Wednesday, January 31, 2007
The contracts for Father Muerte & The Flesh to appear in this year's Best Fantasy & Horror Vol. 20.
IT'S ENOUGH TO GET A MAN THINKING
I've been cleaning the office today, and now that I have a box for them, I've discovered just how many thumbnails for single and three-panel comics I've scribbled down over the years.
In fact, at one or two a week, I wouldn't have significantly less than a year's worth of material.
Song of the moment: All Along The Watchtower Jimi Hendrix
Reading: Still amongst the Vukcevich stories
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Now, it's well known that Luscious has a phobia about flying. It's probably less well known that I'm as eager about it as a private school student with a trip to see Nursie and a bowl of warm vaseline. I loves it, I tells 'ee, I bloody loves it.
I mean, come on! On Sunday night, interrupted only by an attractive woman who gave me a warm meal with a cool drink and a chocolate bar and who then did the dishes for me, I: read several stories from the Ray Vukcevich collection Meet Me In The Moon Room and discovered another author I would kill to write like; saw a movie; watched Stephen Fry drop Parky to the floor in hysterics; wrote an entire short story; ate; drank; did I mention the chocolate?; had a nap; and performed one of my favourite solo acts, that I've not had the opportunity to do in some years- listened to several hours of music, in the dark, with my eyes closed with no fear of interruption.
What's not to love?
LABYRINTH OF THE FAUN
Saw Pan's Labyrinth whilst in Brisbane. It's a slow movie, and for much of the first two-thirds of the film seems slow without great reason to be so. Then the screws tighten, and it slides towards so many terrible consequences with inexorable momentum that you find yourself appalled and invested in equal quantities.
It's a remarkable achievement: layered, complex, and deeply tragic. I fell in love with it a little bit, I think.
As my pal Ben Maulbeck said afterwards: all that, and Franco still ruled for 40 years.
....AND IT'S GOODNIGHT FROM HIM
All right, that's all for now. A smattering of falderal to finish--
I've been contatced by Producer Matt, who wants me to work on a third draft of the movie. This is a good thing: he likes where I'm taking it and has a screed of notes to help me thicken the world behind the plot. I should have it all done by mid-late February. If this movie doesn't get made, I may have to climb a water tower....
I've received a swathe of good advice regarding the selling of Napoleone's Land, and I'll be pushing hard to turn this excellent (in my humble opinion :) ) manuscript into a sold novel over the next few months. My deepest thanks to Kate Eltham, Gavin Grant, and Kelly Link for the wisdom.
I anticipate having two new stories in envelopes by the end of next week, and half a dozen out by the end of February. After a lean 2006, I have sloughed the majority of distractions from my eyes, and am prepapring for a significant change in my work habits across 2007. My second novel, The Corpse Rat King, should crest the halfway point by end of February as well, which will make me a happy writer.
I've read over 50 stories already this year, counting the 17 I read from my Clarion students. The Batterslog has been updated. No novels as yet: I might remedy that after I finish the collection I'm currently reading. Of course, maybe I should shove graphic novels under that heading. That'll fill it out pretty quickly :)
Back to school for Aiden tomorrow. Think pitying thoughts at about 8.30 Perth time. Erin starts pre-primary on Thursday, and due to a happy confluence of tween-jobbyness, I'll be able to take her for her first day. Tune into the mentosphere and feel my happiness :)
Erin's first tooth fell out while I was in Brisbane. Apparently, the tooth fairy pays $2.50 at Nanna's house! She'll be taking a significant pay cut if she ever flies around here, I can tell you....
The Chronicles of Riddick is a piece of shit. But such a fun piece of shit.
Dinosaurs and Satan. Who could ask for more?
I have no words to tell you how wrong this is. It's so very, very wrong. I laughed so much I was in pain.
Of course, I did have other things to do while I was in Brisbane, chief amongst them being two workshops for the Queensland Writer's Centre: The Art of Critiquing, and The Proper Care And Feeding of Your Genre- Writing SF & Fantasy.
Goodness gracious me. How many people can you cram into a room? 16 people came for the Thursday night session, and another 22 for the SF writing on Saturday. That's a whole lot of heads, people. That's a whole lot of eyes.
Thankfully, I had great rooms. There's something about the air in Brisbane: they take their writing very, very seriously. They worked me like a thrupenny upright, pushing questions at me from all angles, taking notes and voicing opinions, and writing like editors were lining up at the door outside. The QWC were professional, supportive, and couldn't hae worked harder to make the experience positive and enjoyable. Like the Clarion experience, I want to work with these guys again. Money is one thing, but I felt rewarded.
