Saturday, November 01, 2014

NANO NANO NANO NANO NANO.... BATMAN! (I'M PRETTY SURE I MADE THAT JOKE LAST YEAR)

So Nanowrimo is upon us once again, (This is me: feel free to buddy up) and once again I'm using the month to concentrate on words and give myself permission to prioritise my writing over the distractions in my life.

Yeah, I know I'm a pro and writing is an important aspect of both my personality and my artistic career. But I'm also a man with a metric fucktonne of duties and responsibilities and sometimes I need the crutch to lean on. I'm happy for you if you don't understand this, and good luck to ye's. Me, I lie the feeling of having permission, so here I am.

This year's project is Bear Hunt, and it's starting out as a load of fun because, for the first time in a long time, it's not remotely speculative. It's a straight crime novel, and here's the brief I've set myself:

Somebody dragged Bear back into the life. Somebody made him a criminal again. And now somebody's spying on him. Doesn't matter if it's the cops or the crims. Somebody's going to pay.

Sound fun? It'd better, because I'm probably going to bore you shitless with updates as the month progresses. So just to give you a little taster-- and in the full spirit of understanding that this is a first draft, and for me, a loose one with no internal editor present-- here's a few lines to get us all started:


None of what went down would have happened if Bear hadn’t got himself banged up on a DUI charge. Bang to rights, too: point two over the limit, and the blood test confirmed it. So they took his car and stood him up in front of the magistrate in his only suit, and no amount of pleading that he needed his licence to ferry Mum back and forth to hospital and her therapist appointments were enough to save him, not with his record. Disqualified from driving, and his application for an extraordinary licence binned before it even started because extraordinaries are for work purposes only, Mister Burrage, as you well now. Then they spat him out, to stand blinking on the steps of the Mandurah courthouse, wondering how the hell he was going to explain it to Mum and trying to loosen his tie with thick, shaking fingers. Which was a bad time for a weaselly little prick like Gavin Sullivan to slide up from the shade of the nearby car park, but then, no time was ever a good time to have a weaselly little prick like him smiling his slimy smile at you.


Progress charts after day one are about as much use as publishing league tables after the first round of matches, but with a daily quota of 1667 words to make Nano's target of 50 000 in the month, I'm mildly pleased to report that I've completed 2362. So here's a progress pie chart.

Mmmmm, pie.




Friday, October 31, 2014

5 SONGS FOR A CREEPIER EVENING

Just for laughs-- high-pitched, hysterical laughter like a nail file along the edge of a glass-- here's a few songs to gt you through Halloween this year. I can't imagine what they all have in common.




The Ballad of Dwight Fry-- Alice Cooper

Alice Cooper is the rock master of all things Guignol. And, apart from being damned creepy and a tribute to one of the great lost, mad creatures of the classic Hollywood monster era, Cooper recorded the "Gotta get out of here" refrain by lying on the floor of the studio and having a pile of folding chairs heaped over him until his claustrophobia took hold. Recording your own panicked neurosis for the sake of your single? Welcome to Halloween, sweetheart.





Dead Eyes Opened-- Headless Chickens

From its buzzsaw beats to its grisly subject matter, this is a classic creepfest from beginning to end. The beautifully enunciated, teddibly teddibly British narration only adds to the off-kilter weirdfest. A dance floor hit about burning the severed head of a woman? Classic.





Aisha-- Death in Vegas

Let's be honest, it's not like the Iggster is at the normal end of the spectrum to begin with. But his monotone delivery and whipperwhill screeching over the discordant guitars make this another brilliant dance track that's an awkward listening experience. A self-confessed serial killer pronouncing his undying love for the titular character is almost irrelevant in the face of the sheer oddness of the delivery.





97 Bonnie and Clyde-- Tori Amos

Eminem's original is a darkly funny fable about a man dumping the body of his ex-wife and her new husband in a lake while the narrator's toddler looks on. Amos slows the music down and her cracke,d whispered delivery adds a thick layer of uneasiness to the track. Amongst the best covers ever recorded, and a distinctly unsettling listening experience.





