Monday, December 28, 2015


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?


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.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Forty years ago today, I landed in Australia: a tiny, pale, extremely English boy of only-just 5.

I've never been back. Never been able to afford to. I've spent 89% of my life in one corner of South Western Australia-- 2 years in Kambalda, 2 years in Narrogin, the rest in a conurbation roughly 160 kilometres long with Mandurah in the South and Clarkson in the North. I currently live 12 kilometres from the house we lived in from the time we moved to Rockingham until my parents divorced.

To paraphrase an old comedian pal of mine, Vic Demised: I set out to explore the world, and got as far as Baldivis.

So, despite what Luscious says when she wants to wind me up after I've called them 'sweeties' once too often, or pronounced it DARby instead of DUHby, I'm not only not English (I was naturalised on my 11th birthday, so neither philosophically nor legally), I'm not even a decently cosmopolitan Australian. I'm just a Rockingham boy with tickets on himself.



A week or so ago, I turned 45. I’ve outlived Billie Holliday, F Scott Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Jackson Pollock…… of course, they achieved something, so, you know, I‘d better keep plugging away. My family celebrated by sending me out to see They Might Be Giants in concert-- one of my very favourite bands, and as always, they utterly kicked it: their seven-minute, foot-stomping, pogo-inducing, stadium rock version of their 90 second children's song Robot Parade will live long in the memory, as will bumping into a whole passel of colleagues and friends who were out getting their geekrock on. It was a weird moment-- for reasons too long to go into, the last time I'd seen TMBG was on the night of my eldest daughter's birth, when I was a very different person, with a wholly different life, and yet, some of the people I bumped into were the same people I had bumped into that night, as well, when I had only just dipped my toes into the world of authordom and SF fandom, and seeing their faces in the crowd was proof that I might, just maybe, have found my village. 14 years later, and it felt like seeing them again was an indicator of something I'd lost along the way-- nice to see them, but an unspoken realisation that, outside of thee sorts of occasions, I'm rarely, if ever, going to do so.
It got me looking back at some of my earlier birthday notes, and in particular, some of the things I was contemplating when I turned 40, half a decade ago. Back in 2010, as I was contemplating my fifth decade stretching out before me, I confidently aimed my thoughts towards becoming a full time writer by, well, today. It was never likely to happen, I happily acknowledged, but it felt like something to aspire to. It felt like a goal that, knowing I could not attain, I could at least track progress towards. I might not be a full-time writer, I reasoned, but I’d at least be writing.
It was a positive thought, but then, I was pretty positive all round. Five years later, and I think it’s fair to say it’s not that I’ve strayed off the path, as that somehow I got turned around, and the trees are too thick to remember where the path was.
I’d just started my job, and it still looked like the kind of job that I’d lain awake at nights begging for. It’s not turned out that way. It’s soured in the intervening years, and I’m far more miserable there than it ever makes me happy. I have managed to sell three novels, and I’ve got no complaints there. But slowly, inevitably, the day job has chipped and chipped and chipped away at my creativity, and my time, so that I would be lucky to have written 10,000 words this year. Three short stories, one of them a commission, none of them over 4000 words. That’s been my lot. I haven’t drawn a thing in two years. More and more, if I have free time, I’ve spent it flaked out in front of the television or tucked away in the garage, beavering away at the Lego hobby I’ve used to fill in the gaps where writing used to make me happy. Artistically, it’s hard not to feel like my time has come: it happens to most of us, sometime or other. Sometimes life ends our creativity before death gets the chance.
So it goes.
Thankfully, what happiness I do have comes from my family. I’m now older than my parents were when they split up, and my children are exactly the same age as my brother and I were. It’s an odd little confluence of numbers, but it has gnawed away at me since I realised. In my own, personal, time-stream, the next 5 years weren’t good ones. I lost my home, experienced genuine poverty, was abandoned by friends and teachers, viciously bullied, was closeted in close quarters with an embittered, spiteful mother whose anger was quick to surface and always aimed as verbal barbs at the people who couldn’t escape them—my brother and I. I clawed my way through high school by sheer dint of refusal to capitulate. It wasn’t until I found my way to University, and the first genuine freedom I’d known in years, that I was able to draw breath, sort through my emotions and aspirations, and try to become something of consequence. The track was a narrow one, and I nearly fell off it completely—my brother did, and as a consequence, we haven’t spoken in several years. I didn't, but it was a close run thing. I look back at the person I was before my first wife died, and genuinely believe none of you would have like him. I don't, and I'm pretty certain I didn't back then, either.
So, maybe, at 45, that’s my victory, and my task. I give my family a good home. My children are happy, contented, aspirational, safe, and comfortably middle class where both their Mum and I were scraping along the underside of the poverty line. My wife is talented, caring, constantly bettering herself and passing that betterment on to the rest of us for our own enrichment. We have money— if not in the bank, then at least in our pockets. Our food is fresh, or clothes new, our haircuts from a shop.
I’ve been an author, a stand-up comedian, a poet, a cartoonist, a tennis coach, a film student, a reviewer, a jewellery salesman, an artist. I thought that would last forever. I certainly thought so five years ago. Now, contemplating the next five years, I can’t help but think that side of things is over. I’ve shrunk, until I’m just another husband and father with a hateful job and too much TV. I just have to be a good one.