I don't know what it is about Perth, I really don't. But I entered another sphere in Queensland, and from a purely writing point of view, I can't help but feel that my own professional development has been (and will be) hindered by my choice of location. If you can't have everything, then this was the everything I can't have. I've come home with an awful lot to think about. Look for a change in habit, starting from the end of tonight's posts.
OPEN UP AND SAY AA
Saturday night, of course, saw the staging of the 11th annual Aurealis Awards. Being in town with nothing better to do than to make a drunken spectalce of myself, I toffed me up (Student Peter: Your feet! They're in shoes!) and took my beautiful lady love for a night out amongst the fitlitglitterati.
It's a good night, the AAs: the ceremony is quick, and carries the right mix of professional respect and laid back bonhomie; the bar is free and plentiful; and everybody is generally pretty damn happy to see each other. Like any awards, they carry their share of the ludicrous (this year, we were treated to-- a full length graphic novel being nominated (and winning) the short fiction gongs; a presenter with a pathological inability to pronounce Eidolon, and a novel that only tied in its category being pronounced the clear winner of the Golden Aurealis for Best in Show). Yet it's all taken with a pinch of salt, and when the evening turns for the serious, the respect and admiration in the room is something to behold: I had the very good fortune to be sitting next to Bill Congreve, and when he was awarded the Peter MacNamara Award, the response was enough to give him the shakes. Bill is the coolest of cool customers, but he spent a large part of the ceremony turning his award over in his hands, and taking it out the box one more time read the inscription. I like Bill a hell of a lot, and was as happy as a very happy thing to see him pick this award up. For me, as unsuccessful in my categories as I had expected to be (I hadn't a second's uncertainty about who would win my sections, and I was dead right), it was the highlight of the evening.
I did, however, manage to get onto the stage once: as official Western Australian carrier of acceptance speeches, I had notes for no less than 4 other nominees in my pocket, and when Stephen Dedman deservedly struck gold in the Horror Short Story section, I was able to sidle up to utter a few words in his defence. Unfortunately, I can report that no amount of scraping with the edge of a ten cent piece can remove a name from the front of an Aurealis Award.....
After several hours of concentrated drinking (Ten beers, I tells 'ee! Ten!) and catching up with faces both familiar and new (A big Hello to Gary Kemble, who I was delighted to meet for the first time), Lyn and I eventually succumbed to the noise, heat, and dehydration and accepted a lift home sometime around 11.30. It had been fun, it had been an honour to step into Stephen's shoes, and it was a relief to lay my weary drunken head on my pillow.
It's likely to be my last AA ceremony for some time, so I damn well made the most of it, your honour.
A hearty conratulations to this year's winners. Much as I'd like to bitch and moan... well, okay, no, I haven't the least desire to bitch and moan. There's not a writer who was gonged who isn't a leader in the Australian SF field, and I don't have to read Williams or Lanagan or Dedman to know that when they get gonged, they deserve it. It's a good crowd, this one, and it's good to be amongst them. Slainte to you all.
So..... well..... I'd love to say: Here I am, a good night's sleep under my belt, a restful day spent kicking around the house, and I'm ready to rumble.
Unfortunately, I get to say: a night of rumbling sleep below the belt, I think I saw the inside of my house, and ready or not, here's my post...
Was hot! Not 40+ degress-what-the-fuck-is-going-on? hot like Perth, but at only a few degrees lower in temperature and with an average humidity of approximately 427%, I spent two weeks gaining an understanding of what it must feel like to live in Colleen McCullough's armpit. However, delightful visual images aside, we're here to talk about what went on, so for part the first, let's discuss....
Let's be straight about one thing: I never again want to tutor at a long-term workshop where I'm placed in an unequal power relationship with Luscious. We knew it would be hard. We're not stupid. And we probably spent longer talking about our week together than we did living it. But Lyn is my wife, my love, and my equal, and we long ago made the decision that we were exactly equal in every way-- as people, as managers of our relationship, and as writers. Being forced into a situation where that equality was misaligned, as a matter of policy, left a stain.
Now that's said, let's be equally straight about this: if they ask me back again to tutor in two years time, I'll be on the plane so fast I'll leave contrails.
The stories were, for the most part, exciting. The students were, for the most part, a passionate, dedicated, egoless bunch who threw themselves into all aspects of the writing environment with a zeal I responded to in a very visceral way. The social aspects of a 24-hour-a-day writing environment went off: Lyn and I hosted a wine and cheese evening in the tutor's apartment on Wednesday night; I was invited to dinner on another; spent an obscene amount of time in cafes and students' apartments gabbling on about writing; watched several episodes of Firefly at the behest of Jess Irwin (No, before you ask, I still don't think it's very good. I will watch the rest of the series before I review. But no, it's still overrated); watched a group of pals eating the dodgiest Lebanese food in existence after my well-attended reading on Thursday; made several pals I'll keep with me for quite a while (Lee's Boys: details to come); and then there was Mafia..... Oh, Mafia.
