Friday, December 13, 2013


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


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 Books logo.

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?


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 their lives. 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. 

1 comment:

Grant said...

While you're straining to work out what your big achievement of 2013 was, allow me to help you: *you became a contracted children's novelist*.

You now have the same job as Roald Dahl and Joan Aiken.