Thursday, March 26, 2015


Today is my tenth wedding anniversary. There's a blog post on the way about my beautiful wife Lyn, and how she's changed my life for the better, irrevocably and wonderfully. But there's also this, from many a long year ago:

"I knew gold rings were a bad idea."

Love you, my darling. 


10 years ago today I got lucky. Very, very lucky.

If not for Luscious, I don't know where I would be right now. She is my light, my direction, and my guide. She is my everything, and without her I would be lost.

I love you, my darling.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Holy Meatballs Mother of Brian, do I ever need this break.

You don't need to have read too much of this blog in 2015-- indeed, there hasn't been very much of it to read-- to know that I've felt under the hammer, and pretty much squashed by the hammer, for most of the year to date. Things just haven't let up for the last 3 months, and between work, editing, family life, moving into a new house, and all the other million and one bits and bobs that strike you in the face as you walk through the days, I've become increasingly stressed, and increasingly fragile. Thankfully, I'm beginning to emerge from it, but there are still a few lingering weights, and I need some time out from underneath them.

Edits of Magrit are progressing at what might kindly be called Hella pace: I've been over the manuscript 3 times in the last 2 months at the behest of my editor, and I'm reliably informed that there's only one more before the book will be ready to go to the typesetter. It's due to be published in early 2016: come to the launch and I'll happily underline for you the one line remaining from the original manuscript.....

Yeah, it's a much better book, but we both know you only come here for the comedy kvetching.

I've also, out of the insanity of my heart, committed to a new artistic enterprise: namely, building an enormous diorama for a public Lego display in October called, wait for it, Bricktober! The concept is fabulous, if I do say so myself-- a shuttle dropping crowds off on a moon surface to visit a shrine to the Unknown Spaceman. Only downside is, the shuttle itself is approximately 4 times bigger than anything I've ever built before, never mind the actual shrine. It's going to look great...... assuming I finish it...... assuming I have the skills...... assuming I haven't bitten off way more than I can chew......

Yeah, I'm not afraid to admit it: I may have been the
teeeeeeeeensiest bit over-ambitious......

This isn't even mentioning work, which is, you know, work.

Which is why the next six days are necessary. Because tomorrow, we fly out to Bali for the first time, armed with instructions on how to navigate the Waterbom water park, and which shops in Discovery Mall are best for teenage girl clothes shopping, and when best to take the Night Safari (hint: at night), and me insisting all the while that I want to go to the Archaeology Museum, dammit! and sketchbooks and notepads, and camera, and damned if I don't intend to come back sun-browned, exhausted, refreshed, recharged, and with enough material to get me writing again and not stopping until the Christmas holidays because fuck it, I'm sick of where I am and who I've become and it's time to get back to getting on with it.

Also, Luscious has never flown overseas, Master 10 was Master 3 Months the last time we flew anywhere for a family holiday, and it's bloody well time.

I've got a Thumbnail Thursday and Fetish Friday posts booked in the interim, but as far as live words go, this is me over and out for the interim. I shall return, with photos, in April.


So, tonight, in the ongoing How Has Luscious Made it to Her Mid-40s and Missed All These Classic Movies? film festival, I introduced her to the classic SF film Soylent Green.

Which got me thinking of another great movie I've seen recently.

Which got me fiddling about with Photopad.

Which lead to this :)

Why, yes. I am on a week's holiday. Why do you ask?

Friday, March 20, 2015


I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

First up, a big thank you to Lee for inviting me to expose my fetish here on his blog. It's not everyday you get that opportunity without the threat of being arrested.

Like Lee, and I suspect a large majority of writers, I find a lot of contemplative solace in a good shower. It's one of those places where the mind becomes free, unencumbered, and some of my best ideas and lines have originated there.

I also have a few other places that have the same effect for me so, unlike Lee, I don't have to spend all day having half-a-dozen showers to avoid blocks or keep the ideas flowing. Being a home-dad, I also find meditative writing solace in: putting washing on the line; chopping vegetables for dinner; vacuuming the swimming pool; mowing the lawns; and scrubbing the shower; driving the kids to school. They're all mindless, repetitive tasks that I do on a regular basis. They allow me to switch into auto-pilot mode wherein, somewhere in the background of my mind, my subconscious can solve those pesky plot and character problems without interference from me. These things, they're all catalysts that prepare me for getting words on the page.

But, once I'm in my chair and working, what is it that keeps me going? What (or who) encourages me, congratulates me, and cheers me on from the sidelines?
Well, let me introduce you...