Lotion-- Greens Keepers

Because everybody watched Buffalo Bill in action during Silence of the Lambs and thought, "What this guy needs is a ballad," right? Right?



So, if you're still here, wash your mind out with the real meaning of modern Halloween: dressing up in silly costumes and acting like a loon. Have the utter genius of the Bonzo the Dog Doo Dah Band for dessert.

Sleep well, children.


PEACE AND GOODWILL TO ALL ME..... GET THAT STITCHED, FUCKER!

It's Halloween, a time when we pause in our Godless lives to pay tribute to Saint Allens, the patron saint of childhood diabetes.

Have a nasty little piece of fiction from my past to keep you warm. It was originally published in Scary Food, a horror fiction cookbook put out in the dim, distant past by now-defunct Aussie publisher Agog Press.

Here it is, regurgitated for your pleasure. It's all you're getting: I've eaten all the candy.


, Rabbit, Run

     So they picked him up, the broken-shelled, loose-limbed motherfucker, lying unconscious in a pool of his own piss. Didn’t matter where they found him, was all the same to them and he didn’t care. He was only one anonymous, ruined face amongst thousands, millions, drunk and stinking in alleyways and shop doorways, every one a fugitive from some demon roaming the corridors of their own minds, lying under bridges and daring the night to come eat them up and see if anybody cares. Besides, he’d long since given up running. Couldn’t even remember why he’d started, memory ruined by knife points and alcohol, bouncer’s boots and junkie product, a hard man gone soft, dedicated to the act of fucking himself up, real hard man, real iron-muscled motherfucker, kill himself down dead long before whomever or whatever reached him and did the job their way. Choose the manner of your own death like a man, even if it’s a death of piss and vomit, gin blossoms and teeth on the tarmac in front of your face. Took time and effort, but he got there, more backs stabbed than a politician, he’d done it, oh boy, done it but good.
     They found him, though, dumped him in the back of a white truck and drove him away towards the lights of redemption. He was so wiped he didn’t even recognise them, couldn’t tell anybody where they came from or where he was going, no fight left in him and if they hadn’t found him it would have been some other monsters and fuck it, he was ready for them, finally, ready to lie between their teeth and play like meat. But they knew better. They smiled and tied him down and pumped his veins full of clear, clear liquid amnesia, called his name and played games with his screams as they drove slowly through the darkened streets, all the better to pass the time until the building drew them all in and he landed face down on a gurney through door after door banging the top of his head until the scalp bled. The scalpels made no sound as they cut him open, the drugs washed his blood and his marrow and his thoughts, and when they came to shave him here, there, and down below he didn’t even flinch at the sight of their faces, white and hairless and smelling of wine turned vinegar. And the sheets were soft, and the saline was tangy against his arteries, and if he couldn’t keep the food down for more than an hour before spewing it splash and splatter into the nearest corner nobody complained, so he puked all the harder just to watch them bend down to clean it.
     He slept when they told him to and ate when they told him to and wanked when they told him to, filling pots and buckets and forms and days, and somewhere deep down where the knives had missed and the scars circled round it like a ribcage, protecting, nurturing, hiding, a spark remembered itself: you can’t tell me what to do. You don’t own me. You’re not my...
     Fuck it. You’re not my anything.
     So he held the pills under his tongue and spat them into pot plants, crept along corridors at night smelling spirits and cleanliness, let his hair grow back and found a comb, cleaned his teeth by himself God Damn You!, ignored the outstretched hands and turned his back on the help and picked up the fork and took the spill-proof top from the cup and when they came for him one morning with the gurney and the bag of clear liquid with the tube hanging off it like a limp-dicked pensioner he said No. No more. I’m gone. I’m checking out. And they smiled and asked him if he was sure and he told them yes, fuck you, let me go. I want to go.
     That’s when they took him down to the offices with the soft carpet underfoot and pastel paintings and soft piped music and smiling lipsticked mouths saying yes, hello, we’re so glad. And a suit, in his size, washed and clean and smelling so good like a thousand fucks in teenager’s beds and a wallet filled with cash in the pocket and one final form with his name in neat black letters and the standard paragraph about release and welcome to the world and just sign here, here and here, please sir, no motherfucker you but a man, a real man, welcome back old friend just sign here.
     They helped him dress and placed the jacket over his shoulders and shook his hand, all in a line saying well done, good luck out there and he strode, not shuffled anymore, damn well strode to the front door and they held it open for him, sir and sir and sir and he turned for one last look and there they were, all lined up and not for a moment did their smiles slip or the love and affection in their gazes die but in each hand a scalpel, in each smile the taste for blood and every one of them a face he remembered, every one of them long teeth enemies fright in the night under the bed terror, every one of them a punch to his heart.
     Good luck, they said, and
     We’re so happy, they said, and
     See you again soon, they said, and
then, at last, to him,
really to him
     as the muscles in his legs spasmed and sent him to the cold concrete outside, ass on the ground and limbs splayed wide, the single street light bright against the gloom showing the first piss stain already damp dark wet against his trousers, one last thing before they started counting:
     Run.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS THE V-GER KICKED OUT OF IT