Monday, November 02, 2015


Here's a little treat to start your month off: my story The Smell of Wet Grass, over at SQ Mag, in full, for free.

Go. Read. Enjoy.

The read the rest of the magazine, and enjoy that, as well!

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Earlier this week, I had the great pleasure of finally meeting my lovely editor, Sue, who was in town for many reasons, one of which was to meet me and hand over the first ARC (Advance Reader Copy-- the version of the book given to reviewers, booksellers and various ne'er-do-wells in the hope of generating buzz before the official launch) of Magrit.

Magrit will be officially released in March next year, as a fully-illustrated hardcover. But I can, now, finally give you an indication of what it will look like. So, as a little Halloween treat, with a cover and interior illustrations by the wonderfully talented Amy Daoud, here's a little advance glimpse of Magrit.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


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

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

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

Write the scene as if:

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


Pretty, isn't it? It's the cover to the upcoming issue of SQ Magazine, available from November 1st. And if you look in the bottom right-hand corner, you'll see my name. 

Head on over to the SQ website and pick up a copy, to read The Smell of Wet Grass amongst a whole bunch of fine fiction.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


This Monday I'll be out at Mundijong Library running a writing workshop as part of this year's Write Along the Highway program. Last year's workshop was a barrel of fun, and I've got a mass of weird and wonderful exercises to push your boundaries all lined up. There are still places, so get on board and register on the WAtH website. Here's a little taste-- one I've dubbed The Princes in the Tower:

1. Describe an unusual interior space, one with lots of interesting appendages, gadgets, signs and/or features: an aircraft carrier; back room of a wunderkammer; boiler room of an apartment complex; restoration room of a museum, etc. The room must be a) real (no wizard towers, mines of Moria, etc) and b) innocent in purpose (no serial killer den or torture chambers)

2. Place two children in this space. Give them two possible reasons for being there-- one perfectly logical, the other less apparent.

3. One of these children will now die, for one of the reasons you have outlined. Make it so.

For this and more light-hearted, frabjous fungasms of writing joy-- check in, register, and join us!

Monday, October 19, 2015


My good friend Sue Ann has profiled my building space and AFOL journey at her blog The Brick Room Blog.

When you've finished reading my entry, have a scroll through the rest of the profiles. It's genuinely fascinating reading, encompassing everything from arts practice to family togetherness to alternative approaches to architecture.


Luscious and I are taking a week to hit Melbourne up during January, which will include a chance for me to get my head in to Brickvention, Melbs' fucknormous Lego display/convention/paloozarama while we're there.