I'm not going to explain it here. It's a card game. Sorta. And an RPG. Sorta. And a party game. Sorta with chips. And it's hilarious, and will make you paranoid for days, and after a dozen games in 2 weeks I can still tell you exactly how I could have won every game, if only they'd have let me...... I need 12 volunteers, one evening, and a drink or two. Then I'll have converted you.
It was an absolute priviledge to be allowed to spill my ideas out in front of such true believers. In my honest opinion, there are several students who will go on to create substantial bodies of work in the years to come. The atmosphere in the crit room was passionate, open, and honest, and some of the critiquing was of a standard that would humble anything I've received in the past, even by some professional who do it for a living. Previous students have talked about Clarion as a crucible, and they're right: it will be impossible for any of the attendees to emerge without having become better writers. Some will be very good indeed.
The week took about a day and a half, by my reckoning. At the end of it, the students presented me with the most wonderfully hilarious and delightful gift (more below), as well as posing as unicorns with me for our group photo. I left them to the tender mercies of Kelly Link, exhausted, invigorated, and desperately sad to leave. Thankfully, that wasn't my last act: Kelly and Gavin Grant, her editor-publisher-partner, invited me back on so many occasions that I spent roughly half the next week on campus and completely failed to meet up with any of my intended lunch dates. But it meant that I was able to read mopre stories, this time as friend rather than tutor (and with some of those guys, that was a fine treat indeed), play more Mafia, take in a movie, and generally hang out and talk writing more than I'd have hoped for.
I want to do it again.
It seems I have been adopted :)
For reasons beyond my ken, but possibly because I am a big, eager doof who was obviously having way too much fun just being there, several of the students dubbed themselves Lee's Boys, and proceeded to hang out and entertain me just for the damn fun of it.
So, to Ben, Dan, Jason, Jasoni, Jess, Laura, Alessio, Chrisses G&L, Peter and Michael, I have only this to say:
Look into my cold, dead, lizard eyes. I am not Mafia.
Song of the moment: Dead Are Dancing Toni Childs
Reading: Meet Me In The Moon Room Ray Vukcevich
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
I know I should update about Clarion, and Brisbane, and all the other bits and bobs of effluvia with which I can clutter up the ether.
But all you really need to know is: Clarion was a hoot, I had a great time, and I invested in both the process and the people. I made some friends I will carry with me when I leave, and read some stories I expect you will all see in print really soon. Lyn and I survived the experience, just.
I'm still here in Brisbane, with 2 workshops, the Aurealis Awards, and the industry love-in still to come before I fly out. A heartfelt apology to those with whom I discussed the possibility of lunch: it doesn't look likely that I will get the time to do anything, as I'm still spending a lot of time assisting with Clarion, and a surprise movie deadline has me chained to a keyboard for the rest of it.
This has become less a busman's holiday than a break in office routine.
As to the rest of it, well, it won't interest you, isn't that important to anybody but me, and I can't be bothered talking about it.
Not sure how often I'll be ether-chatting upon my return: several things have become self-evident sicne I've been here, the most obvious of which is that I need to write this year. The second most obvious of which is: I'd rather.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Well, I've just returned from dropping Luscious off at the airport. In less than an hour she'll be in the air, and her Clarion South adventure will have started.
I've done a pretty damn good job of straight-facing her fear of flying and the sadness at being apart for so long (we've never spent so long away from each other), because she needed the reassurance to get her on the plane. When you have to take the weight of medication she has to take to fly, the last thing you need is a reason to worry or change your mind.
But the truth is, I'm rather bereft, and the house feels big and empty and quiet. I'm beyond proud of my darling wife, not least because she's willing to risk her ego, fears, and self-confidence to attend a writing course I'm convinced she has the talent not to need, because she feels it's the best thing for her career. She has strength, character, and talent beyond my ability to measure, and I'm humbled to think she wants to spend her life sharing her days with me.
I'm going to feel very lonely until I see her again.
Song of the moment: I Scare Myself Thomas Dolby
You know, I'm developing a reputation as a writer of horrific things.
This is real life. I can't imagine anything like this.
I genuinely don't know how to respond to this. I just.... I really am in a responsive limbo here. The implications are.... Jesus....
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I wasn't really going to do this, because I don't set myself goals for reading or watching films, but then I decided, hey, what the heck: it won't cost me terribly much more effort than my normal blogging, and it'll be interesting to see what I get through.
2006 was a pretty thin year on both cinema and reading fronts: I just didn't get out to see much, and didn't read much while I was failing to get out. This year I'm going to make an effort to do a bit more. And, you know, I'm always keen to see how much I write.