"Oh, honey. It'll be perfect for the baby's room!"


Part of the fun of science fiction is wondering what's out there: what strange, alien life waits for us out beyond the stars, with weird alien motivations and bizarre physical and emotional manifestations. It's part of the sensawunda that drove Golden Age SF and which you can still find in the pulpier fringes of the genre today. Let's be honest: aliens are fun.

The quickest way to a gag cartoon is to take a situation, and flip it: take the ordinary and make it bizarre, take the incredible and make it mundane. Of course there will be giant, alien space squid. But they'll smoke pipes and have a 1950's home life, and they'll use space shuttles as mobiles.

Of course they will.











Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WRITE, YOU DOGS!

So, remember when I said that I'll be appearing at a couple of Write Along the Highway events in November this year?

Here's the first of them: I'll be conducting a free writing marathon at the Mundijong Library on the 18th of November.

 
 
 
I'll also be taking part in Nanowrimo again this year: if you want to buddy me up, you'll find me here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: Lost


Lost
Lost by Michael Robotham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Strong, muscular crime story that begins with intertwined mysteries-- who shot the narrator and left him to die in the Thames, and what has happened to his memory?-- and weaves them throughout a narrative of a cop at the end of his time, slowly coming to terms with the knowledge that his methods and obsessions are being sent irrevocably into obsolescence.

Robotham's tight, controlled style never gives the reader time to draw back and see the greater narrative, and his masterful control of details and verisimilitude paint detailed vignettes that give spice to the constant action. Threats abound, tension is high, and the book rockets along at a frantic pace as time runs out for the protagonist, DI Ruiz, on a number of fronts.

Top notch storytelling.



View all my reviews

Friday, October 24, 2014

HELPING TO PERPETUATE THE HIDDEN SISTERHOOD OF POWERFUL WOMEN

Or, to put it another way, I've received news that Paradox Books have accepted my story The Daughters of John Anglicus-- featuring Trota of Salerno and the descendants of Pope Joan-- for inclusion in their anthology Crusader Kings, which will be coming out in December which means you'll be able to get me to sign it for you for Christmas. If you haven't already bought it, you can pick up Europa Universalis IV: What If?, which contains my alternative history Napoleon Bonaparte story The Emperor of Moscow, while you're there.

More details on the how and where of buying it as I get them, but for now, here's a little snippet to get you keen:

     Trota edges past the end of the bed. Once round to the other side she sees the woman more clearly. She is tall, taller perhaps than even Nicholas, and older than Trota expected, being perhaps in her mid-thirties. Long black hair is splayed across a bank of pillows, and her olive face is pale and drawn close in pain. A nightgown is bunched up above her knees and stretches tightly across the rounded bulk of her stomach. A white-shifted old woman dabs ineffectually at her forehead with a damp cloth. She scurries out of the way as Trota approaches, and shuffled from the room, crossing herself and murmuring respectful words as she passed Nicholas. He waves her on her way, and directs Trota to sit on the vacant stool.
     “This is your charge,” he says. “She is close to birth, but for the last month there have been... problems. Increasingly so.”
     “Why...” She sits, takes the woman’s long hand in her own, and gives it a soft squeeze. The woman turns pain-squinted eyes towards her. She clenches Trota’s hand hard enough to hurt, and hisses as her gut spasms. “Why is there no doctor here?”
     “She summoned you.”
     “I’m two weeks away!”
     “You are the only chirurgeon to whom Her Holiness has granted admittance.”
     “You let her lie here for two weeks in this sort of pain. What the hell--?”
     “Watch your mouth!” Nicholas’ sudden rage rocks Trota back on her stool. “You are in the presence of holiness. You will not use those words.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY IMITATES CHRISTOPHER PYNE