Hi name is Jeff Lebowski, but he's more commonly known as The Dude, or, uh, His Dudeness, or, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing. He sits right beside my monitor, always just in my field of vision, and he's never less than excited about the work I produce.

Yes, 'The Big Lebowski' is one of my favourite films, and friends and family have noticed similarities to my own lifestyle and demeanour on more than one occasion. He was a gift, from my wife, and I know by that she meant it as a kind of in-joke about myself. 

I loved the gift, I really did, but at first I saw only 'The Dude', happy with himself for having bowled a strike. He joined my other bobble-heads and collectible figures – Pinhead, Robocop, Gumby, Boba Fett, Ren & Stimpy – on the shelf and sat there a while. It wasn't until I bought a new desk and reconfigured my writing space that he ended up in his current position. I don't think I ever intended him to stay there. It was just temporary. A place to put him out of the way until I determined where everything would go.

A year later, and he's still there.
Why? Because, just look at that face! The smile and the excitement. His arms raised, as if fist-pumping yet another victory. And, as I type, the desk moves just enough that his head wobbles, constantly, in an ever encouraging nod. 

"Those words are crazy," he's saying. "Keep going! What you're writing is the most awesome thing ever... but, you know, that's just like, my opinion, man."

So, there you go. The Dude abides...right beside my desk, cheering me on with nods and smiles and triumphant fists.

I don't know about you but I take comfort in that.

Andrew J McKiernan is an author and illustrator living and working on the Central Coast of New South Wales. First published in 2007, his stories have since been short-listed for multiple Aurealis, Ditmar and Australian Shadows awards and reprinted in a number of Year's Best anthologies. He was Art Director for Aurealis magazine for 8 years and his illustrations have graced the covers and internals of a number of books and magazines. "Last Year, When We Were Young" a collection of his short stories was released in 2014 by Satalyte Publishing.

Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015


"Timmy, would you care to say 'Grace'?"

Okay, this one might need a bit of an explanation: that's a family of vampires, and that's a typical Hammer woman-in-hazy-nightgown type victim laid out on the table, and instead of knives and forks they've got hypodermic needles.

Trust me, drawn up and inked properly, this would be hilarious

Friday, March 13, 2015


I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

This week, we welcome author and world's sexiest wife (in my utterly unbiased opinion) Lyn Battersby:

I’m at the Steel Tree café waiting for my muse. As usual, he’s late, which leaves me hugging a glass of tepid water while staring out the windows. The storms of the previous two days have fled and the café is filled with patrons desperate to escape a humidity that hovers somewhere near 90%.

I’ve chosen this café for a reason. For one thing, they provide a free glass of wine with lunch. Right now my muse claims to like wine, so I hope to entice him to our meeting by offering a generous glass of Shiraz. Sometimes this works. He’ll sit back in his chair, sip at grapes raised in Margaret River, or McLaren Vale or the Barossa, and regale me with tales that feature people he’s met living in places he alone has travelled through. Other times, however, the wine fails. My muse becomes surly, purses his lips, scowls at me through slitted eyes.

I try to talk him out of these funks. I beg, I cajole, I reason. I explain my feelings of abandonment, my need to hold him close. Sometimes, however, I try the passive-aggressive approach. I tell him that I would like to see other muses or tell him that I’ve met someone else. It’s no use. My muse has heard it all before. “They are just dalliances, they mean nothing to you. Go ahead, knit a beanie, crochet a scarf, decoupage a bedspread. It won’t last. It never does”

And then, to rub salt into an already inflamed wound, he’ll stand up, wander around and offer up stories to other writers, stories that were meant to be for me.

And he’s right, I do come back, I do offer up fresh enticements, fresh reasons for him to stay. For my muse is a muse of inconstant fetishes. What pleases him today he disdains tomorrow.

Throughout my writing career I’ve offered my muse different homes within different places. I’ve offered him new computers, new pens, new notebooks. Oh, so many notebooks. To express my love I’ve compiled mixed tapes, CDs and downloads. I’ve dazzled him with various pieces of clothing, jewellery and art.

I’ve written at specially created writing desks, at the table, on the train and in bed. Despite this, despite my constant desire to meet his desires, my muse remains unmoved. No fetish, new or old, had gone unchallenged.

Once, and I hate to admit this, I tried to bind him to my side with a voodoo doll. He took the doll, told me a story about it and then bit its head off.

