV but can’t live without fucking Twitter, of all the useless wastes of my psyche? My balance is gone.

So I’ve canned my Twitter account. And I’ll be going through all my little social media accounts that I don’t use, don’t care about, and am better off without. And if I end up with only this blog– which I’ve been maintaining for over 13 years and is, more often than not, a conversation I have with myself than any brilliant, all-encompassing social connector– and my private Facebook page, wherein I keep in touch with those people I don’t get to see in person and those hobby groups that only exist on-line, well, I’ll probably be all the happier for it.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

We’ll be at Luscious’ brother’s house, with various members from her side of the family. The kids will be in the pool, Luscious will be in her cups, and I’ll be circling the table trying to see if there’s any left-over crackling I can gnaw upon.

21. Who did you meet for the first time?
Several members of the Perth Lego Users Group, who finally gave me an outlet to attend a build day and meet some fellow AFOLs. I’ll be looking to get out more often in 2015. 
22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
No, I have enough love already.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
It was the year of the crime show in the Batthaim. Apart from introducing Luscious to an old love in the always-excellent Dalziel and Pascoe, we also finished off Ripper Street and Whitechapel from 2013 and ploughed through Vera, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and (my favourite) The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, all of which were uniformly excellent.

That said, the best thing we discovered this year was nothing of the sort. Last Week Tonight gave a forum to the brilliantly incisive John Oliver, this weekly HBO satirical show presenting him as the outsider who can say the things that established Americans like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart and their mainstream channels can only hint at. And oh, how did he say those things! From incredible skewerings of the Olympics, FIFA, US policing methods, and pharmaceutical lobbyists, to wonderfully absurd campaigns to rescue horny space lizards (and wouldn’t it be wonderful if I was making that up?), Oliver took a format on the verge of saturation, destroyed it, and built it in his own, flame-mouthed image. It was so clearly the best thing on TV it makes you wonder why we can’t all be like that.

If you’ve not experienced, here’s how he covered the subject of our own Unca Jugears, the dumbfuck we have to apologise for every time he opens his mouth:

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Not hate, but I have developed a fine contempt for several individuals that has affected the way I’ve interacted with them. Some I cannot avoid, as they revolve around the same professional circles, but I can certainly feel my career arc altering to exclude them.

25. What was the best book you read?
I handed out three 5-star reviews on Goodreads this year. I re-read The Lord of the Rings for the first time in years, and found it as utterly stunning as I always have. Not always a good book– time has enhanced its flaws as well as its moments of perfection– but it remains a truly great one. I also revisited a favourite writer in GK Chesterton. I read his masterpiece The Man Who Was Thursday for the first time, and found it an utterly delightful, comic crime caper with a philosophical bent that lends the spiralling absurdity a serious underpinning that lifts it above a merely humorous work. 

But, overall, I’m going to plump for Lucius’ Shephards’ The Dragon Griaule as my book of the year. I’d read two of the contained stories before, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer scope, ambition and shining brilliance of this collection. You can read my full Goodreads review here, but take it from me: this is one of the best and most important works of fantasy of the late 20th Century. 

Honourable mention goes to The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd, a thoroughly wonderful novel that started out as a fictionalisation of the Ratcliffe Highway murders (a subject of great personal fascination) and then morphed into a fantasy crime procedural that had me alternately gripped and giggling with delight at the sheer narrative chutzpah. Put simply, it’s the kind of novel I want to write when I grow up. 
King of the Graphic Novels this year was Thor: God of Thunder #1 by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic, which I called an absolutely stunning re-imagining of the Thor character, with an epic storyline befitting a major player in the Marvel Universe and a powerful God to boot. You can read my full Goodreads review here
The Will Self Memorial Just Shut the Fuck Up and Stop Award this year went to Michael Crichton’s stunningly awful Pirate Latitudes and Michael Hjorth’s deeply tedious crime novel The Disciple, both of which sit proudly atop a DNF pile of two. 
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
A couple of years ago I gave up on JJJ, as it all it ever seemed to play was second rate American hip-hop, and I was mightily sick of the same whining, out of rhythm yelling, song after song. Halfway through the year, prompted by the death of my iPod, I returned to the station an was immeasurably pleased to find that they’d rediscovered such things as melody and singing. I’ve even gone so far as to vote in the Hottest 100 for the first time in years. So here’s what I voted for, including my favourite pick of the year, a new track by one of my old faves, The Hilltop Hoods:

4. Wrong Direction, British India.

Good old-fashioned tuneful pop music with fresh lyrics and a sense of sweaty urgency. It’s not breaking any new ground. It’s just good, clean fun.

3. Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars. What can I say? I love a big band sound, I love funk. And nobody does it better right now than Mark Ronson. All the sounds and rhythms he perfected behind the likes of Amy Winehouse are in full, ahem, swing here.

2. Maybe, Carmada. I’ve loved electronica since the days when Thomas Dolby and Howard Jones were wandering around sounding like nobody else around them. Not often, but every now and then, a track sticks, and sticks hard. I’m well into this one right now.

1. Cosby Sweater, Hilltop Hoods. Yeah, so I’m old enough to remember when hip-hop wasn’t about hitting women and being a scumbag. Rhythm, message and a sense of fun: there’s no school like the old school, and this is just one hell of a fun, shape-throwing old school hip-hop slice of goodness. It’s also my favourite song of the year.



27. What was your favourite film of this year?

Damn, but there were some good ones this year. First release cinema-wise, my most-anticipated movies were Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie, both of which I found to be fun, funny, and utterly delightful. Both movies were riven with self-awareness, calling out their audience on the geekiness that had brought them to the cinema while simultaneously reinforcing and validating the love of the material from which they were wrought. Cinema has the power to influence, inform, and change modes of thinking, and yet, these movies were built on central foundations of fun and inclusiveness, and I loved them. The other much-anticipated event, from my point of view anyway, was Godzilla, which, well, wasn’t. A few good scenes, interspersed with dull, uninvolving characters played by actors with no discernible personality, may not make you the worst movie of the year, but it will ensure that I shan’t be picking up the DVD later in the year.

The Battbox played host to a number of crackers, as well: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Andy Serkis’ love letter to Ian Dury, was memorable for a stunning central performance. Ditto Eric and Ernie, a BBC Made-for-TV effort that cast a sympathetic and nostalgic view back at the early days of the beloved Morecambe and Wise. Longford was emotionally exhausting, The Enemy a labyrinthine and twisted look at a broken psyche that was a most unexpected pleasure and the best thing the terminally inconsistent Jake Gyllenhaal has done in years. Europa Report was the best SF movie I saw this year, supplementing its low budget with a superbly tight script and flawless performances, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was stunning in its brutality and visceral performances.

But for me, Ralph Fiennes scintillating adaption of Coriolanus, transporting the action of Shakespeare’s play to a modern, Balkan setting, was my film of the year. A superb cast at the top of their form– Fiennes and (particularly) Brian Cox have never been better– performing one of the most underrated of Shakespeare’s works, in an adaptation that enhances the scripts’ strength and pares away its weakness to leave a perfectly filmic treatment…. while the 1999 Titus remains, to my mind, the best filmic adaptation ever of a Shakespeare play, this is only slightly less worthy, and easily on a par with Ian McKellen’s brilliant Richard III. It’s a stunning achievement.

This year’s What Did You Expect, It’s an Adam Sandler Hate Crime Stinking Turd Sandwich Award goes to Blended, which is just the latest… well, the hint is in the title. 

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
44 this year, and I spent the day at work. Birthdays are nice and all, but when Luscious has a hospital visit you need time off for, you swap your RDOs around. 
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Control.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
If the shit fits…

31. What kept you sane?
To be honest, I was so burned out by the time I reached my Christmas break I’m not sure I retained it. I find myself utterly repelled by the thought of returning to my day job, of taking up my keyboard, of doing anything beyond keeping my front door closed and the world on the other side of it, that I’m not sure sanity is necessarily the issue.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
The continuing inhumanity and sociopathic hatred evinced by the current Liberal government. Let’s be clear: buffoons like Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull may be simply incompetent and unfit for office, but Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Christopher Pyne are criminals, and it will be a happy day when they are dragged into court to answer charges. Long may the dwell in ignominy and disgrace.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
It’s time to concentrate on my own goals and peace of mind first. I’ll get to the rest of you in your turn.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Woman, I know you understand,
The little child inside the man.
Please remember, my life is in your hands,
And woman, hold me close to your heart.
            — Woman, John Lennon

EVERY YEAR IS GETTING SHORTER, NEVER SEEM TO FIND THE TIME

Well, this is the end of it, I suppose, 2013. Can’t say it’s been entirely vintage.

There’s been good: As announced the other day, I’ve sold a children’s book and opened up a potential new market for myself. I saw my children continue to blossom into stunning young people, and Aiden moved out of home to continue his personal growth out in the wider world. Luscious found new skills and new levels of personal growth. And yet….

Master 9’s illness is well documented, and I can’t overestimate the effect it has had on us as a family. It touches every decision we make, every plan we undertake. Luscious, in particular, sacrificed almost all of her personal aspirations in order to care for him: setting aside her University studies; ceasing her search for employment; putting down her writing career for the duration. It’s only now, almost 8 months later, that she is beginning to think about how to incorporate some small measure of ambition into her life, now that his illness is so completely part of our fabric that we can deal with it automatically.

My day job has become simultaneously more complicated and a greater part of my daily thinking: new laws and an increased management responsibility have combined to severely curtail my own writing time, and I find myself more and more decided that what little spare time I have, I want to spend focusing on Luscious and the children rather than my own selfish ambitions. Our house continues to be a tiresome burden– a large, ramshackle mistake we should never have made– but with no financially-viable options, I have little choice but to invest a severe portion of my minimal spare time and spare income into its upkeep over the next few years. Either we sell up and move, or we reconcile ourselves to staying until the children are grown. We can’t sell, so the decision is made.

My day job is my day job, and it’s a good one– after aaaaggggghhh years in the Tax Office I know a good wicket when I’m on it, and I’ve been on it for almost 4 years now– but I’ve reached a position of stasis: I do good work, but I have no ambition to move further up the corporate ladder, so I either accept any changes that are imposed upon me or seek new employment, and I’m nowhere near ready to do the latter. And while comfort may be a good thing, being paralysed is not. There may come a time, one day soon, when I have to decide which one applies.

Our financial situation is, well, private, but I’ll go so far as to say that Thoreau was right, and we need to simplify, simplify, simplify. We have some hard choices to make, and there are days when I feel exhausted before I face making them. Put simply: we can’t go on like this, but what we can go on like is, as yet, hidden.

And, of course, I’m still fat, I’m still in pain, and I’m still not the man I thought I was going to be when I wanted to be one.

So what comes next?

If the story of my year has been anything, it has been one of growing disillusionment. I’ve found myself drawing away from speculative fiction, particularly as a reader: a quick scan of my Goodreads list shows that our visit to CrimeScene WA in October preceded a massive change in reading habit, and I’ve been swallowing crime books wholesale over the last couple of months. It’s a habit I’ll be continuing for a while, too: there’s only so far I can take myself as an SF author, and I can’t help but wonder, as I continue to be enthralled by the works of Walter Moseley, Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy and the like, whether I might be in need of an infusion of new skills, and new horizons.

Naturally, what I have attempted, are a couple of picture books. Because reasons, that’s why!

As it has been for a dozen years, writing seems set to be my refuge. I’ve started two picture books, and I’ll be completing them over the Christmas break. It’s time to finish the edits of Father Muerte & the Divine and get them to Agent Rich. And I want to have at least one adult and one children’s book completed in the new year, and be started on at least one other: I’ve not yet cleared my desk of speculative work, and in truth I may never do so– it’s simply the desire to expand my literary ambitions that I acknowledge. The best I can do is write as quickly, and as widely, as I can, and aim to move farther from my beginnings with each work. I’m too old and too busy to attempt to find another marketable skill– if I want to escape the mundane world, I’m going to have to write my way out of it.