As a way of sneaking into the AFOL day that happens before the public display, I've volunteered to add a spaceport to a community-build Micropolis city. If you're not familiar with Micropolis, the title should give you a bit of a hint-- everything is built to a teensy-tiny scale, on standard 16x16 'modules': four modules together equals a standard 32x32 baseplate. You can learn more here.

With Luscious flying out to attend a weekend of Weight Watcher's coach hobnobbing and general frivolity over the weekend, I surrendered control of the TV to the Brattersbabes and spent Friday night, and the early parts of Saturday morning, having a crack at my first ever micropolis build.

End result: I might be a little hooked.

What do you think?

The rocket leaves its hangar and journeys to where two astronauts wait atop the gantry, watched over by the control tower behind. 

Spaceships arrive for the launch, cruising past the administration building with its memorial statue in front. In the foreground, two aliens leaves their ships and make their way to the viewing platform, while a third gets in a sneaky abduction before the festivities begin.


A top view of the whole shebang, showing the cars in the car park, the viewing platform, and the various tiny 1x1 people wandering about.


For the past couple of years I've been blogging my annual trip to observe the Lego display staged by the WA Brick Society as part of the annual Model Railway Show at the Claremont Showgrounds. As a Lego fan it's a wonderful occasion, but also somewhat frustrating, as the gap between "I like" and "I can do" is a large, and unless you're a member of that group based north of the distant Swan River, exclusive one.

That's why, when the opportunity to display at Bricktober arrived as part of my membership of the Perth Lego User Group, I jumped on it. Apart from a chance to expose myself to the disdain or otherwise of those I'd critiqued in the past (hint: didn't happen. They're utterly lovely fellows, one and all), it was a great opportunity to take part in a community gathering the likes of which I hadn't experienced since SF Cons went slightly sour on me; to be one of the in-crowd, the insiders, that merry band of brothers united by a common love, and all that jazz.

So, last weekend, I boxed up my 'Tomb of the Unknown Spaceman' MOC after 6 month of construction, as well as half a dozen spacecraft, and took them to Cannington Showgrounds to display them at the 2nd annual Bricktober display, conducted by the indefatigable Stephen and Joanna Kendall for Ascot Rotary. And had a bloody ball in the process.

As someone who works in event management, the thing that struck me was just how well Bricktober is run, It's a huge event-- the Canning Showgrounds main hall is a big room, and while my little display just about filled half a standard trestle table (bumphed up to a full table by the addition of the stand-alone ships), I pretty much had the smallest display in the room: Rod Iseppi, the fellow two down from me, whose Tattooine display won the People's Choice Award, overflowed 4 trestles, and still wasn't the largest display. In total, there were something like 30 exhibitors, yet the room never felt crowded or cramped, and with more than 7000 attendees coming through over the 2 days, space was at a premium. 

Rod Iseppis' fucknormous Tattooine display. An absolutely stunning beast of a thing, and a well-deserved public choice winner.

Staggered entry times meant that we were never overwhelmed, and the range of activities for attendees to sample-- stop-motion movies, brick pit, interactive displays, crafts, technic-driving stands, and well-stocked sausage sizzle and drink stops (necessary, as both days were hotter than Satan's armpit) were just damn fun. An appearance by the 501st Legion, Star Wars cos players par excellence, and some superhero character cosplayers, helped maintain a happy, family-friendly atmosphere. 

A Stormtrooper helps keep alive my weirdly high success rate in getting photos of Star Wars characters posing with Daleks (It's true-- I have more than anyone would deem necessary) while the Liberal Party candidate for Canning presses the flesh of voters too young to force-choke.