And now, I’m sick of it. I haven’t called this meeting today because I want to write. I’ve called it because I want out of this destructive quasi-co-dependent relationship. I want to say ‘It’s not me, it’s you and you’re a jerk.” I want to take the hundreds of thousands of words he’s given me over the years and make him eat them, one by one. I want to make him squirm, just as he’s made me squirm via his throwaway love, his surly moods and his neglect. I want to –



Here he comes.

And he looks freaking awesome today.

Lyn Battersby’s short stories have appeared in various publications such as Borderlands, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Electric Velocipede. When not studying for her BA in English and Creative Writing, she can be found concocting new recipes with her slow cooker. She lives in Baldivis with her beloved husband, Lee and two of their five children. She does not like cats. She does like time-travel.

Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015


"Hello, God. It's me, Stacey. God, are you happy with your 
long-distance service provider?"

Yeah, I did the old phone spam joke. I'm not proud. I was young, and needed the money......

Sunday, March 08, 2015


Late last I week I listened with interest as Megan Washington told JJJ listeners about the 5 songs she wished she'd written, for a regular segment of the same name I rarely catch because I'm not in the car at the time, and I don't get to listen to the radio at work. Which got me thinking, because I've written my fair share of poetry, and had some of it performed, and while I haven't yet written to music, it's lack of an outlet rather than lack of desire that's seen me turn to other pursuits. So, like any air guitar hero worth his tennis racket and dreams of I-coulda-ness despite knowing deep in my little back heart that JJJ ain't ever gonna come calling, here are 5 songs I wish I'd written:

Growing up in Rockingham during the 1980s was not, you may be surprised to hear, a psychedelic journey into the heartland of musical diversity. Surfers liked Aussie Crawl; Bogans worshipped AC/DC and the Angels if they wanted something lighter; everyone loved Chisel and Baaaaaaaaahnsie; and if you didn't like any of them you were a poofter and deserved the kicking you invariably got. Surviving High School was bad enough, but I liked Queen. I liked Bowie. I liked Adam Ant. I liked Pink Floyd and Alice Cooper. I worshipped Madness. I liked Slade, fer chrissake: what hope did I have among the Bogan Sloblords when this was the sort of thing I was grooving to?

So 1989 was a big year for me, one of the biggest. I finished High School in 1988. 1989 brought University, and an escape from Rockingham, and a widening of my personal horizons that has never, to this day, entirely abated. I discovered art, and writing, and drugs, and liberal thinking, and a whole bunch of sex tricks I'd only ever read about. I found poetry, and alternative cinema, and theatre, and music. Oh, the music. They Might be Giants and Velvet Underground and New York Dolls and the Slits and Michelle Shocked and Sinead O'Connor and on, and on, and then, in the space of a year and a bit, Guns and Roses released the Use Your Illusion double set, Metallica released the Black album, Soundgarden's Louder than Love came along, Nirvana started doing their thing, Pearl Jam were even better with Ten, Red Hot Chilli Peppers gave us Mother's Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magik... and before all that, leading them all out and blowing my fucking mind wide open......

Faith No More. The Real Thing. And this utter, utter mind fuck of a song.  Epic. 5 minutes of machine gun insanity, lyrics spat out like a staccato street poet, banshee guitars screaming in counterpoint, and then, rising out of all that mayhem and anger and gonzo lyricism, that perfect, perfect piano, fading away into a melodious death rattle....

There is nothing about this song that isn't a sublime graffiti-poem to the death of my childhood and the effect that experiencing that tsunami orgasm of freedom had on my burgeoning consciousness. It is the anthem of my awakening, and I wish I had the art and the anger and the white-hot tiger-riding creative balls to have written it.


I'm a poet at heart.  That's how I started out: my first sales were all poems, and I still turn to poetry when I'm feeling dry and the words won't come. It's the same reason that my first, and greatest, artistic love is the New Wave of the late 1960s-- the whirling, skirling beats and rhythms of words and music and lines across the page that typify the period, where the rules were being broken down and re-arranged and, in so many cases, taken out to the kerb and left for passers by to take for free. Harlan Ellison and Hendrix and Roger McGough and Robert Crumb and Lester Bangs and The Pink Floyd and The Prisoner and all that artistic glory that I sucked on like a hungry baby.

Bowie is Science Fiction's greatest poet, our highest selling artist. I could unpick the lyrics of The Bewlay Brothers into any number of images, each incomplete, each one competing with the other, each one the basis for an inferior copy. It's a palimpsest, a mathom, a mosaic. It's an act of artistic bravura. It's a musical kaleidoscope, and I love its fractured imagery, its mosquito narratives. It's psychedelic nearly to the point of caricature, before it stops just short, teetering on the brink, self-aware and laughing. I could dream for such self-control, such wild-eyed abandon. It's not quite my favourite Bowie song, but it is the one I wish I'd written.