It’s summer, and I’ve started walking in an attempt not to lose weight, but to simply inject some movement into my day– a desk-bound day job and a desk-bound second career do not make for an active lifestyle, and I’ve fallen too readily into torpidity as a way of life. I’m also addressing my eating habits: Luscious is a brilliant cook, and although I love to cook I find it all to easy to let her take the load and not contribute anything myself, making her carry the full responsibility for determining what we eat, how often, and in what ways. I’ve resolved to take more responsibility, to stop being the one to say “take a night off, let’s go and have chips”, to stop being selfish and undermine her efforts to keep us healthy. In short, it’s time to shoulder some of the load. Lyn always chooses the healthy option, but it’s my responsibility to back her up and put in a shift.

We have bikes in the garage, parks within walking distance, beaches surrounding us… it’s time I put in a shift there, as well. I have no intention of losing weight: I’ve tried that every year for the past five years, and all that happens is the month count decreases while the weight target does not, and as it gets more stressful so I crumple and give in. I’m just going to eat less and move more, and if weight comes off, all the better.

Financially, well, it’s time to face those hard decisions and make them. I’m naturally indulgent of my family: Luscious and I both had difficult childhoods, Lyn especially, and I very often use the desire to live a better lifestyle than we experienced as an excuse to satisfy my indulgent nature. It is, I think, time to grow up and start looking at bigger pictures than I have done in the past.

2013 was supposed to be a year of breaking out, until that plan met the enemy and couldn’t survive. 2014 will be a year of consolidation, of small changes in moderation. Lyn has already started: she can’t go back to Uni, not yet– we’ll be homeschooling Master 9 for another year at least– but she can enrol in short courses, and home-based education, and has already done so. The best I can do is follow in her wake, and gently nudge all those aspects of my life that have become trapped in the mud out of their ruts and onto drier ground. If that means I take steps towards a new horizon in 2015, then so be it.

As a final gift for the year, play clicky the linky to view a mix-tape of the 60 songs I highlighted throughout 2013 via This Is My Jam.

Here’s to 2014, y’all.

A TIME FOR THANKS

My year is almost done. Apart from some sporadic popping up and commenting, I’ll be closing the doors on the world next week for a ten day break alone with my family, to recharge the batteries that fall so desperately low by this time of the year.

So before I go, my thanks to everyone who helped make our journey through a difficult year that little bit more possible, and especially to everyone who took notice of our son’s health struggles and were there to jolly him up with Facebook comments, good wishes and offers of friendship that were invaluable to him and so uplifting to us.

And my most especial mention to our friends Lilysea Oceanesque, Grant Watson and Sonia Marcon, and Kim & Kris McMinn, who went above and beyond the call of duty by treating him as not just the son of people they knew but as a friend in his own right, and whose gifts and words of encouragement kept him from the brink of some very dark times. Your kindnesses will not be forgotten.

To everyone, a glass raised for 2014.

2013: THE YEAR THAT SPOKE TOO SOON

Less than a week ago I claim I haven’t seen a movie worth calling the worst movie of the year, not a single movie that rivaled 2012’s Dark Shadows as a bottomless pit of craptitude.

Then we spent Sunday afternoon avoiding the heat by watching After Earth and Pacific Rim on DVD.
If I’d waited one week more….

2013 CAN GO FUCK ITSELF, AND THAT’S OFFICIAL.

It’s almost the end of December. Almost time to close my eyes to my day job, shut the door on the world, and have as many as ooooooooohhhhh, nine or ten entire days of rest before I have to plaster a smile on my face and head out to do this shit all over again for another year.

Most people drown in sight of shore, you know….

So. 2013. Here’s how it panned out:

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
Sold a children’s novel. Went on a writing retreat.
2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
It was a mixed year on the goal front. Some were achieved; some were diverted into similar-sounding-but-not-quite-as-sexy options, the goal equivalent of waking up and finding you’ve spent a passionate night of borderline-illegal sexual escapades with someone named Charles-Lee Theron; and some exist because I am, at heart, a comedian. See if you can pick which ones belong where.
1.     1. Lose 12 kilograms
BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAmoving on.
2.     2. Send Father Muerte & the Divine chapters and synopsis to Agent Rich
Actually, I got quite close on this one. I’ve written the first draft of the novel, and have started the long, dreary process of line-editing, and I’ll probably have this package on Agent Rich’s desk by the end of February at the latest. In all probability I’d have done this by now, but for the small matter of finishing and selling an entirely different novel in the meantime. Call it a ½ win…
3.     3. Pitch a 3rd Corpse-Rat King Novel
Achieved. Had Angry Robot taken it, they would have received a novel that saw Marius and his motley crew travel to the centre of the planet in a quest to discover the God whose existence he had so roundly denied in the previous two volumes. They decided not to, so it will remain unwritten.
4.     4. Write a new novel
Close, but one that was definitely derailed by Real Life ™. A couple of starts were made, but despite 15 000 words on Cirque, 12 000 words on Canals of Anguilar and serious plotting work on both The Hall of Small Questions and The Sin-Eater’s Lonely Children, none of them reached completion.
5.     5. Write a kids novel
Ah. Now this one, this one, we can call an unqualified success. I’ve sent the contract back to the publisher, so I think I can safely reveal that Magwitch and Bugrat was successfully written and sold this year, and will be appearing in early 2015 under the Walker Bookslogo.
And with starts undertaken for two new books called Amelia Charles Frankenberg and Antimony Lavage, it may not be the last children’s book I complete, either.
6.     6. Turn Napoleone’s Land into a fantasy novel
Well, yes and no. Napoleone’s Land was an early novel, an alternative history that didn’t quite work and was ripe for changing into a more solidly-realised fantasy novel. I’ve made the requisite changes and run the first few chapters to Agent Rich. We’re yet to see if the concept has any legs. Another ½ point.
7.     7. Enter Nnovvember
Nnovvember is an AFOL community-wide initiative that takes place each November, with fans building Lego Vic Vipers in memory of legendary AFOL Nate ‘nnenn’ Neilson. I blogged about it here last year, when I had my first go at creating one, and fully intended to have another crack at it this year. Then I passed 20 000 pieces in my collection and got all excited about the idea of rebuilding all of my 85 sets, a venture I dubbed the Great 2013 Set Rebuild, and which is still ongoing. Calling Charles-Lee Theron….
8.   8.  Design a Corpse- Rat King ‘Wreck of the Nancy Tulip’ Cuusoo kit.
Uh, yeah. Lot of weather we’re having. This one was a victory of ambition over talent. For those of you who don’t know, Cuusoo is a website that allows Lego fans to post pictures of their creations, and have other fans vote on them, but with a small twist—if a model attracts 10 000 votes, Lego have committed to reviewing the design with the aim of turning it into a real life, honest-to-golly real limited release actual Lego set.
For those who haven’t read The Corpse-Rat King, fuck you: you’re the reason I can’t have nice things. For those who have read it, you’ll remember that the Nancy Tulip is a long-lost Scorban warship, flagship of mad King Nandus’ fleet, which Marius finds while lost under the waves, and which he explores in the company of Nandus, whose skeleton has been fused with that of his favourite horse, Littleboots, into some sort of insane Centaurian loony. And you wonder why I can’t sleep at nights.
Anyway, it would have made a great model. I, unfortunately, lacked only time, design skills, talent, time, and the right pieces to make it work. Not to mention talent.
So, there we are. 2013 was a year of mixed fortunes in many ways, and my goals list reflects that. What does 2014 have in store? It’s hard to say. Right now we’re grappling with financial worries, health issues and the need to refresh a house that is looking battered and dilapidated from a combination of bad construction and a large family. I’ll be sitting down with Luscious and the kids to discuss the new year shortly. I’ll post any goals then.
But I won’t be making any promises.
  
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not this year, although I’ll be a grandfather for the second time in early 2014, which will be very, very cool.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, we escaped the Gods for another 12 months.
5. What countries did you visit?
Every year I come up with something passable witty for why I haven’t travelled yet again……
No. I’m skint. I’ll probably always be skint. ‘Other countries’ is just something that happens to other people, now.
6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Peace. Tranquillity. Serenity.
7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
February: I hadn’t been to the PerthWriter’s Festival in something like 13 years, but the presence of China Meiville prompted Luscious and I to buy tickets to one of his speaking engagements this year, then back it up by taking Connor to the Family Day. I was blown away by the scale and professionalism of the event, and vowed on the spot to make it a point to work my way into the presentation line-up within the next 2 years. It was a significant turning point in my desires as an author, an opening of my career horizons. I wish I’d had it earlier.
May: That was the month Connor began to vomit regularly, an illness called Rumination Syndrome that has slowly taken over his entire life, and that of his Mother. It is not underplaying things to say that our entire lives have been overturned: our every decision now takes into account the effect on Connor’s health, his state of mind, and his sense of shame and humiliation when vomiting fits overtake him in public.
November: After two years of growing frustration and entrapment, Aiden was able to leave home and move into a place of his own, in the company of his girlfriend, brother and best mate. I couldn’t be happier for him: his unhappiness was obvious to all who knew him, and while we knew the cause there was little we could do to alter his situation but offer support, hope the right agent was willing to take a chance on a bunch of early 20-somethings, and try not to murder him for his constant misery and rudeness. In the last 2 weeks he’s been happier than I’ve seen him in a long time, and I’m pleased as punch for him. The time was right, and he has an unlimited future ahead of him.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Quite honestly, I don’t feel like I have one. It’s been a head-above-water kind of year.
9. What was your biggest failure?
My inability to find a solution for my son’s ongoing illness and provide him with the healthy, active life he deserves, and my inability to be there more often for the mother who has been forced to give up her own goals and dreams to be next to him while he grows weak from the constant vomiting and attempts to collect some form of schooling and education for him along the way.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Heh. Did we suffer illness or injury?
SIDDOWN!
Would we be referring to Lyn’s attack of Chostochondritis, which was so severe she was hospitalised because it was feared she’d had a heart attack? My Dad’s well-documented aphasia? Connor’s debilitating and ongoing struggle with Rumination Syndrome? The sudden and unexplained swelling in my left foot that’s prompted blood tests and appointments for x-rays in the last week? The discovery that I’ve suffered from undiagnosed skeletal dysplasia for more than two decades that’s been at the root of many of my muscular problems?
Yeah. We’ve had illness and injury.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
With such a difficult year, we took the opportunity to find special moments whenever we could. CrimeScene WA gave us a chance to widen our writing horizons by exposing ourselves to a range of industry experts and writers outside our usual sphere. A long weekend in Margaret River, while the kids stayed with their grandmother, gave us a chance to take ourselves on an intimate, two-person writing retreat we dubbed Battcon13. And the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who gave us the chance to take the kids out to the cinema and share a communal experience of overwhelming positivity and joy with them.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Two people in particular, and if you’ve been paying any sort of attention, you won’t be remotely surprised.
Connor has had a cross to bear that no nine year old should ever have to contemplate, but for the last seven months has done so with maturity, grace and an overwhelming positivity that has balanced out the constant indignity and humiliation that his illness has forced upon him. His humour, buoyant personality, and lively intelligence are a constant inspiration to me, and I feel my heart seize every time I look at him.
And Luscious has been the rockingest rock that ever rocked a rock: she has been by Connor’s side ever moment of every day, holding his hand, providing the sustenance and succour his soul has needed without ever once bemoaning the goals and dreams she has sacrificed to keep his life above water. She has laid aside her University studies, her writing career, and her thoughts of employment, and has, instead taken on the task of full-time carer and home educator, and given our boy the best quality of life that someone in his situation could hope for. She is a marvel, and there is no pedestal high enough upon which I can raise her. She is the soul of our family, its beating heart, and we are nothing without her.
 And in the background, Erin has motored along quietly, continuing her growth into an articulate, talented and caring young woman: always helping, always taking care of those around her, always facing the day with the belief that she can make a positive impact upon the lives of those she loves. It is a cliché to look at your family and think they are the best people in the world, but this year, they have proven it to me over and over again.
I am blessed.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

I’ve been so internalised this year I’ve spent little of my energy trying to match wits with those who have disheartened and dismayed me. Apart from delisting a few Facebook friends who have made my teeth itch once too often, I’ve spared my energy for my family. But even I haven’t been able to escape the loathsome facefucking the current Liberal government is giving the country. The sooner we divest ourselves of these repugnant criminals, the better.
14. Where did most of your money go?
There’s little space between my wage and our costs. Most of our money goes to keeping the wheels turning.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Battcon was a stunning weekend and everything we had hoped it would be: fun, liberating, relaxing and productive. And CrimeScene WA was hotly anticipated and did not disappoint.
16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
Connor turns to the Johnny Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt for comfort on a regular basis. It’s become intrinsically intertwined with his illness, and I’ll always associate it with him.