And the crowds were, for the most part, utterly fantastic, split roughly 50/50 between kids dragging their parents from display to display and parents doing the same to their kids. My personal mix seemed to consist mainly of a) kids who loved the Daleks I'd included and wanted to talk about the upcoming Dr Who set, b) Dads the same, c) kids who loved the space ships because hey, spaceships!, d) Dads who loved the nods I'd included to the sets we grew up with when Classic Space was just Space, and e) people who couldn't quite believe that what I'd built was entirely the product of my own imagination and weren't a bunch of sets they'd just not seen before. Which, any way you cut it, is a compliment. Especially the guy who flat out didn't believe it, and called me a liar when I insisted :)

Still, as Paul-- the fellow next to me whose display was a medieval castle siege-- and I quickly, discovered, being next to a gigantic Star Wars display meant that the most common phrase we heard all weekend was "Look, spaceships. Look, a castle. OH, WOW, STAR WAAAAARRRRRSSSSS!"..... Next year, I'm going to put a Dalek minifig next to a Stormtrooper minifig in the middle of the table and save myself a tonne of work :)

Not everybody was complimentary, of course. The really fun thing about being behind the table, as anyone who works in customer service can verify, is that you can become invisible, or even more entertainingly, a servant. And it means people develop a delightful habit of saying exactly what they mean. I'm too old, and battle-scarred, to find it anything other than funny, so the best comments of the weekend, for me were:

Not the kid who looked at my display, read the sign, looked at the display again and said "Tomb of the Unknown Spaceman? I don't even know what an unknown spaceman is. Why would you even build that?" But his Dad, who replied "Yeah, I know," and moved him away.

And the middle-class accumulation of crust and wig powder who spied this cute couple amongst my display:

You there! I wanna take you to a gay bar!

And told me in no uncertain terms how disgusting it was that I would think to show off such obvious gays. For Pete's sake, can't we even have a display of children's toys without this sort of stuff?

Oh, those pesky gay aliens. Gay, plastic, minifigure make-believe, not-real toy aliens. Ruining our youth with their gay plastic alien vibes. 

Your Liberal voter in action, ladies and gentlemen.

Of course the best part of such comments, as anyone who works in customer service will tell you, is that the speaker has no idea how genuinely hilarious they are being. And when you're surrounded by the excellent crew of fellow exhibitors that I was, the whole weekend was one big puppy-cuddle of camaraderie. Which doesn't even take into account the displays. 

Oh my God, the displays. Let me tell's 'ee, I thought I'd done all right for myself. Thursday night, I thought I'd acquitted myself quite well for six months toodling abut and a first display. Then, by the time I'd finished setting up on Friday, I was pretty sure I was the least accomplished person in the room. Then I turned up on Saturday morning and saw what everyone else had unpacked, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that I am an embarrassment to my species.

Where shall I begin?

How about Quentin, fellow Baldivis builder, and his castle? Or The Kendalls and their insanely huge City layouts with the single-piece-by-single-piece harbour water so large I would have snapped and started my killing spree about a third of the way through? Or Dale's pirate cove that just went on, and on, and on, with more detail than an OCD sufferer's self-portrait? Or Ben. Young, pretty, looks-like-a-precocious-twelve-year-old-Ben. With his castle. And his brick-built dragon. And his Iron Man glove and armbands and chest rig that I thought looked so cool lying on the table surrounded by blue-prints and calipers and screwdriver and pencil and whatnots also, all, entirely built from Lego. Until ten minutes after I complimented him on how cool they were and he showed up at my table. WEARING THEM!

Skilled doesn't cover it. These guys are artists, working in a medium with seemingly infinite possibilities. 

So, next year I'll be back. With a bigger display. And ideas that push my design skills a bit further. Maybe the GARC finishing line and podium. Or the zombie apocalypse streetscape. A graveyard scene might be fun. Or Star Wars. Everyone likes Star Wars...... Because, godsdamnit, I may be a noob, and a cleft-thumbed idiot, but I'm competitive. I may never be the best one in the room, but I hate being the worst. 