Ah, I do loves me a good musical narrative, and as I lack the patience and willingness to overlook bland songs and horrendous performances, my drug of choice is the concept album rather than musical theatre. One gives you The Wall and The Temptation of Alice Cooper, the other gives you The Lion King and Grease. 'Nuff said.

So, I'm a fan of the Floyd. I love the way they developed their themes through their albums, building narratives across songs so that each song built upon what came before like short stories in a perfectly-weighted collection. I love the cracked-mirror world view they espouse, the despairing intelligence, the jaundice and pain that unfolds as Roger Waters picked obsessively at his scars, creating new scar material to pick at later, until, of course, the scars built up too much and the band members turned on each other, and themselves, and the group imploded. But for 5 albums, from 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon to The Final Cut in 1983, no band in the world created such a sustained narrative. It's rock's great series, the musical equivalent to the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings or Gormenghast books: you can listen to them as stand-alones, out of sequence, if you wish, and still partake of their meaning. But you only get their true power if you read from beginning to end, in order, as the author intended.

So why this song in particular? It's the quiet at its heart. There's so much despair here, so much resignation. Whatever has been grasped for has proven out of reach, whatever has been hoped for has turned to ashes. There's no anger here, no fire. That time has passed. It's a song that deals with the aftermath of loss, with the cold, remorseless resignation that each individual tragedy goes unnoticed by the Universe, that no matter how great the story, how great the event that unfolded before, there is a tomorrow, and for the loser, that day will be cold and grey, and uncaring, It's a magnificent inversion of every narrative trope, and I've spent so much of my career trying to capture that inversion that I wish I'd just managed to write this song and get it right the first time.


The perfect combination of anger, logic, reason, hurt, poetry and perfect, perfect pop music.

Let's be honest: I could spend my entire career wishing I could write XTC songs. But this is the one whose lyrics resonate, whose approach sits like a slice of surgical steel in my heart. Perhaps it's because I'm an atheist, raised by a lapsed Anglican who spent as much time angry at her lapse as at the upbringing. Perhaps it's just because this song is the perfect example of the narrative art of inversion that I try so desperately to capture when I write-- to openly reinforce a status quo through the act of inverting it, or invert that status quo by appearing to agree with it. An angry denial of belief, via writing a letter to the deity you are telling of that disbelief. It's brilliant. It's perfect. I could die wishing for one-tenth of its perfection.


And here is the last, and amongst all the noble intentions and high-falutin' talk of narrative inversion and portmanteau lyricism and deep psychological insight, this is exactly what it is: a rip-snorting, balls-out, rollicking horror story told at a motherfucker-per-hour rush; an off-kilter shanty swimming in glee and hat-waving hold-onto-yerself foot to the pedal joy. It is, quite simply, the best romp I've ever seen set to music. Blood-soaked, laughing, drunken balladeering like it aught to be. I wish all my horror stories were this much sheer damn bloody fun. I wish I could gather this much noise and ramshackle exuberance and utter voice in one such controlled explosion. Because when it's all stripped away, the aim is to tell a story, and entertain, and sink your audience so deep into your world they forget where they are until the wander out the other end, dazed and bleeding and reaching into their pocket for the coins to take another ride. And this is the foot-stomping, beer-swinging, head-thrown-back-and-wolf-howling apotheosis of the art. Dance, motherfucker, dance!

So, there it is. Five songs I wish I'd written. Five elements of popular lyric culture that I wish I could capture in as pure, crystalline form as the artists who originated them.

It's all good, clean fun.

Friday, March 06, 2015


I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

These are the usual suspects that inhabit my writing desk at home. There's always a mug, because there's always tea of some kind. I've no idea how anyone can do anything without easily accessible tea. It's usually an Aperture Science mug. Those are my favourite. I lost a previous incarnation of this mug in an unfortunate incident involving gravity and a tiled floor, but thankfully my wonderful husband was there to save the day, and ordered me a new one almost immediately. 

Actually, he's responsible for everything in this picture. He gave me the hungry Garfield some time in primary school and it's been with me ever since. I have a feeling the typing Snoopy might have come with a MacDonald's meal years and years ago. He gave me that too, because it's a beagle writing a book. What's not to love? 