17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
Sadder, fatter, and poorer.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Taking my children to new and exciting places, and watching them discover the beauty of the world outside their normal horizons. 

Being an artist. 

But most of all, just being there when my family needed me.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Putting vomit-soaked bed sheets in the washing machine. 

Spending my days enabling everybody else’s artistic ambitions while slowly but surely finding less and less time to pursue my own. 

Facebook: seriously, it just… Godsfuck, I can’t explain the damn thing. It’s full of people lining up to not understand that my page is a space for me to shout and carry on about anything I want to in any way I want to, and that I have no interest in listening to them tell me how wrong I am and how superior they are, and yet, and yet, I. Can’t. Get. Off. The. Fucking. Thing. At least heroin makes you thin!
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Well, obviously this is before the date, but the plan is to spend it quietly with Lyn: the children will be with their grandmother, because she does the full Santapalooza job on Christmas day and we don’t, so we’re happy for them to go to her place and wrap themselves in tinsel and frosting. The older kids always spend Christmas day at their father’s house, although Aiden and his girlfriend have said they’ll be dropping by for lunch. It’ll just be me, Lyn, whatever the hell food we want to eat, wine, cider, and the phone off the hook.
21. Who did you meet for the first time?
Several authors and editors through my work, and through the Great Big Picnic Lunch we organised for Facebook friends attending the Writers Festival. Most significantly, perhaps, were our friends Kris and Kim McMinn, with whom we’ve grown close quite quickly.
22. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Nah. Like I say every year, I’ve found the love of my life. It’s all gravy.
23. What was your favourite TV program?
We discovered two new series that have become compulsive viewing:
Whitechapel is a modern-day cop show set in the eponymous suburb of the title, featuring killers that mimic several famous murderers of old. It stars Rupert Penry-Jones, Steve Pemberton continuing to expand his impressive repertoire of serious roles, and Philip Davis in career-best form.
And even better is Ripper Street, which starts from a similar basis in that it is also set in Whitechapel, but takes place 6 months after the Ripper murders, where suspicion and terror make the East End a powder keg with a very short fuse. It’s a powerful show, often brutal and unforgiving, with a cast of fascinating characters and genuine undercurrents of tragedy and sadness. It is, in short, superb television, and is one of the best TV series I’ve seen in years. And there’s a scene in episode two of season two which I shan’t spoil for those who have yet to see it, but which is amongst the most powerful and emotional scenes I have ever watched on television. Ever.

There will be box sets in my future, oh yes there will.
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I haven’t the energy to hate, beyond my own natural levels of scepticism and misanthropy. There’s one person quite close to our family for whom I feel a great wellspring of disdain, but he’ll get his comeuppance in the natural course of time and I’ll play no part in it other than to sweep up afterwards and comfort the worthy, so I’m content to sit and watch him arsehole himself out of the good thing he’s ruining.
25. What was the best book you read?
Best fiction book of the year was The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie: brutal, unforgiving, enthralling, and a quantum leap in skill and narrative technique from his previous work. You can read my Goodreads review here.
Best non-fiction work was Elizabeth’s Bedfellows- An Intimate History of the Queen’s Court by Anna Whitelock: a fascinating an inspiring view of the Elizabethan court through the behaviour of a group of women who were closer to Elizabeth than anybody else but who are consistently overlooked in histories of the period. My Goodreads review is here.
Worst book of the year, despite stiff competition from dishonourable mentions My Idea of Fun by Will Self and Making Ends Meet- For Better or Worse 3rd Treasury by Lynn Johnston was easily A Father’s Story by Lionel Dahmer: a weaselly, vile attempt by a soulless coward to simultaneously distance himself from his son’s actions and profit by them, with an afterword that is amongst the most repugnant and loathsome attempts at repatriation I’ve ever read. It’s a book not even worth ripping up and using to wipe my arse, and my Goodreads review is even less kind to it.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Nothing. I didn’t discover a new band, song, album or drunken busker down the corner with a semi-decent line in hand-clapping and inventive abuse worth adding to my playlist. Frankly, it was extremely disappointing. I blame rap and hip-hop for being a) absolutely everywhere and b) unutterably fucking shit.
Erin forced me to listen to a Selena Gomez album. I hated it. Does that count? If not, this is a video of Aston Villa forward Gabriel Agbonlahor smashing One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson in a charity football match so hard that Tomlinson pukes. Not so much a musical discovery as, well, bloody hilarious. That’ll do. 



27. What was your favourite film of this year?
I saw some amazing films this year, not least because I found a box set of 20 Hammer movies for $20 in our local Lackluster store and we spent half the year gleefully devouring them one after the other, pausing only to order Christopher Lee Dracula collections off the net so we could love those too. However, four movies really went above the line this year, and they were:
I went into Cloud Atlas with few expectations—there’s only so much excitement you can raise for a movie that combines Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and the Wachowskis—and was stunned by the beautiful, intricate, and inspiring story it told.
I’ve slowly become a fan of Tom Hardy over the last few years, so made a point of watching Bronson because I’d been told it was a breakout performance, only to find it was so much more: a tour de force of such intensity and violent power that everything I’ve seen him do since is utterly washed out in comparison. It’s a stunningly brutal piece of film, that can’t be approached with faint heart, but I was, and remain, knocked sideways by it.
Gravity was a tour de force of an entirely different nature—a stunning vista of space and unknowable horizons that I’ve not seen on the big screen since I first saw 2001 twenty years ago, without being as blindingly dull as 2001 was to a boy who had grown up on big screen space opera. It’s terrifying in an all-too-real way, overwhelming emotions and senses with its sheer scale and intensity. It is science fiction in its purest form, based in the incontrovertible laws of current scientific knowledge, and anchored by a career-defining performance by Sandra Bullock, who shows she should have been working at this level all along. It is, quite genuinely, stunning.
But my favourite, my absolute favourite, film this year, was the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, Day of the Doctor. Forget that it was beautifully made. Forget that the 3D was pretty much used perfectly and enhanced the viewing experience in ways I wasn’t prepared for. Forget the nostalgia of seeing previous Doctors and old foes and all the fannish strokes of the hair that get we geeks purring like contented kittens. It was a wonderful film, filled with satisfaction in every frame. But forget all that, because ultimately, what made this my favourite film of the year, as I blogged upon leaving the cinema, was the knowledge that this was the film that made me fall back in love with something I had been carrying with me my whole life, and with which I had been slowly becoming disenchanted, and this was the film that gave my children an experience they will carry with them for the rest of theirlives. For ninety minutes we shared an moment that we will carry together until the day I die, and for that alone, it will be one of my favourite films for the rest of my days. 
Sadly, the James Cameron Memorial Unobtanium Dildo of Shit goes unawarded this year. I did think it would go to the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp fiasco Dark Shadows, that charm-free, humour-free, excitement-free, used-once-too-often-teabag of a movie that enabled us to watch two of the most exciting talents in Hollywood of ten years ago flail about in yet another of their increasingly vapid and diluted minimum effort shtick pieces, like old vaudevillians who can’t quite adjust to the age of the talkies and really just need to take a margarita and a handful of sleeping pills and have a lie down, and just, please, for the memories of your golden years we’re still trying desperately to hold on to, stop

But a quick check of last year’s review reveals that I actually watched it in 2012, and I can’t think of a movie I watched this year for which I generated so much hate, certainly not so much that I’ll still want to razz it an entire year later. 

Which feels slightly unnatural, somehow….
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 43, which as everybody knows is the last prime number before 13003 that ends in a 3 according to a fact I just totally made up. (Real answer: the infinitely more boring 12983. Extra points for knowing that I totally guessed that 13003 was a prime and got it correct.)
For once, my birthday actually fell on my RDO, so I spent it building my birthday Lego and hanging with Luscious and Connor, in a kickbackrelaxey kind of way. I could do with another one of those.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A healthy son.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
Going under for the third time.
31. What kept you sane?
Not entirely sure I managed it, to be honest. I’m feeling burned out, worn through, and ready for a long nap.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
At least this one is easy: the election of a reprehensible, loathsome, lying, power-hungry weasel to the custodianship of our Government, and the immediate and calamitous damage he and his skulking band of Grima Wormtongues have proceed to undertake with lip-licking relish. Every day that passes bring us closer to becoming a nation of Pastor Niemollers.
33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
No new lessons, just reinforcements of old ones about the worth of my family relative to the rest of the world, and what I would give up to see them safe and happy.
34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Did you ever pay for something that you didn’t do?
And did you ever figure out the reason why?
And when the doctor says this is gonna hurt me a lot more than this hurts you,
Did you ever figure out that that’s a lie?
–       — Somebody Else’s Troubles, Steve Goodman.

Which is a fucking gloomy way to end a piece like this, so to make up for it, here’s Armstrong and Miller parodying Flanders and Swann with a song about taking a shit. 



2012. BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

And so we come to the end of 2012, a year named after a shitty movie that replicated it in as much as it was overbudget, filled with bad science, was downright made of stupid, and made me want to stab John Cusack in the eye. Thus it is in a somewhat reflective and grown-up mood that I contemplate this year’s annual review. Some mighty highs, some pretty deep lows, some jelly beans found down the back of the coach that tasted okay once you got the fluff off, a dead guy in the boot that’s beginning to smell. And chips.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Saw my novel in print, achieved promotion to co-ordinator level at work.

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?

I’ve changed this question slightly, from ‘resolutions’ to ‘goals’, as I think it’s a more positive approach, and there’s one change for me for a start– I’m going to try to be a little more positive this year. My general sense of humour has slipped alarmingly from ‘wry’ through ‘dark’ to ‘gallows’: I need to rein it back a bit.

Other than that, I actually did not bad this year. Most of my goals were writing-related, and despite problems with me weight (more on that later) and a promotion at work which has resulted in longer days, I still managed to successfully navigate the publication of my first novel and the completion of two more, which was pretty decent going under the circumstance.

So what’s on the cards for 2013? I’ve a list of 8 goals this year, covering professional, personal, and hobby. This is what I’m aiming for:

  • Lose 12 kilograms. My weight ballooned in 2012, to the point where, if I was getting on a plane with Jabba the Hutt and Colleen McCullough they’d probably ask one of us to take a later flight. To a certain extent I’ve been time-poor, but the greater truth is that I’ve been a fat lazy bastard with no willpower. 12 kilograms will take me back to 100 kilos, which would mean I only needed to repeat the feat in 2014 to be back where I belong.
  • Send the Father Muerte & The Divine chapter package and synopsis to SuperAgent Rich. Winning my first novel contract was wonderful, but the bigger trick is doing it again. Now that I’ve fulfilled the 2 novels of that first contract I’m in a position to aim for a new one, and with the Father Muerte novel first draft finished, it’s time to get it in the hands of the man who can get it for me.
  • Pitch the 3rd Corpse-Rat King novel. Angry Robot have made encouraging noises. Nothing worse that a robot that gets cold feet. I’ll have this in their hands in a couple of weeks.
  • Write a new novel. All part of the career arc. Write, write, and write again. I’m up to ‘again’.
  • Write a kids’ book. At the particular behest of Miss 11 and Master 8, kidlings about town. And why not? Strings, bow, career. And it might be fun.
  • Turn Napoleone’s Land into a fantasy novel. Way back in the dim, dark past, I wrote an alternative history that utterly failed to do anything worthwhile. But the armature is good, and I’m a better write now, and when you read a novel like Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country and see what can be said whilst not being said, it sets a mind to wondering. This is a very do-able task, and there’s a good story there, just waiting to find its best format.
  • Enter Nnovvember. Every year the Lego community on Flickr produce a poster in memory of Nate ‘nnenn’ Neilson, a much-loved member of the community who specialised in building twin-pronged spacecraft called Vic Vipers. I had my first crack at it this year, and while I didn’t make the poster, loved the craft I created and really enjoyed the feeling of being part of a hobby community. So I’m going to have another crack this year.
  • Design a Cuusoo kit. Lyn’s challenged me to build a ‘substantial’, well-realised MOC, and somehow I’ve escalated that into putting it up on Cuusoo, the Lego/AFOL collaboration site. Once a set reaches 10 000 votes, Lego commit to reviewing it with the possibility of releasing it as an official Lego kit. It’s been done several times already, and for those who have read The Corpse-Rat King, Lyn has requested a ‘wreck of the Nancy Tulip’ set complete with Nandus/Littleboots and Marius. Maybe. Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe.