So, a reading/writing/watching log. And let's be honest: given the name of this little journal, what else could I call it, but--
For what it's worth.
Hey, thank The Big Charlton Heston Impersonator In the Sky for independent bookstores, or the majority of Australian SF writers would have nothing to brag about.
Which is my way of saying Through Soft Air was the 6th highest selling title for Fantastic Planet Bookstore during 2006.
Outselling the likes of Adrian Bedford, Marianne De Pierres, and Simon Haynes is a nice fillip for the ego. Outselling the likes of Charles de Lint, George RR Martin and Neil Gaiman proves that statistics mean nothing :)
Monday, January 01, 2007
For reasons of oddness, we proclaimed 2006 as a 15 month year: we started on the 1st october 2005, and finished yesterday. In a week's time, Lyn flies out to Clarion South, and doesn't return until the end of February.
So 2007, for the Triffbats, is hereby the Ten Month year. All our plans start on the 1st of March.
I'm not setting any resolutions this year. But I do have some goals, and, you know, they're vague enough that I'll find a way to paint them as a success come next January, if I have to :)
- I exhibited genuine growth as a writer during 2006. I want to make the jump, this year, from a mainly Australian sales record to selling mainly in the US and Europe. I want to continue to grow: creatively, artistically, and commercially.
- I want to sell my first novel, and complete my second.
- I want to write a short, mainstream novel.
- I want to finish establishing the gardens around the house, and to eat the first harvest from a vegetable garden
- I want to create a webcomic
- I want to set up a Cafe Press shop and offer at least half a dozen designs for sale
- I want to sign with an agent
- I want to establish enough financial security that I can purchase my first share portfolio
- I want a measurable percentage of my income to come from alternative source to a 9-5 day job
- I want to feel happy at the level to which I have created self-sufficiency and independence from traditional, mainstream methods of living (Ya know: veggie garden, rainwater tank, chicken run, that sort of thang)
- I want to be thinner, weigh less, and be healthier
- I want to establish my online world in one cohesive, homogeneous whole, bringing together my website, blog, LJ, mailing lists, shops, writings and so forth into a single, recognisable, easy to follow 'brand'
- I want to discover at least half a dozen musical artists I haven't previously heard
That'll do for starters
So, after our big walloping announcement a couple of months ago, the world has changed around us.
To be more precise, Blake has changed our world.
If we went to Brisbane, he wasn't coming with us. He was going to stay here with his Dad, and we would fly him over every school holiday to spend them with us. And that was fine, we thought, because he lives with his Dad full-time and we've become reconciled to making the most of what time we get with him. It's become a routine. Not the ideal routine, not the one we want, but it makes him happy and that's what counts. And we knew that we'd make the new routine work too, as much as we could.
And then he changed it.
On Boxing Day, as we were all scattered about the house doing our own thing, he quietly came into the bedroom where Lyn and I were lying on the bed reading. He sat down between us, curled into his Mum, and without any fuss, calmly told us that he loved us, and wanted to change his care arrangement to shared care: two weeks with his Dad, two weeks with us. He misses his brothers and sister when he's not with them. He misses us. He's happy when he's with us and he's happy with his Dad, and he wants to share it equally.
What do you say to that? What can you say except We love you. We're happy you love us. Of course you can. We'll do everything we can to make it happen.
Then, on the 28th, while I was at work, he climbed a tree at the park across the road from us, attempting to retrieve his new boomerang from its perch. The tree was high, the branch was weak, the fall stopped suddenly. And broke his arm.
Lyn rushed him to the doctor: there were x-rays, and pain killers, and a cast, and now he's happily playing the Playstation one-handed and counting the days until his cast is dry enough to write on.
But I was a wreck: I was stuck at work, an hour's drive away, while it all happened. I was so far away. And Lyn was at home, and she coped beautifully, because she's a brilliant mother and knows how to hide her fear and heartache from her children.
But later that night, when everyone was asleep, and we lay in our bed debriefing the day, she cried over her son's pain, and told me what Blake had said when he was in the doctor's surgery: I wish Lee was here. He could make me laugh. And then I cried, and we talked some more, and we realised---
We can't do it. We can't go to Brisbane. No matter how much we rationalise it to ourselves, and to anyone else, we can't leave any of our children behind. We're a family, all seven of us. The moment we leave Blake or Cassie, we're not a family anymore. I can't handle being an hour's drive from them when bad things happen. How could I handle being a continent away? And how could Lyn live, knowing her child was hurt or in trouble and she was on the other side of the country and couldn't be there?
So: we're staying here, in Perth, with our family.
Pick your nose again and see what happens, boy!
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.