Now, the pictures:

Quentin Slobe's utterly amazing castle.

One of two giant City displays.

Approximately a quarter of Joanna Kendall's harbour. Made up of 1x1 plates and wedges. One by one by one by one by one by one by where's my bloody gun....

Dale Horsley's immense, detailed, and utterly joyous Pirate Cove.

Ben's castle. Talented little so-and-so.

More Ben. 

You think this looks cool, right?

Talented, talented boy. 

And what of my build? What of 6 months work, and all those pieces? Well, the thing about Lego is, as much fun as it is to put together......


Sunday, September 27, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

He walks through them all.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


So, yeah, I've joined Weight Watchers. In fact, as you're reading this, I'm sitting outside the meeting room, waiting to start my third meeting.

It's Luscious' doing, really. She joined some months ago, swallowed the pill without complaint, and has worked so hard she's lost a fifth of her body weight and been approached to become a coach.

Faced with that sort of dedication and positive results, what chance did I have?

So, I've a fitbit on my wrist and my sneakers packed in my work bag, and all the crisps and choccie bars and pizzas and beer have been banished to the you've-had-your-share shelves. And I'm eating lunch at my desk and going for walks at lunch time, and generally just trying to follow in Luscious' tiny, increasingly-light-on-the-ground footsteps.

I weighed 85 kilograms when I had my car accident, maybe a kilo heavier when Sharon died. What I weigh now is no longer the fault of those experiences. So, no more excuses, or justifications. Tackle the weight, and the pain and lifestyle will fall into line.

First week in I lost 2.6 kilograms, which felt like a good start but also gives you some indication of just how much I have to lose.

I'll keep you abreast of how I go.


So, the hideous carbuncle that was Unca Jugears has been deposed. And, to date, he's managed to take pet rocks Peter Dutton and Joe Hockey down with him.

It's a start. But don't let the elevation of Shitslick Turnbull fool anybody: the policies remain, the right-wing conservatism and disdain for social and cultural advancement remain, the contempt for the vast majority of the electorate remains. That they have a more appealing sales rep just makes the Liberal machine that much more dangerous.

Bill Shorten was a non-entity for a time of despair, but we can no longer content ourselves in watching ghosts fighting ghosts.

The Liberal machine remains as vile as it ever was. The Labor machine still has no wheels, no fuel, and no gears. More than ever, your vote will count, come the next election.

Just because a turd has been polished, doesn't stop it from being a turd.


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

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

Says the guy who's remained with Blogger for going on 14 years......

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Way back when, I may have mentioned that I had foolishly agreed to build something for a Lego display in October called, you guessed it, Bricktober.

Yeah, so, October's nearly open us. And, if I'm honest, I may have gone a little mad.

See, the thing I came up with was a diorama called Arrival at the Tomb of the Unknown Spaceman. A whole rabble of space-themed minifigs disembark from a shuttle that's over 2 base plates long (a minimum of 64 studs), and wander around what can only be called a significant investment in grey blocks. It's taken me nearly 7 months to build, and it looks a lot like this:

Which is not the me-going-mad bit, so much as the deciding-that-wasn't-enough-and-what-I-really-had-to-do-was-build-a-bunch-of-different-spaceships-to-go-on-stands-next-to-it was. So, if you come along to the Canning Showgrounds on October 10 or 11, you'll also get to see a 52-stud long star fighter:

Another, slightly smaller star fighter:


And a teensy, tiny, 16-stud long Vic Viper**:

Clearly, I have lost my mind.

Thankfully, I've finished all that, and have no plans at all to build, saaaaay, another Vic Viper in the 40-50 stud long bracket.


For more information on Bricktober, including the fantastic competitions, displays, prizes, and attractions that will be happening, visit their website.

GARC: Galactic Asteroid Rally Circuit. Each space-racer must have 2 crew members per ship (pilot & navigator), no weapons, and must look fast. The crazier the colour scheme the better