So. Tune in same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, to see how I get along.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My step-daughter Cassandra gave birth to a gorgeous little girl, Aisla.

G’wan, isn’t she gorgeous?

With our own gorgeous two. Already giving Master 8 ‘the look’.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not close, after 5 years of estrangement between them, but Lyn’s mother Pat died late upon this year. Thankfully, they managed a small reconciliation in her final days, but really, no good came of it

5. What countries did you visit?

I tried to visit a country for old men, but there wasn’t one.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

A Happy wife. 2012 was rough on my beautiful darling, from her Mother’s illness, to a demoralising work situation, to serious health issues of her own that are likely to result in surgery some time in 2013. we sat down the other day and decided that, as of the 1st, all is tabula rasa: 2013 starts with a blank slate on all fronts, and the past can fucking well stay where it’s put. If we get to this time next year, and this one thing is achieved, the year will be worth it.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

28 August. Call me Captain Self-Obsessed, but the publication of my first novel was the highlight of the year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Seeing The Corpse-Rat King hit print. It’s been a long time coming– too long– but becoming a published novelist, in the way I wanted to become one, was a big turning point in my life, one of those turning points I hope to look back on in many years’ time and say “Yeah, there. That’s when I started out on the path that got me here.”

Honourable mention to outmanoeuvring several more-qualified applicants to gain a promotion at work and become co-ordinator of my department after my old co-ordinator suddenly upped and left after 8 years. My manager cheerfully admits (too cheerfully?) that mine was the weakest application on paper, but my interview blew them away, and after 8-odd months in the job I feel like I might just be coming towards making the position my own.

9. What was your biggest failure?

The upkeep of this enormous white elephant of a house in which we live. I’ve lost 900 grams in the last 5 days sanding, patching, painting, and basically working like a reno-wallah trying to get the big bastard up to a condition where we can think about selling. a house this size was appropriate when we bought it three years ago, back when we had a small army and a trail of camp followers to house. But it’s now too big, too expensive, and too much like constantly painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge to keep it maintained for the remaining 5 of us.

A smaller house, with a garden I can enjoy, rather than constantly service, will be the aim.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

We have 5 people living in our house, and every single one of us has seen the inside of a hospital in the last 18 months. even now, I’m hobbling about on one foot after an accident playing basketball with Master 8 a couple of days ago. Health has not been good for either Lyn or myself.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I’m tempted to say our new car, a nice downsize from our enormous gas-guzzling 6-seater Falcon with its myriad of mechanical issues to a neat, compact 2012 Hyundai i30 with its parsimonious appetite and nice level of comfort and space. But I’m going to plump for the $700 we spent on our space-age Dyson Transformer vacuum cleaner. It’s the first decent vacuum we’ve had, and came at a point where we could afford to buy  from the top shelf, and in this instance, we got exactly what we paid for. Just one of those pleasing moments where we could indulge on a necessity, and have been well rewarded.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Each of the members of my family, who pulled together to make a year in which both parents had full time jobs with long hours as painless as it could be, and as usual, my darling Lyn, who puts everybody before herself, and whose sacrifices this year really were sacrificial. The burden shall not be so great in 2013, I promise.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

In the wider world, the National Rifle Association in the USA, whose response to the latest gunning down of innocent schoolchildren showed a vile and reprehensible lack of basic humanity and love for the very citizens their existence is not only predicated upon but, in its purest form, happens only in order to serve in times of national emergency. They skirt perilously close to advocating the armed assassination of their own country’s citizens, and egregiously close to the behaviour of a terrorist organisation. It’s time they were disbanded, burned to the ground, and a new, saner organisation erected on their bones.

On a level much closer to home, the grandfather who lives less than fifty kilometres away and simply sent his grandchildren envelopes with money in them for birthdays and Christmas, and who left one of his grandchildrens’ names off the Christmas card, hardly covered himself in glory. That’s one slow decline in relationships that’s about to slip right underneath the radar.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Restoring some lifestyle we’d been missing, and more recently, paint.

Oh, and Lyn  and the kids finally badgered me once to often about getting a dog, and now they’ve got one. As far as I can tell he eats money and shits happiness for my kids, so he gets to stay another year.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

The Hobbit movie, especially as I am father to an 8 year old who decided to read the book for himself this year and then totally lost his shit when he started watching the trailers. I’ve been an uncritical Tolkein fan since I was his age: Sue me.

16. What song will always remind you of 2012?

No one song, really. Musically I had a rather disappointing year. I always try to discover one new band that excites me, but this year I couldn’t find one. The closest I got was a song by Gotye and a couple of distracted listens to Florence & The Machine: amazing voice, but I lacked the time to really explore it.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?

Even-keeled, muuuuuuuch fatter, slightly richer in material goods but battening down for a period of proper, grown-up belt-tightening. And, I should mention, fucking exhausted! I can’t remember ever feeling so tired, so often for so long.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Achieving a decent work-life balance. It tilted a bit too much this year.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Working Saturdays, missing my kids’ assemblies, flaking out exhausted in front of Foxtel of an evening and letting it all wash over me and my beer/cider/moscato.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

Cooked the family a slap-up breakfast, did the presents thang, then lay on the bed with my Christmas books and my winter cider and me beloved wife while the Bigguns went off to their dad’s for lunch and sleeping over and the littlies went to their grandparents for lunch and more presents and sleeping over.

21. Who did you meet for the first time?

My new offsider at work, the lovely Donna, and quite a few Facebook friends and Goodreads buddies, most notably the esteemed Brian M. Logan, who I’m counselling through a sad, tragic addiction to a plastic football club. I also met, for the first time in the flesh, those splendid fellows Daniel Simpson and Anthony Panegyres at the KSP SF Mini-con (well, okay, I’d met Daniel before, but this was a proper, full-on, hail-fellow kinda meeting)

22. Did you fall in love in 2012?

I did, with the T-Rex Master 8 got in his giant Lego kit for Christmas. But the little bugger won’t share.

As always, of course, I am gushingly and diabetes-inducingly in love with my beautiful and wonderful wife, the Luscious Lyn.

23. What was your favourite TV program?

Again, nothing really jumps out, and this is probably a reflection of the year as a whole: a lot of stuff was absorbed/watched/listened to, but very little made any sort of lasting impression. Recently, the kids have discovered Monty Python’s Flying Circus, especially Miss 11, so I’m getting great enjoyment watching it with them, but largely because I’m watching them watching it.

Mock the Week and Russell Howard’s Good Week were the two comedy panel/variety style shows that had me rocking back in my chair roaring every week. They’ll be the ones I’ll be scrabbling to pick up in iView or similar now we’ve finally cut the Foxtel umbilical.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No, not at all. I had a largely hate-free year.

25. What was the best book you read?

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie. Demoralisingly, Abercrombie does an enormous amount of what I’d like to do as a writer, only better, deeper, and at a level I not only can’t match but at a level I don’t think I’m capable of matching.

Honourable mention to the Book of the New Sun quadrology by Gene Wolfe, which remains as utterly superb as it always has been, but is beaten back into second place by being a re-read rather than a new one; Pyrotechnicon by Adam Browne, which is a wonderful confection of a novel that lifts and gladdens the heart; and Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff Vandermeer, which is soaringly intelligent, literary, convoluted and decayed all at the same time. I gave all of them 5 star ratings on Goodreads, and if you haven’t read any of them, I lend you my heartiest recommendation.

Golden Turds for Wolfskin Volume 2 by Warren Ellis, a pointless and boringly stupid thud and blunder graphic novel whose shiny paperstock meant it wasn’t even good enough for wiping my arse on, and Tales from the Vulgar Unicorn, a Thieves’ World collection edited by Robert Lynn Asprin, although in the latter case the fault was undoubtedly mine for revisiting teenage reading, rather than the book: it is what it is, unashamedly and unapologetically pulpy and slapdash, and it’s me that has moved on to more sophisticated fare, not it.

If you’d like to read my reviews of these books, some of them are here on the blog (try the ‘reviews’ link in the cloud) or you can see them on my Goodreads profile.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

As mentioned above, I bummed out this year. No new music that really gripped me and turned my head. I spent more time in my iPod playlists than in listening to the radio. so I’ll go left-field and nominate This Is My Jam, a music-based social media site that I signed up to a couple of months ago, and which I’m hoping will lead me to discover new sounds next year.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

Yeah, it was The Avengers. Loved it. Loved it with a giggling, bouncing fanboy love. Loved it with my kids next to me loving it, loved it again with just my wife, loved it all over again on DVD. Love love love.

Yes, I’m a big stupid superhero spectacle loving fanboy. Bite me.

Honourable mentions to Seven Psychopaths, the downright funniest and don’t-give-a-shittingnest movie of the year, with Christopher Walken delivering the single best one word line in all of cinema. And a telemovie called Holy Flying Circus, about the reception given to Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the stitching up of the Pythons by the talk show Friday Night, Saturday Morning, which managed to be affectionate, dispassionate, intelligent and fantastical in turn, as well as damned funny in its own right, and was an exceptional piece of small screen film-making.

The Polar Express Award for Making Me Want to Stab My Own Eyes Out went to Prometheus, a film so god-awful bad I actually had blocked it when I wrote the first draft of this review and only remembered it when I took Lyn to the DVd store this evening to find something to watch, a film so bad it could only make Grant Watson happy because now Alien 3 is nowhere near the worst Alien movie ever made: Prometheus is so bad it’s the three worst Alien movies ever made.

Dishonourary stabs in the eye to Dark Shadows, the first movie ever to make me wish Johnny Depp would just stop, take a deep breath, and stop (thankfully, if he really is playing Tonto in a new Lone Ranger movie, my practice at wishing he would just stop should not go to waste), and reinforced my wish that Tim Burton would Just. Fucking. Stop! and Total Recall, a movie in which Colin Farrell– an actor I have a bit of time for– acted like a man possessed, but couldn’t stop this most idiotic of remakes putting the ‘stupid’ in What The Fuck Did I Shell Out Good Australian Dollars for This Stupid Piece of Shit?

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 42, and spent the day at home with my family constantly telling me I wasn’t allowed to do anything, just sit back and enjoy my day. So I did 🙂

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Greater satisfaction.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Falling-to-bits because I’d rather make sure the kids had decent kit.

31. What kept you sane?

Lyn, the kids, writing, cider.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?

The Newtown school shooting.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

Many years ago I set myself the goal of being a full-time writer by the time I was 45. I might not reach it by that age, but it remains a goal most devoutly wished.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Dear sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
                    Paperback Writer, the Beatles.

COME IN 2011, YOUR TIME IS UP.

And so it was, and so it is, and so what? Here’s my year in a nut case: pack it, and get out.


1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before? Sell a novel. (Yeah, there’s going to be a theme to this year’s list…). Acquire an agent. Teach on online writing course.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I had 5 goals. I met one. If not for the one big success it would have been a year made of fail. I’ve set some goals for 2012, and am guaranteed to make at least a couple—can you say ‘contractual obligations’, my darlings?


3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not this year. One to come in 2012, it appears.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No.

5. What countries did you visit? I visited Country Road, but it just took me home, to the place where I belong. Which appears to be West Virginia. Weird.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011? Money money money money money money. Money. 

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 26thOctober. “Dear Lee. On behalf of Angry Robot…” The day my career changed immeasurably.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Selling my novel. Followed in quick succession, as it was in reality, by securing the services of my agent. Both are big stepping stones in my projected career arc, and achieving them has left me looking forward at an entirely different vista than the one I contemplated at the start of the year. My career has been refreshed in every way possible.