A short while ago, when the writing was going nowhere so fast I decided to give it up and go back to giving cartooning a proper go, I inked and coloured a series of gags to see whether I could sell them.

I've gone back to being a writer since then. That's all you need to know.

Anyway, here's one of those cartoons. Any similarity to any current Government, living, dead or otherwise, is entirely coincidental.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DOING THE CRIME

Last weekend, Luscious and I divested ourselves of all encumbrances and headed into Perth to spend the weekend at the annual convention of crime writing and investigative sciences, CrimeScene WA.

CrimeScene is a wonderful convention, not least because it has an incredibly strong science stream, presented by top notch industry professionals with a set of presentation skills that makes the traditional writing convention "three talking heads and a table" scenario seem decidedly second rate. For the first time in a long time I had agreed to be a part of more than one panel at a convention: apart from a solo presentation on writing settings, I agreed to assist Lyn with her presentation on Women Characters in Crime and take part in a panel discussion on what to do once you have been published. I was keen to see whether the change in convention genre would result in a change in approach to panel structure, so I packed our little Powerpoint shows and book-buying money, and away we went.

The convention was held at Rydges Perth, in the heart of the City: a hotel with a funky 70s retro-future vibe going on in the foyer, but with an obscene parking rate (valet only parking at something like $70 a day) and the traditional convention hotel quota of working lifts-- in this case, one of four. It was a delight to meet up with writing Guest of Honour Tansy Rayner Roberts, who I've known for years but seldom see in the flesh due to living on opposite sides of the country, and one of the nicer things about attending a convention outside of my own genre backyard was the opportunity to bump into authors with whom I interact in my day job but rarely on an equal literary footing: sharing the registration queue with Sarah Evans, a writer of my day job acquaintance from Bridgetown, was a lovely moment, as was a breakfast shared with Michael Murphy, up from Capel for the weekend. And Linda, Jay, and Todd-- the convention committee-- are good pals who treat their authors and experts wonderfully, so apart from the joy of their company they always make me feel like I want to do my best for them.

Thanks to the interwebbernet we found some cheaper (not cheap, cheaper) parking nearby. The walk to and from the hotel, coupled with a wander into the main shopping mall at Sunday lunchtime when we needed a break to visit the Nespresso store served one purpose, at least. Living so far away from Perth means we visit it rarely, and so had failed to observe a small but subtle change that has overtaken the CBD-- it's become a complete shit hole: filthy; filled with empty shopfronts; and generally more run-down than I have seen it in a long time.

One particularly unpleasant reminder of the inhumane and uncaring social policies of our State and Federal Governments was quickly apparent, too: I've never seen so many homeless people tucked into doorways and crannies as I saw this weekend. I'm not naive enough to believe Perth is any sort of utopia, or that homelessness does not exist here, but the two blocks between the car-park and hotel were occupied by no less than 8 homeless people trying to find shelter or ask for assistance, and that's a critical mass that's hard to ignore. There's rot in the heart of the apple in Perth, and it's beginning to show. One wheelchair-bound old lady, in particular, seemed to represent the failure of our social systems: passing her on the way to my nice middle-class hotel room to play at my middle-class pastime added some uncomfortable self-awareness of the advantages I take for granted:


This the kind of heritage you were talking about, City of Perth?

Still, on to the convention itself, and it was clearly apparent that this is a convention in two parts.