9. What was your biggest failure? Pretty much everything else. Apart from that one big moment, I never really got going this year. It was a year of stagnation on just about every front.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Stayed fairly clear of anything major this year, but my base level of discomfort from the accumulated niggles and lack of alignment, was high.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Hmm. I’d say “all the Lego we accumulated”, on the basis that it’s given the kids and I a common hobby and proven to be a household item that has attracted almost everyone to squat down on the floor around the spread-out sheet and share the simple joy of playing and chatting together, except that Lyn might scream and beat me to death with a 16×16 baseplate. I’d also have nominated the good quality vacuum cleaner we purchased with some of my tutoring money which, after a series of crappy off-the-shelf models, is proving to be the super-duper carpet thrasher we’ve needed for years. But I’m going to go with the bikes we got the kids for Christmas: watching the kids ride has motivated us to break our own dust-covered treddlies out of the garage, and decide as a family to ride together at least once a week, weather permitting, and to incorporate riding into all our holiday and day off plans. So, on the basis that they’ll give us a wonderful new outlet for enjoying our family time, they win.


12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Aiden, once, again, who took on responsibilities beyond his age, and was rewarded with betrayal. Lyn, who worked ceaselessly to provide the family a hub to revolve around, and who continues to put the world before herself.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Aiden’s (now) ex-girlfriend, who exposed all her immature failings in one fell swoop, and destroyed their relationship, then continued to act in a manger guaranteed to lose all the good will and care she had built up with our family over the last two years. A former friend of Lyn’s, who has proven herself to be the two-faced hypocrite I have spent years pretending not to recognise for one.

14. Where did most of your money go? As far as I can tell, a small black hole somewhere to the east of the ecliptic plane. Also, Lego.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The upswing in my writing career, that has taken from me from a moribund and directionless short story writer into a new and exciting sphere of possibility.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011? Antisocial Tendencies, by this year’s big discovery, Dog Trumpet. A gentle, yet pained, nod to the personal journeys that make a man, and the understanding that sometimes, being unmutual is part of what you need to be the person you need to be.


17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? Pretty much level pegging on all counts. Life, for all its current complications, still smells pretty good, and everything else can be dealt with as it arises. Holding pattern, with expectations of movement in the coming year.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Progressing my lifestyle. Holding patterns are all very well, but the view starts to get a bit boring after a while.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Losing focus, and being demoralised. A new set of career goals will serve to change that in the coming year.


20. How did you spend Christmas? Building my enormous Lego Christmas present, being teetotal, and picking Aiden up from work. Just like most other Sundays.

21. Who did you meet for the first time? In the flesh, and very briefly, the members of the Perth Adult Lego Society. In the electro, Lee, Marc and Amanda, the Angry Robot luminaries. And the Anxious Appliances, fine fellows and novelists one and all, who gathered around a booth at the back of the imaginary tavern that is the Angry Robot Waiting Club and raised mugs of imaginary ale to our continued health.

22. Did you fall in love in 2011? Nobody new. Kept the view focussed inward, and rewarded myself with enjoying my family. 

23. What was your favourite TV program? Horrible Histories wins hands down. An historical sketch show for kids based on the Terry Deary books of the same name, it’s so clever, witty and engaging that it’s become a firm favourite of all of us, and has been on high rotation viewing all year. No contest.

We also discovered the wonderful imagination of Bryan Fuller, a man who writes TV worlds like the ones I want to create in my works. Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies were both devoured: lyrical, engaging, and delightfully quirky series’ that still managed to be deadly serious and intensly human when it mattered. Wonderful stuff.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No hate, but deep distaste and no small measure of contempt for those who betrayed my son’s and wife’s trust and love.

25. What was the best book you read? More than a few biographies in the mix this year, and the best of the lot was The Mind and Times of Reg Mombassa by Murray Waldren. I’ve been using Goodreads to keep track for the last 12 months, and you can read my review of it here.

Honourable Mentions to:
Charles Manson: Coming Down Fast— Simon Wells
Booklife—Jeff Vandermeer
The Man in my Basement—Walter Mosely
Lego: A Love Story— Jonathan Bender
Omni Visions 2—Ellen Datlow (ed)
The City & The City by China Meivelle
There were a few real stinkers in the pile too, and worst of the lot were the following:
Lost in a Good Book—Jasper Fforde
The Enterprise of Death— Jesse Bullington
Heliotrope— Justina Robson
26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Dog Trumpet, the duo formed by Reg Mombassa and Peter O’Doherty after leaving Mental as Anything, combine the quirkiness of the Mentals’ best moments with a simplicity of approach and gentility that really struck a chord with me this year. I also revisited my love of Ian Dury after reading a particularly good biography, and have been luxuriating in the nasty brilliance of his lyrics all over again.  
27. What was your favourite film of this year? After last year’s embarrassment of riches it was a pretty thin year this time out. Not a bad year, as such, but simply a rather ordinary one, with very little that excited or stirred the senses. There were, however, a couple of good ‘acting’ movies that stood out for me. The King’s Speech and The Yellow Room are both what I would call ‘good old-fashioned English’ movies, in that simple direction, superb acting, and high-quality scripts do more than a million Hollywood explosions to draw you in and keep you engaged until the very final moment.
Sadly, the Will Ferrell Memorial Tower of Crap Award this year has to go to the by-product of one of our favourite televisual moments: the telemovie Dead Like Me: Life After Deathpicks up on the series 5 years after its conclusion, and somehow manages to ignore and/or betray everything the original series had built up, portraying deep and human characters in buffoonish and dislikeable ways in a plot that goes out of its way to insult the intelligence of the viewer. Not just a disappointment, it left me feeling like the creators were actively expressing their hatred of their own audience. Dishonourable mentions for Grass, a movie so bad it became the first film in several years that I’ve failed to finish, and Rango, a big-budget animated so-what-who-cares-a-thon that had so little to recommend it that even our 6 year old was bored.
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 41, and built Lego while eating in front of the TV. I am a grown up.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Membership in the Green Lantern Corps. And punching Ryan Reynolds in the face. The two may not necessarily be unconnected. 

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011? ‘Concept’ is a very strong word…

31. What kept you sane? You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? FIFA, racism, and the widespread corruption and general shittification of the sport I love.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011. We must cultivate our own garden. 

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Delusions of grandeur, delusions of grandeur
I'm a dedicated follower of my own success
I can handle the glamour, I can cope with the stress
Deal with the doughnuts and please all the rest
I'm polite to the punters and sweet to the press
 
I just won a trophy from a radio station
I'm leaving my bat and my balls to the nation
 
I've got megalomania, I've got megalomania
To be a twinkle in the show-biz dream
To which effect I could connive and scheme
I dive into the dairy and I lap up all the cream
I'm up to the armpits in self-esteem
 
                               --Delusions of Grandeur, Ian Dury & The Blockheads
 

2010: That’s That.

My little annual review of things, as per round-about-this-time-every-year:

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before? Complete a sea change.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I had half a dozen or so goals that met with varying levels of success: Number one on the list of successes was ‘Change Jobs’, and waaaay down the bottom was ‘Lose 12 kilograms’. But that one is nothing new.

As to this year, well, it’s much along the same lines. I’ve two novels to edit and send out, and the garden and house renovations need completing before I decide I’ve been at them too long and give up. Weight remains an issue, as do my eating habits (wonder if they’re linked in any way?). But my big bucket-list item is to enter an art competition: I’ve been getting closer and closer to trying my hand at visual art for the last couple of years, and it’s time to set aside some space and see what I can come up with if I try.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My son’s girlfriend Georgie, bringing little Luc into our house. And he’s gawwwwwwwwwwjuss!

4. Did anyone close to you die? No, but not for lack of trying.

5. What countries did you visit? I tried to get into the Country for Old Men but they told me to come back next year.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? X-ray vision. Also, money.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 15th March, when I walked out of the ATO for the last time and realised how sweet air could actually smell. 22nd March, when I took up my new position as Arts & Culture Officer at the City of Rockingham and put the ATO behind me for good. November 11, when Luc decided to share my birthday with me.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Changing my job, and actually finding a position that not only fit my experiences and wants, but gave me a sense of satisfaction and self-worth into the bargain. I had given up on that particular dream, and still feel like I was pulled out of the grave just as I was ready to decide how best to lie down in it, career-wise.

9. What was your biggest failure? Not saving my step-daughter from herself.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? The family had a horrendous run of bronchitis mid-year, which landed both Connor and Erin in hospital and put Lyn, Aiden and myself in bed for a couple of weeks each.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Our air-conditioner shat itself and died the week before Christmas, so “those fans” is a contender, but I’m going to offer three things: for the first time ever I invested some serious money into buying a high quality water bottle and a high quality backpack. And we bought the entire run of Impossible Pictures’ ‘Dinosaur’ programs, including all the “Walking With…” documentaries and the Nigel Marven programs. Normally I wouldn’t count DVDs as gosh-wow-sensawunda purchases, but the effect they’ve had on Connor’s imagination can only be described as pyrotechnic, and it’s been wonderful to watch.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Aiden, who not only took on a responsibility that was not his to take on, and one that leaves any number of men twice his age blanching, but has done so with a sense of purpose and an integrity that would put most of us in the dark. He’s 17, and I fear for his future like any parent does with a lad of his age, and every time he hits a speed bump I flinch, but I can’t help but admire his soul.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Cassandra’s (now ex-) partner, who proved himself a thug and coward of the highest order. Not only would I not piss on this piece of crap were he on fire, I’d happily start the fire.

14. Where did most of your money go? Fighting bushfires of one stripe or another.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? New house, new job, new part of the world: life in Mandurah just continued to get better and better. 2011 promises the chance to grasp our sea change fully. Bring it on.

16. What song will always remind you of 2010? Both Dancing In the Storm by Boom Crash Opera and Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons. Not for any great philosophical reason other than that I occasionally get to garage one of the work cars while my boss is away, and I have an iPod car player, and I have a tendency to sing along to them as I drive home, playing them VERY loud indeed. Which, after years of bone-tired hour-long train rides home from the City, is a different kind of freedom indeed.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? Happier, fatter and poorer. I’m enjoying live a lot more than I have in the last couple of years, thanks to the new job; I’m very much the patriarch of my family and get to watch 3 sets of children experiencing different stages of life; and I’ve had some private satisfaction in my writing life as well. Not bad, as years go.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Hitting the beach with my kids, making art, rewarding my family with the lifestyle they deserve.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Fighting bushfires. Enduring abuse and criminal behaviour.

20. How did you spend Christmas? Quietly at home, balancing Lyn’s religious requirements with my need to go large on the presents and the eating. Cooked a nice breakfast and lunch and picked at leftovers for tea, and sat around complaining about the heat.

21. Who did you meet for the first time? Two new writing groups- the Rockingham Full Time/Part Time Writers Group and the Rockingham/Mandurah chapter of Nanowrimo. Several hundred employees of the City of Rockingham. Georgie and her family.

22. Did you fall in love in 2010? We’re all in love with Georgie and Luc.

23. What was your favourite TV program? Came across some funky and fun stuff this year. That Mitchell & Webb Look and The Armstrong & Miller Show are firm favourites, and have resulted in a ridiculous amount of quoting (It’s now impossible to say “Isn’t it?” in our house without a chorus of poncy British accents shouting “Isn’t it, though?” in your wake, and nobody can leave a room without hearing someone say “Kill them” as they go…). I introduced Lyn to The Fast Show, and now every announcement anyone makes is greeted with “Which was nice” or “Brilliant!”. We all became firm fans of Primeval, as well as a continuing affair with QI. Also the Walking with… series which we introduced our kids to in “chronological” order (beginning with …Monsters and ending with …Cavemen.) and followed up with all the Nigel Marven dinosaur shows, which resulted in 6 year old connor deciding to be Nigel when he grows up and turning his bedroom into the “Connor Museum”, in which all his dinsour toys now have their own shelves, complete with name tags, and you have to pay to get in… But number one on the viewing hit parade is Being Human, a supernatural drama of such high quality that it made watching the potentially-similar True Blood impossible, as the gulf in quality showed up how cliched, soapish and dull the latter was in spades.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Cassandra’s Ex. It’s been a long time since I met a filthier scumbag.

25. What was the best book you read? Spent more time away from straight FS again this year, and am continuing to enjoy it, with continued trips into James Ellroy’s neck of the woods, and people like Jon Ronson and John Gardner making the list. Discovered Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, and the joy of reading them completely out of order thanks to library shelves. But it was the year of Mieville, for me: read both The Iron Council and The City & The City for the first time and was (as always) blown away by the man’s language, his narrative muscle, and his plots.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Mumford and Sons were an early one, and remain on high rotation, and Peter, Bjorn and John have become favourites in recent times. And after watching documentaries on them, I’ve gone back and got far more deeply into the Easybeats and the Small Faces than the radio-friendly singles I’ve heard over the years.

27. What was your favourite film of this year? A damn good mix of movies this year. Highlights for me included Men Who Stare at Goats; Up In the Air; The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus; Inception and Despicable Me, any of which might have topped the list in any other year, as well as Daybreakers; Quadrophenia; The Boston Strangler, and Zombieland.

But top spot has to go to Toy Story 3: I dreaded the announcement of this movie, feeling that Pixar had lucked out by producing one sequel that was superior to the original, and that a) there didn’t seem much else to be told within the narrative, b) movies with numbers a high as 3 in the titles tend to be bad enough to drag the memory of previous films down with them and c) the Shrek experience showed just how quickly and disastrously bad that decline in quality can be. I needn’t have worried. It’s every bit as good as its predecessors, and perhaps even better: I wasn’t the only middle-aged man crying his eyes out at the hand-holding scene (you know which one I mean). Funny, dramatic, psychologically complex, and brilliantly human, all at once.

Special golden turds flung in the direction of Shoot ‘Em Up, which would have easily been the winner of the the Golden Compass Memorial Worst Movie of the Year Award, if not for the monumental presence of Lesbian Vampire Killers, which was not only an unutterable piece of shit but doubled its excremental bragging rights by introducing us to the drooling black-hole-of-talent that is James Corden, the latest in that seemingly-eternal line of ‘comedians’ wo think that jigglingly-obese monocepahilcs with permanently wet chins trying to get into the panties of pneumatic twenty something blondes is the height of comedic brilliance: a Benny Hill for the type of people who think Jackass is entertaining. Our teenagers are *still* paying off the karmic debt they earned for insisting it was hilarious and nagging us until we watched it. In February.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 40, and spent the day in quiet contemplation of my place in the world, and what I must do to achieve full karmic balance. Then I had cake. Then I waited while Lyn, Aiden and Georgie went to the hospital to have a baby.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A flying jet car.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? My usual aging bum look.

31. What kept you sane? Sanity napkins. Also Lyn, my kids, and art.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? Tried to steer clear of politics in favour of living a family-oriented life. Don’t suppose Forest’s inability to sign a decent defender counts?

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010. Balance is all.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Lightning flash and everything is sharp and clear
I can see it all, I can see it all
And as the thunder roars, we’re raising up a storm
We can shout it down, we can shout it down
Gone are the days of complacency
Gone are the nights of indifference
Here we go, here we go for one more turn
We can shake, we can shake the trees and earth
We can spin, We can spin and not fall down
Hold on tight, we can both become unwound
You and I are going out
And we’re dancing in the storm

     — Boom Crash Opera, Dancing In The Storm

2009 YOUTUBERY

A final tubery for the old year, the two songs of my year.

No fillum clip can I find for this one, but someone was nice enough to post the song with an image of the album cover:

And the greatest rock band in the world in all their glory:

TWTYTW

So that was 2009.

Hmm.

Actually, as years go, 2009 was a pretty good one, a feeling prompted in large part by a massive sea change halfway through the year. 2010 will be the year of completing that sea change, all things being equal, so by the time I turn 40 in November I hope to be facing the last half of my life from a pretty damn good vantage point. However, it being the turn-over of calendars and all that, the Year In Review questionnaire must by needs be posted, so see if you can spot the hidden theme within (hint: it starts with ‘Mandurah’….)

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Moved to Mandurah; bought a 2-story house

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I have goals, rather than resolutions. I set myself half a dozen goals at year’s start and I achieved four of them, so I’m pleased with that. My big goal for the upcoming year is to lose weight—I’ve got to the stage now where it’s really beginning to affect my ability to do family activities, especially with the kids, and that’s just not good enough.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Right at the end of the year, my good friends Sean & Terri welcomed their new daughter Asha into the world, their fifth consecutive daughter proving once again that Sean has the most feminine sperm in the Universe 🙂

4. Did anyone close to you die? Nope.

5. What countries did you visit? The country of the blind, where I was proclaimed King, until they realised I wasn’t one-eyed, just short-sighted, so they made me Minister Without Portfolio and set me loose.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? Breakout success.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? May, when we moved from Clarkson to Mandurah. What started out as a decision to escape a suburb that was deteriorating before our eyes has turned into a sea change of life-altering proportions. Everything has been for the better. 14th December, when we learned the depths to which my brother has fallen.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Finishing Corpse-Rat King.

9. What was your biggest failure? My weight.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Stayed injury-free this year, which was a relief after last year’s run.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Our new house.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? My family, for grasping the opportunity afforded by our big move and pushing ahead with their own lives so beautifully. Mandurah City Council, for beginning a domestic green waste recycling program that is simple and workable enough that it should be picked up permanently and should make a big difference to our waste programs.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? My brother, whose behaviour slid from being simply selfish and amoral right into the truly criminal, and whom I now have to cut loose. He’s simply run out of chances, and I cannot expose my family to him any more.

14. Where did most of your money go? The new house.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The move to Mandurah.

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? Oh, Hark by Lisa Mitchell. Amazing stuff. Also Baba O’Riley by The Who, a rediscovery that kicked Lyn off onto a big Who jag that shows no sign of ending.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? Happier, fatter, and, if not richer, then at least our poverty is more organised 🙂

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Progressing my work circumstances towards where I want to be, rather than where I need to be just to get by. Put simply, I wish I’d realised sooner that my work no longer fits my life.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Waiting.

20. How did you spend Christmas? Spent it alone with Lyn, while the kids were at relatives’ houses. We all got back together on Boxing Day and did things at our own speed.

21. Who did you meet for the first time? Several new work acquaintances. Big deal.

22. Did you fall in love in 2009? Well, does my new suburb count? Parrots in the backyard, kangaroos hopping down the street at dusk, long sculptued lawns and garden beds I mean, come on!

23. What was your favourite TV program? QI; Dexter season 3; BSG seasons 3 & 4; Serial Killer Sunday; Moral Orel; and bizarrely, televised poker, which we started watching late one night as a laugh and became sadly addicted to for most of the year.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No, although I do hate what my brother has become.

25. What was the best book you read? Actually, I can’t think of a *really* good book I read in 2009. Most of the books I read by my favourite authors weren’t quite up to their best—I read Snuff & Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk, for example, but neither was as good as Rant; John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Scientists isn’t as good as Hitler’s Pope; it was that kind of year. perhaps the best was Necropolis, by Catharine Arnold- a history of London’s cemeteries and funerary practices that suffered from referencing too few sources too repetitively, but at least had a fascinationg central subject.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Lisa Mitchell- an amazing talent for someone so young.

27. What was your favourite film of this year? Where The Wild Things Are; Up; Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs; Battlestar Galactica: The Plan; In Bruges; District Nine. Word to Terminator: Salvation for the Golden Compass Memorial Biggest Piece of Shit of the Year Award.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 39, and it passed by without a blip.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Money in volumes I could swim through.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Fat Guy Casual.

31. What kept you sane? I am sane. It’s the rest of you that are mad. (They think I am crazy, but is it I who am crazy…..)

32. What political issue stirred you the most? I was fairly politics-free this year. My focus was largely on domestica.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. Mandurah kicks Clarkson’s arse.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

To keep in silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Though my life was in a rut
‘Til I thought of what I’d say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
“Hey” he said
“Grab your things I’ve come to take you home.”

Solisbury Hill, Peter Gabriel

SHOOTING FOR GOAL

There’s 5 or so hours left between me and January 1st. To be honest, I don’t give much of a rat’s: I’ve never once woken up on the morning of January 1st and thought “Oh my goodness, the world seems completely different to the one I went to sleep in. Lawks-a-lordy, what a fresh start this portends!” (Or, you know, words to that effect.) It’s a calendar thing, an arbitrary line drawn between ‘then’ and ‘now’, and whilst I guess I’m grinchish about it, there you are: I’ll still have to do the dishes tomorrow, and clean the bedroom, and staying up past midnight will only mean I’ll be tired and grumpy while I do them.

Still, as arbitrary underscores go, it at least draws people into examining the year just gone, and into making outlandish promises to themselves that they have neither the intention nor ability to keep. Let’s be honest: if you’ve never climbed the Matterhorn wearing only a yamulka and a willy-warmer before, being a year older and fatter ain’t gonna make it any easier. But, call ’em resolutions, or goals, or emotional signposts to a better me or whatever, we all do it, and so do I, and so I have.

It’s quite simple, really:

I’m too fat. I did well at the start of last year. I went from 110kg down to 93, and was feeling the benefits. Then I got complacent, I got lazy, yadda yadda whatever, and the wheels fell off. Onto my stomach. So, having proved I can do it once, I get the opportunity to do it again. 13 kilos by the end of the year. That’s one a month plus one, and will bring me down to 90kg, which is still too heavy but better than where I am. Plenty of exercise, better foods, better eating practices, you know the drill (More to the point, I do). And no booze, thanks to the gout, which will be easy, because I’m not that much of a drinker and I prefer my ankle to the taste of beer.

I’m not a novelist. Well, I could have been, this year, but in the end, Napoleone’s Land was just one hurdle too difficult to sell– the book was fine, barring rewrites, but the difficulty in getting publishers to look at a novel containing Aboriginal spirituality, written by an unknown white guy, defeated me. I’ll come back to it, no doubt, when I’ve got a credit or two to play with, but right now, my priority is to finish Corpse-Rat King and get it sold, and finish the first draft of another novel. I have five or six in various states of decomposition, from a 40K draft of Public Savants to 5K and a full plot outline for The Last Death of Vaz Te, to the TV script of Cirque that I could adapt… there’s plenty to be going on with. I’ll likely be around the interwebs even less next year than in 2008 (my google hits quartered over the course of the year), but that’s all part of moving on, I hope.

My house is not perfect. Don’t get me wrong, I love my house, and I love the life my family leads here. But it’s not perfect, as anyone who’s pulled up to the front garden can attest. And truth be told, I spend my money on the wrong things: for the price of that graphic novel I could have fixed that hole in the downpipe at the back of the house, and the price of that DVD could have bought a can of paint for the garden wall. If I do one thing a week, that’s 52 areas of my home I could improve by the end of the year, and 52 ways I can give my family a better lifestyle. I’ve lived inside a Work-in-Progress for too long,

And that, apart from a bunch of family goals that remain private property, is it, really. 2008 was one of those years where you endure the bumps because you can see the plain sailing beyond. Only three things will matter in 2009: my well-being, my writing, and my family.

THAT OLD END OF YEAR THANG

2008: International Year of Meh.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before? Have a story podcasted. Nanowrimo. Visited Adelaide. Pitched a television series. Joined Twitter. Joined Kingdom of Loathing.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? No. I don’t do resolutions. Too busy running in place just to appear like I’m managing

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Jasoni and Kate, a little baby boy.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Nope.

5. What countries did you visit? Adelaide? No, wait, that’s not another country, is it? What is it again? Oh, that’s right: 1973!

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? A novel sale.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Swancon weekend– having it forcefully presented to me how I was perceived by the local SF community enabled me to step back and concentrate on greater goals.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Pushing The Corpse-Rat King past 70 000 words– I think this novel, when it’s finished, will be the one that changes my career in a significant way.

9. What was your biggest failure? Failing to advance on so many fronts: personal, professional, and financial. I’d like to think that 2009 will represent a quantum leap for me.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Gout in my right ankle, although this year really was the year of the Connor injury– axe wounds, shovel wounds, underside of bicycle wounds….