The science stream was utterly fascinating, with strong presentations on a wide range of topics. Highlights for me included a discussion on psychopath and offender profiles by Associate Professor Guy Hall, with an emphasis on the Claremont Serial Killer; a dissection of the murder scene of Don Hancock and Lou Lewis by Sergeant Clayton Bennie, the bomb squad Sergeant who was CSO at the scene; palynologist Doctor Lynne Milne discussing the study of pollen within crime scenes; and a history of bog bodies by Doctor John Watling. Each of these presentations was highly interactive, with a strong public speaker in confident control of both their subject matter and the audience, and excellent visual presentation aids that stopped the audience feeling like they were simply privy to a private conversation. More importantly, each presentation was focused, and delivered great value for money. I came away fascinated, educated, and with a feeling that I had been exposed to the best this particular industry had to offer.

The writing stream, I enjoyed not quite so much, for a variety of reasons, chief amongst them being my own involvement: in the end, CrimeScene felt like not much of a writing experience, and more often than not I wanted to be in the other room where the interesting crime stuff was happening. Clearly, most of the attendees agreed with me: apart from the ongoing procession of "three heads and a table" panels, the rooms were, quite simply, verging on empty whenever I attended a writing stream session, as the majority of con-goers were in the far more exciting science stream rooms. My own presentation, on creating settings, for example, attracted three attendees, and the experienced amongst you will quickly work out that one of those is Stephen Dedman, an author to whom I reckon I can teach just about the square root of fuck all:






Other writing panels I attended fared little better, but in all honesty, the majority got what they deserved as far as offering entertainment goes: there's only so far a crime convention can go when the majority of the writing stream consists of writers outside of the central genre, and particularly when many of the sessions are programmed against proven entertainment winners: Professor Simon Lewis and Hadyn Green are long-term CrimeScene alumni, for example, and deservedly popular, and the aforementioned discrepancy in presentation skill was overwhelmingly apparent. While I enjoyed assisting Lyn with her Women in Crime panel, I once again came away feeling that being a panellist at small scale conventions is something I no longer enjoy.

Lyn had been battling illness all convention-- and, indeed, spent the following week bed-ridden with a chronic chest infection-- so we finally gave in to the inevitable and left before the closing ceremony, so we missed the announcement that the convention is going on hiatus. It's a pity, because as a small scale industry exhibition it's the most enjoyable one I've ever attended. My hope is that it returns, with a strong focus on the elements that make the crime and suspense genre such a compelling one to read, watch and enjoy, and perhaps, with a writing stream that goes out into the community outside of the convention time frame so that it doesn't suffer in comparison to the far more professional presenters who populate the science and crime streams.

 










Thursday, October 16, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY GETS A SIGN

Road signs. They're easy pickings. Sex. Easy pickings. Road signs about sex. Don't judge me.

"Last chance to pull over and have an unseen quickie for 40 miles"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

YEAR'S BEST AUSTRALIAN FANTASY AND HORROR 2013

Lee Battersby; Disciple of the Torrent; Satalyte Publishing;


I'm mightily pleased to announce that my story Disciple of the Torrent, which was published in Satalyte Publishing's Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land-- and which I blogged about here and here during the writing process-- has been selected for the upcoming Year's Best Australian Fantasy & Horror 2013, alongside stories by the likes of Kaaron Warren, Deborah Biancotti, Terry Dowling and Juliet Marillier. The full Table of Contents contains enough in the way of quality Australian author name-dropping to drown a squirrel in drool:


  • Lee Battersby, “Disciple of the Torrent”, Tales of Australia: Great Southern Land
  • Deborah Biancotti, “All the Lost Ones”, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol I
  • Trudi Canavan, “Camp Follower”, Fearsome Journeys
  • Robert G. Cook, “Glasskin”, Review of Australian Fiction Vol 5 #6
  • Rowena Cory Daniells, “The Ways of the Wyrding Women”, One Small Step
  • Terry Dowling, “The Sleepover”, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol II
  • Thoraiya Dyer, “After Hours”, Asymmetry
  • Marion Halligan, “A Castle in Toorak”, Griffith Review #42
  • Dmetri Kakmi, “The Boy by the Gate”, The New Gothic
  • David Kernot, “Harry's Dead Poodle”, Cover of Darkness Magazine
  • Margo Lanagan, “Black Swan Event”, Griffith Review #42
  • S.G. Larner, “Poppies”, Aurealis #65
  • Martin Livings, “La Mort d'un Roturer”, This is How You Die
  • Kirstyn McDermott, “Caution: Contains Small Parts”, Caution: Contains Small Parts
  • Claire McKenna, “The Ninety Two”, Next
  • C.S. McMullen, “The Nest”, Nightmare Magazine
  • Juliet Marillier, “By Bone-Light “, Prickle Moon
  • David Thomas Moore, “Old Souls”, The Book of the Dead
  • Faith Mudge, “The Oblivion Box”, Dreaming of Djinn
  • Ryan O'Neill, “Sticks and Stones”, The Great Unknown
  • Angela Rega, “Almost Beautiful”, Next
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, “The Raven and Her Victory”, Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allan Poe
  • Nicky Rowlands, “On the Wall”, Next
  • Carol Ryles, “The Silence of Clockwork”, Conflux 9 Convention Programme
  • Angela Slatter, “Flight”, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
  • Anna Tambour, “Bowfin Island”, Caledonia Dreamin'
  • Kaaron Warren, “Born and Bread”, Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales
  • Janeen Webb, “Hell is Where the Heart is”, Next

More information is available at the Ticonderoga Publications website, and the volume can be pre-ordered at Indie Books Online.



Thursday, October 09, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY CAN'T DO THE TIME

In honour of this weekend's CrimeScene WA convention, Thumbnail Thursday goes a little crimey-wimey.

"We're taking 'Daddy Daughter day' too far."

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

LET THE CRIMES BEGIN!

I don't know what you'll be doing this weekend, but I will be enjoying myself strangling, poisoning, murderlising and generally getting up to no good with an absolute plethora of like-minded ne'er-do-wells at the annual CrimeScene WA crime writing convention, held at the Rydges Hotel in sunny Perff.

Apart from presentations by myself and Luscious, guest speakers include the likes of Stephen Dedman, Simon Lewis, Tony Cavanaugh, Hadyn Green and this year's guests of honour, Michael Robotham and Tansy Rayner Roberts, dressed up in her why-does-she-even-bother-when-we-all-know-it's-Tansy-anyaway-and-love-her-for-who-she-is,-pet alter ego pants, Livia Day.

If you haven't got yourself a ticket already then you're a fool of a Took, so get your arse into gear and buy one at the website. If you're mad keen to hear what I have to say on any given subject, I'll be up front being famous at the following sessions:


Saturday, 11am-12pm
Supporting Luscious as she presents her panel Women in Crime

Saturday 2.30-3.30pm
All on my todd for a writing workshop, On Writing Settings

Sunday, 9-10am
In company with Stephen Dedman, as we discuss The Writing Process and What You Should be Doing Once You are Published



You can view the full programme here. Get it up ya!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

THE BEST POSSIBLE TASTE ISN'T HERE RIGHT NOW. LEAVE A MESSAGE.

The Horror Writers Association is dedicated to the promotion of horror writing and horror authors. It's a damn fine organisation filled with the loveliest people and not at all creeping with the kind of denatured freaks that make you lock your windows at night and fit a chastity belt to your budgie.

Their latest fun escapade is the Horror Selfies campaign, a viral campaign whereby horror industry creative types take a selfie with a message encouraging you to put down the latest pile of Colleen McCullough slop you're bravely believing fulfills you and pick up something with a little meat on its bones.... raw, dripping, tasty meat.

You can see a fabulously funny gallery over at the Horror Selfies site, but just in case you can't summon the strength to click anywhere up to twice in a row, here's my little effort for your edification:




Thursday, October 02, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY TAKES ON THE EASY SUBJECTS

Ah, yes, greeting card jokes. Like hitting the bullseye from inside the target. They don't come any easier.

I was young. Don't judge me.


"Do you have a card that says "I'm going back to my wife"?"