11. What was the best thing you bought? Lawn for the backyard, which enabled us to put up a sandpit, and a swing set, and give our kids a proper place to go outside and play. Now the garden looks and feels like a place we want to spend some time around.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Lyn. No matter what fears she may possess, she always faces them head on– witness earlier this month, when my afraid-of-heights wife went abseiling off tall buildings with her work mates. Aiden, as well, for the continuation of his journey towards adulthood. I have never met a 15 year old more ahead of his age in terms of maturity, trust, and comprehension. He makes me immensely proud. Cassie continued her downward spiral for much of the year, only to start December by introducing us to her fiance, with whom she’s in love, and a whole new positive attitude towards her life that provided a cooling tidal wave of relief. My big hope for next year is to see her continue to set her life on the right path. Lastly, it’s worth mentioning the American voters, who were at least willing to take a punt on positive change. Fingers crossed it all works out for them.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? The Perth fan who came out of this year’s Mumfan awards and started to openly pimp herself for the award by listing her ‘achievements’ and loudly declaring how much she’d love to win the award some day, thereby pointing out her complete non-understanding of the award, as well as her level of egocentricity and shallowness. Subsequent behaviour has only confirmed it. The members of the local SF community who waited for the perfect opportunity to give me a kicking, then didn’t hold back when it arose.

14. Where did most of your money go? Ummm……. (turns about, looking for money)…. the garden, I guess.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Nothing much. It was a year of steadiness, rather than massive spikes of emotion.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008? Johnny The Horse, by Madness. Had a big impact on me, as the lyrics and general air of sadness that permeates the song really struck home.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? More content, and happier with my home life, although sadder about many other aspects of my life– work, Perth SF, et al.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Completing novels and pushing my career ahead.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Being distracted from my life goals. Focussing on the weights of the present rather than those aspects of the future for which I’m bearing them.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? All the kids will be at grandparents’ and/or other parents’ houses for Christmas Day, leaving Lyn and I to enjoy the day together. Boxing Day we’ll all be back together.

21. Who did you meet for the first time? The extended Fischerios, and sales staff across the Adelaide area.

22. Did you fall in love in 2008? Possibly developed a slight man-crush on the workshop area of the Adelaide air museum. But, you know, I met the love of my life when I met Lyn, so it’s easy to stay in love.

23. What was your favourite TV program? Top Gear. Blackpool. Dexter. Life on Mars.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Some contempt for certain individuals, but not outright hate. You save that for people who are worth it.

25. What was the best book you read? A toss-up between Happy Like Murderers- The True Story of Fred and Rosemary West and Bind, Torture, Kill- The Inside Story of the Serial Killer Next Door. Both stunning, revelatory works on a subject that abhors and fascinates me in equal measure.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Madness’ 1996 album Wonderful, which is. The Fratellis, whose first two albums have added swagger and bounce to our playlist.

27. What was your favourite film of this year? It’s been a very Hollywood year in the Batthome. Kung Fu Panda was a hoot, as was Iron Man, which wasn’t particularly great as a movie, but was certainly great as an excuse for my inner 8 year old to go utterly spaz. The Dark Knight was mesmerising, especially Heath Ledger’s performance. Special mention to The Golden Compass, which was such a towering pile of shit that it romped in for worst film of the year in January!

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 38, and it was all low key. The kids’ birthdays are the big ticket birthday item round our parts– Lyn doesn’t do birthdays, and I get a lot more excited about the kids’ ones than my own.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Contentment in every direction. 2009 may provide this: 2008 was one of those years where you endure the bumps because you can see past them to the clear, flat plains ahead.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Oh, let’s just accept that I don’t have one and leave it at that.

31. What kept you sane? My family, their belief and love for me, and their delightfully deluded assertion that I know what I’m doing.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? The US election dominated everything, although I was interested to see how much of the supposedly right-on, leftie attention was focussed on Barack Obama’s skin colour. In a truly equitable culture, only his qualifications for the job would matter.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. Don’t mistake a loose collection of people with similar interests for friends.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. Well, it hit home hard enough that I place it permanently at the top of this blog, so the choice is farly obvious, in the end:

Would you believe he came out well
He had a bright inquiring mind
His family knew that he’d go far
If he applied his time
But he started out standing on corners
And talking out loud, too loud
You see he couldn’t believe in himself or the world
Or anything he heard
Will you remember his name?

—–Madness, Johnny The Horse

THE FIRST LOOK BACK AT 2008

Gakked from my darling wife, the first of the end of the year round-ups:

Post the first line of the first blog entry for each month:

January: Check it out! The first issue of new magazine Sci Phi Journal, with stories by the likes of Stephen Dedman, Geoffrey Maloney, and yours truly.

February: It had to happen: the A-Boy turned 15 on Saturday, and for his present, we acceded to his desire to invite a whole bunch of friends to go paint-balling.

March: So we’re back, after a week in Snoozing-By-Sea.

April: According to Westnet, yesterday’s welcome-to-the-run-up-to-winter thunderstorms knocked out our local server, and they’ve no idea when it will be back on line.

May: The Katharine Susannah Prichard Speculative Fiction Awards 2008

June: One of the most outlandishly talented of my Clarion South students, Peter Ball (he of the unicorn porn physics) has a story up at Fantasy Magazine this week.

July: Goddamn, it’s been a year for losing genius’. Now George Carlin is dead, aged 71.

August: This Sunday, 17th August, at 3pm, the Chairperson of KSP, the CEO of the Shire of Mundaring and the Competition Judge – that would be me – will present the awards to the winners of the KSP Speculative Fiction Competition.

September: From their weekend trip to their Nanna’s, my cool kids:

October: Seanie, you’re my best and oldest friend, and you know how it is: some days, you don’t choose the music, it chooses you.

November: Over at the Specusphere, they’ve posted a review of The Beast Within, and we all come out of it rather well, don’t you think?

December: Ugh.

What does it all mean? Write your answers on the back of a brick marked What Does It All mean? and send it to anybody but me….

2007: THE FINAL COUNT

So, writer boy. How did it turn out, then?

Actually, writing was one of the few bright spots last year. Not as many appearances as in previous years, but a solid number of sales without being spectacular. In the end, it looked a bit like this:

IN PRINT

The Time Eater in Dr Who: Destination Prague
Beached in Daikaiju III
Father Muerte & The Joy of Warfare in Aurealis
Father Muerte & The Flesh in Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror Volume 20 (reprint)

SOLD

You Pretty Thing to Psi Phi Journal—out at this very moment
Truthful Remains to Black Box
Beached
to Daikaiju III
Never Grow Old
to Aurealis
Messages
to Black Box
In From The Snow
to Dreaming Again
The Metawhore’s Love Story to Canterbury 2100

Given that I spent large portions of the year dealing with the script for The Memory of Breathing, pitching the novel, and engaged in the AHWA mentorship, I’m reasonably pleased.

The question now, of course, is:

WITHER, 2008?

There’s a lot to be done, Battfans. I’ve committed to delivering a Father Muerte novel to an interested agent by mid-year, plus I want to finish one of the three other novels into which I’ve made good ground- The Corpse Rat King, Clowntown, or The Death of Vaz Tey. As a result, I’m likely to lay down less in the way of short stories, although they’re still my first love, so I’d like to complete a good half-dozen or so. And if I can sneak one in sideways through the door while nobody’s looking, I’d like to at least complete a short film script, or work towards snaffling another contract for a feature film—it’s an exciting form in which to work, and I loved doing so in 2007.

So, you know, that and lose ten kilograms and focus on my family and attend Swancon and make greater inroads into our mortgage and slough away everything that made 2007 such a negative experience and reinvent some sort of social life and maybe have a holiday and do the mentorship thing again and…. yeah, that sounds about right…..

2008 IN REVIEW

Yup, it’s that time of year: the point where I trot out the old year-in-review meme and slap down a few answers. To whit:

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before? Published a Doctor Who story, volunteered at my daughter’s school, saw publication in the Year’s Best F&H, planted a vegetable garden, mentored a writer online.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? No, and no: as per the pirate code, I consider them more like goideloines.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No, but that should change next year, when Lyn’s best friend’s daughter has her baby.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No. I remember the day the music died, but we hadn’t spoken for years.

5. What countries did you visit? None. I wanted to visit the country of the blind, and even poked out one eye, but then never got around to it. Should have planned things a bit better, on reflection…

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007? Peace. Tranquility. Career advancement.

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? None in particular: the year was highlighted only by the change in depth of craptitude.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Sending 14 stories out and selling 7. The Dr Who and Year’s Best publications. Picking and eating home grown tomatoes and strawberries.

9. What was your biggest failure? Cassandra.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? A mystery stomach illness that had me bedridden for nearly a fortnight, a chest infection that never really went away, a lot of physical pain generally.

11. What was the best thing you bought? The solar lights for the patio gardens are beautiful, the fans for the kids bedrooms are doing great work, but the family iPod and its car-player are, perhaps, the best buys this year.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Lyn, as always: the way she has struggled through depression, harassment, and the emotional bullying her daughter handed out was a source of inspiration. Aiden, also, has blossomed this year, into an amazing young man, with poise, maturity, and self-confidence, and it’s been a joy to be a part of it.\

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Cassandra. A descent into criminality, hatred, and bile that almost spelled ruin for Lyn and I. Last year, I hoped for the return of my favourite Bonus daughter. This year, I have no hope for that at all.

14. Where did most of your money go? The house. Transport to and from work. Lunch.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Not much, really. The continuing refinements to the house and gardens. Losing weight, until that stalled and began to move in the opposite direction again. Seeing my name in a Dr Who book- dorky, I know, but something I wished for as a kid and never seriously thought I’d see

16. What song will always remind you of 2007? “Days” by the Kinks. “Grace Kelly” by Mika. “C is for Cookie” by Cookie Monster- I’ve taken a lot of car trips with the kids this year….

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? Sadder, thinner, richer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Writing. Being with my family. Being happy. Ignoring the bloodsuckers and emotional vampires.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Hating. Feeling helpless. Carrying around depression and anger. Failing. Hurting.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? Picking children up, dropping children off.\

21. Who did you meet for the first time? Sally Harding, my new work acquaintances, Mark Smith-Briggs, the 2007 Clarionites, Jasoni and Amazon Kate, Kelly Link & Gavin Grant, Gardner Dozois, the lovely people at Queensland Writer’s Centre.

22. Did you fall in love in 2007? Stayed in love.

23. What was your favourite TV program? Neat. The City Gardener. From Junky to Funky. The Family Guy. Time Team. Garden Invaders.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Just myself.

25. What was the best book you read? The Portrait of Mrs Charbaque by Geoffrey Ford, by a street. Also James Tiptree Jr: The Double Life of Alice B Sheldon by Julie Phillips (Proof that one man’s literary hero is another’s egocentric, drug-addled murderer). Special mention to Geoffrey Ryman’s short, Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter which is one of the most amazing stories I have ever read: haunting, beautiful, terrible, perfect.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? Richard Cheese was both cool and hilarious. Mika is a lot of fun, especially the high-rotation-at-our-house Grace Kelly. But again, it was a case of what is old is new: A Hot-Fuzz-Soundtrack driven rediscovery of The Kinks and their brilliant back catalogue, especially Days, which I have decided to have played at my funeral, Death of a Clown which inspired a to-be-written-in-2008 novel, and Plastic Man, eternally changed by Erin into ‘The Song With The Plastic Bum’.

27. What was your favourite film of this year? A very thin year for fillums due to lack of opportunity. We just didn’t get out to them. Casino Royale was excellent, as was Hot Fuzz. Howl’s Moving Castle, which we saw on DVD, was delightful. The Illusionist was okay, at least better than that over-rated Jackman/Baile one whose name escapes me. Transformers was a laugh, but mainly because I went with the boys. Ratatouille was decent, but nothing more. Must make mention of Bee Movie, however, which walks away with the prize for biggest pile of shit viewed this year. Jerry, if you’re reading, just stop. Please: just stop.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 37. Kept it quiet. Was in the middle of a minicon at the time, so apart from a lovely panel audience rendition of Happy Birthday, led by my good friend Stephen, just cruised through it. Did a panel on Wacky WWII Nazi weapons. As you do.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Happiness. Cassandra joining the decent side of humanity. Advancing my career in a meaningful way.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007? Same as last year: fat.\

31. What kept you sane? Gardening. Frisbee with the kids. Facebook, to distraction (Oooh, I just thought of New Year’s resolution…), The CI Channel, comfort eating, Lyn Lyn Lyn Lyn LYN.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? Even the Federal election was a humdrum non-event. Hard to care about industrial reform when you’re driving through the night to pick your kid out of gaol.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007. Doors are built to keep the world out, and they’re not just physical.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I was a, was a kamikaze pilot
They gave me a plane, I couldn’t fly it home.
Taught me how to take off, I didn’t know how to land.
They say it doesn’t matter and I just cannot understand.
— I was a Kamikaze Pilot, Hoodoo Gurus

So there you go. Same time next year!

MEET THE NEW YEAR, SAME AS THE OLD YEAR

Let’s hope so, anyway.

See, I’ve been wandering around, carrying the impression that 2006 sucked the farts out of dead pigeons. I blogged about this a few posts ago, but the gist is: I was wrong. I fell into the habit of thinking negatively about the year, as a result of my underlying depressive nature and a few acts of ne’er-do-well by the Universe. When I actually sat down and thought about it objectively, the truth is, I had a damn good year.

In no particular order, I:

  • Won the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story and the Australian Shadows Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Horror genre.
  • Released my short story collection Through Soft Air and had a sold-out launch at Swancon
  • Was commissioned and wrote the first two drafts of the film version of Lyn’s story The Memory of Breathing
  • Was commissioned and wrote a Doctor Who short story
  • Wrote and sold a story to a project called Monster Noir, which was the single most enjoyable writing experience of my career
  • Was approached by a State Writing Centre to discuss the possibility of being involved in the establishment of an online writing school
  • Was commissioned to conduct two writing workshops in another state
  • Bought and moved into a new house, and discovered a love of gardening that I’d previously only dabbled with
  • Started my second novel and received positive feedback from a number of agents regarding my first.
  • Saw publication in a number of magazines
  • Had a story selected for the Datlow/Link/Grant-edited Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror #20
  • Was nominated for 2 Aurealis Awards for 2006: Best SF Short Story & Best Fantasy Short Story

And my family, who always fill me with pride and love, enriched my life in so many ways throughout the year.

  • My beautiful son Connor survived an operation to correct his crossed eyes, and blossomed into an excitable, lively, intelligent, wonderful two year old.
  • Erin completed a year of kindy, becoming the world’s most devoted drawer, colouring-in-erer, and dancer to Mummy’s music in the process
  • Aiden finally won out over his father and came to live with us on a full-time basis, as well as completing his first year of high school; attending his first Con; appearing on his first panel and acquitting himself with aplomb; and generally grew into a funny, self-confident, articulate and capable young man.
  • Blake announced, just before Christmas, that he wants to change his living arrangements so that he lives with us on a shared care basis. He also graduated primary school; saw the publication of my short story that bears his name; and developed a spiritual steel to go with the sensitivity he has always borne, showing us a maturity that bodes well for his development into an incredible young man.
  • Cassie, struggling with the demands of peers, family, and the approach of full adulthood, still gave us a glimpse of the artist she denies, gifting us with several beautiful paintings, and inspiring the creation of a new local convention, Femmeconne, dedicated to the female side of Perth fandom and family life; remained a devoted and caring big sister to Erin and Connor; took the first steps into the workforce; and maintained the opinionaoted and passionate heart which defines her strength of character.

And Lyn, my wonderful and magnificent wife, was accepted into Clarion South; won a Tin Duck for Best Short Story published by a Western Australian author in 2005; saw the publication of two stories that represented a quantum leap in her craft as writer (Edges in Shadowed Realms #9 and The Hanging Tree in Borderlands #6), was Guest of Honour at Fandomedia and handled the role with such assurance that she garnered a whole slew of new fans and reminded her friends and peers of just what a talented, beautiful soul she carries with her; returned to full time work; gained a Certificate IV in Massage Therapy; broke the silence to her children about the terrible acts perpetrated upon her during her childhood; and in every way made me sit back in awe and pride at just what an amazing woman I married.

And we moved into our new house, and renovated a run down, worst house in the street until it became a warm, colourful, comfortable sanctuary for our family. And we flew to Canberra for the National Convention and reconnected with old friends as well as finally matching faces to online friends. And on, and on, and on…….

I’ve got such plans for 2007. Life is good.

2006

Yon annual big-ass year in review meme.

1. What did you do in 2006 that you’d never done before? Saw my book published. Won an Aurealis Award. Won the Australian Shadows award.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? No, and no.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Nope.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No.

5. What countries did you visit? None.

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006? An agent.

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 20th January. Finally moved into our new house.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? I don’t feel like I’ve achieved very much at all this year. Maybe the publication of Through Soft Air, I guess.

9. What was your biggest failure? In my best Cerebus the Aardvark voice, “All of it!”.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Just the usual back and neck pain.

11. What was the best thing you bought? That’d have to be our house. Also, the canvas and paints for our massive dining room family artwork.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Luscious, as always.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I’ve tried not to keep track so much this year. Some peers, some editors, some family, me, the usual mix. Special marks to Cassie for several truly awful moments. She’s my big hope for 2007- I want to see the return of my favourite Bonus Daughter.

14. Where did most of your money go? The house. Clarion. Lyn’s massage course.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Tutoring at Clarion. The publication of the book.

16. What song will always remind you of 2005? The David Bowie compilation CD Grant Watson burned for us.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer? Sadder, fatter, poorer.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Writing, as always. Being with my family. Seeing my children achieve their milestones. Travelling with the family.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Travelling to my day job. Having my day job. Dealing with other people’s former lives. Dealing with my own.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? With Lyn & the kids, kicking back as far as possible. We’ve even set things up so we don’t have to cook! I believe music and paddling pools will feature large 🙂

21. Who did you meet for the first time? Iain & Lynn Triffitt. Launz! Gillian Pollack. Karen Miller. Tansy & Finchie’s daughter Aurelia. Maia? The lovely Jo, Wuffie, Jim Frenkel, Russell Blackford, and undoubtedly a whole bunch of other people at Conflux. Bound to be a bunch I’ve forgotten: I have a tendency to think I’ve known you longer than I have. The usual mass of online personages.

22. Did you fall in love in 2006? Stayed in love. Much better.

23. What was your favourite TV program? Time Team and Battlestar Galactica. Yep, I’ve found another SF TV show I think is decent. That brings the total to….. uh…… two?

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? No, I don’t really have the energy for hate these days. A lot of people wearied me, though, and I’m slowly cutting my exposure back.

25. What was the best book you read? It’s Goodnight From Him: An Autobiography of The two Ronnies by Ronnie Corbettwas really very engaging. Marvel 1602. Doom Patrol: Down Paradise Way, and The Painting That Ate Paris. Beside Myself by Antony Sher.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? It was a case of new stuff by old fellows this year. The Bowie 89-99 CD hasn’t left high rotation since Grant gifted it to us, and the 3 CD set of his earlier work has remained a constant companion. Besides that, Songs From the Labyrinth by Sting and Edin Karamazov is by turns beautiful, haunting, and fascinating. I’ve been turned off the radio this year by the proliferation of rap and hip-hop every time I tune in, so I’ve missed most of the new music coming out. I’m hoping 2007 will rescue me from being an old man.

27. What was your favorite film of this year? Capote. Children of Men. Otherwise, it was a pretty ordinary cinematic year.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 36. The kids made me breakfast in bed, Lyn took me out for lunch, and I spent the rest of the day reading my Ronnie Corbett book and watching my Dave Allen DVD. And Chuck McKenzie claims he never left the 70s… :).

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? An absence of ex-husbands.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006? Fat.

31. What kept you sane? Play time with Connor. A little de-stressing ritual Lyn and I developed, in which we make up a platter of finger foods and lie together on the bed, drinking wine and eating brie, honeyed cashews and the like, watching something together on the TV: a slice of utter us-time amongst the chaos.

32. What political issue stirred you the most? Australian politics is overblown and boring, and I avoid it as much as possible. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…..

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006. Not a single person in the world cares about your plans as much as you do.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Life has a way that’s unpredictable
But you can’t spend it waiting on a miracle
— Believe, Bernard Fanning

MARK: FAIL!

Every single one of them. Every. Single. One.

The goals I set myelf for 2006, back in December 2005. And I failed to achieve every single one:
Okay, so I’m going to: lose 10 kilos, write 10 stories and attempt to sell as many, write and sell a new novel, and I’ve set an amount of money I want to earn over and above my regular wages to contribute to the mortgage. Odds anyone?A nice task I set myself is to start each year by beginning a new story on the 1st of January, no matter what projects I’m already working on.

I’m so not doing this for 2007. I have two goals for the year, both of which hinge on the actions of others, so this time next year, when I’ve failed to achieve those, I can blame other people!

Always thinking, me…..

A SENSE OF PROPORTION

I have a strange bipolar sense of my achievements this year. If I list them objectively, then by any set of standards I’ve had a pretty good year: published a book; won a couple of awards; worked on a couple of fantastic projects; wrote a Doctor Who story and patted my inner child on the head with it; was commissioned to write a screenplay for a motion picture; moved into my new house….

Yet my overall emotional reaction, when I look back over the year, is one of disappointment. I don’t feel like I’ve had a good year. So where the hell does it come from? Well, there’s a lot of personal stuff, stuff that doesn’t see the light of blogging, but that happens every year, and I plough through and take comfort from my wife and children, and that hasn’t changed. So what is it?

The reason, I think, is that I identify myself so heavily as a writer. Nothing terribly awful or unusual about that, as far as I’m concerned: nobody weirds out at a plumber who identifies himself with his job, or a Public Servant (Maybe a proctologist, but, you know….) A lot of people at my day job identify themsevles via their work, and as I don’t give a rat’s arse about my day job, and I give a big rat’s arse about my writing career (You know, that really doesn’t come out quite right, does it?) I figure I’ve got one identificational landmark in the bank….

So writing is a large part of who I am, and while I’ve been working on big things all year, I’ve really not written, finished, and sold anything. I’ve grown used to that routine. I average ten or so story sales a year, and it’s come to mean something central to my perception of myself as a writer. That little kick, that little buzz, that comes with the acceptance letter, the cheque, and then watching from afar as the magzine is put together, as they send you a pdf of your illustration, you might get a sneaky peek at the cover illo, it hits the shelves or you do a reading at the launch….. it’s a fucking wonderful state of affairs, and apart from the collection (a schemozzle for another time…), I’ve not had it this year.

Fuck: I’m an addict. I mean, genuinely, without a sense of irony, to all intents and purposes I have developed an addiction to the act of writing and selling short stories. And it’s affecting my moods.

That really disturbs me, actually….

THE YEAR IN REVIEW MEME

Gakked from Wheatland Press, the year based around the first line of the first posts from each month. Doctor Freud, white courtesy phone, Doctor Freud, white courtesy phone…..

JANUARY So what was the point of packing away all the kids toys, when everybody just goes and buys more for them than we’d packed?

FEBRUARY Received a phone call from the stylish and altogether frabjous Jason Nahrung last night.

MARCH I was going to give you the text of my speech, for some sort of posterity reason or something, and forgot.

APRIL Thanks to the kindness of the lads at Aurealis, I have 10 copies of their latest issue, #36 currently sitting next to me on the bookshelf (that’s right, I work from a bookshelf. It’s cramped, but cozy…)

MAY Blake and Cassie go back to their Dad’s house tonight, having spent the last week with us for the school holidays.

JUNE When I started writing, I wanted one thing: to sell a story.

JULY Ticonderoga Online issue 8 is online, and it features my story Fade.

AUGUST Well, now this is an interesting sensation: woke up this morning at 5.30, and went in to deal with an unsettled Connor, and discovered something fun and wacky–I can’t straighten my back

SEPTEMBER These two worthy website are in need of a wee bit of cash in hand to keep themselves floating, and both deserve a nod in the direction of your wallet.

OCTOBER Well, we’ve known about one for a while, but congratulations to everyone who will be attending Clarion South in January of 2007.

NOVEMBER Added another 1007 words to The Corpse-Rat King over the weekend, breaking the magical 10K barrier and the magical 10% barrier all at the same time.

DECEMBER Lots of love and wonder to our beautiful daughter Erin, who turned 5 yesterday.

Song of the Moment: Oi To The World The Vandals
Reading: Endangered Species Gene Wolfe