On the left is Nyanko-sensei, which he found for me in a tiny shop in Tokyo station. I am quite obsessed with Nyanko-sensei, and wanted to take home the entire shop, but it wouldn't all fit in my luggage. Snoopy, Garfield and Nyanko-sensei all sit under my monitor and cheer me on.

Joanne Anderton lives in Sydney, in the house she grew up in, with the man she fell in love with when they were eight. She writes speculative fiction for anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a pinch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to just about everything. She's quite addicted to anime and manga, and these are strong influences in her writing. Her novels - DebrisSuited and Guardian -  have been published by Angry Robot Books and Fablecroft Publishing. Her short story collection, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories won the Aurealis Award for best collection, and the Australian Shadows Award for best collected work. 

Visit her online

Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, March 05, 2015


Death. Death is funny. Death is particularly funny when anthropomorphised, because there's pretty much nowhere he isn't wildly inappropriate. Still, some places are less appropriate than others. To whit, this cartoon.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Review: Blood Stain

Blood Stain
Blood Stain by Peter Lalor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Detailed and descriptive examination of one of the most gruesome murders ever committed in Australia. Author Peter Lalor delves deep into the lives of Katherine Knight, her victim Johnathon Price, and the motley collection of bogans, drunks, losers and utter no-hopers that surrounded them in the dead-end shithole of Aberdeen, New South Wales, painting a compelling picture of the stresses and weaknesses that led this violent, cunning psychopath to stab her lover 37 times, skin and behead him, and cook a meal of his buttocks and head to present to his children. Marred slightly by the occasional confusion in tenses, and by an attempt to speak in the language of the area that comes across as artlessly casual and irreverent, this is still one of the most fascinating books of its type I've read in the last couple of years. Recommended for those with a strong stomach.

View all my reviews

Review: The Hollywood Hall of Shame

The Hollywood Hall of Shame
The Hollywood Hall of Shame by Harry Medved

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good clean fun for the most part, this semi-affectionate skewering of some of film history's most pompous, pampered and deluded film projects makes for delightful reading for the dedicated fan of schadenfreude. With sections devoted to children's movies, musicals, obsessive tycoons, dictators, and a place of honour for serial turkey Goddess Elizabeth Taylor, there's something here to tickle the palate of all comers.

The only sour note is struck by the occasional bout of comedy racism of the "so solly" variety, which mars the general tone of popcorn superiority. Get past it, and you'll thrill to the sound of money being torn up and flushed, over and over again.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 27, 2015


I'm running a new series of guest posts throughout 2015: Fetish Friday. Don't get all sweaty in the pants—I’m going back to an older definition of the word, and asking artists to show us something that helps them with the ritual of creation, some part of their surroundings—physical or mental—that eases the path into the creative state, whether it be a location, a piece of music, person, picture, a doohickey, whatnot, curio or ornament without which the creative process would be a whole lot more difficult.

Today, our visitor is author, editor and illustrator Cat Sparks:

This house is full of doohickeys, whatnots, curios and ornaments but none of them are essential to my creative process. What is essential, aside from the obligatory computer, is the battered old green rocking chair that sits to the left of my desk.

The chair’s not mine. It used to belong to Rob’s former wife and when I first moved in to share his flat at Wombarra I was all for getting rid of the damn thing as it took up space and nobody ever sat in it. But eventually we bought a house and the chair found a niche of its own in the TV room. For reasons too convoluted to explain here and now, the far end of the TV room became my study and its window my private looking glass. Through it lies a pretty view of the rickety wooden moss-covered bridge straddling the creek that cuts through the back corner of our property. A vast array of birds alight on that bridge all day. Checking them out provides welcome screen distraction, as does that old green chair. That chair and I spend a lot of time together.

I refer to it as my ‘reading chair’. Covered in green velvet, it’s a recliner: old, ugly and kind of wonky but extremely comfortable. I read better in that chair than I do anywhere else. Reading progressed to note taking when I started my PhD, then note taking evolved into full-blown slabs of longhand whenever the spirit takes me. I scribble stuff down, then haul arse up to the computer desk, which, by the way, I found abandoned on the street outside Chuck McKenzie’s house way back when he used to live in Sydney. I tweak and polish my scribble as I type, rendering it into a second draft.

Of course, the minute that chair became important to my creative process, Pazuzu, our spoilt and surly big-boned tabby, decided it to be an essential element of his creative lifestyle too. We work that chair on a timeshare basis, with him mostly hogging all the prime morning real estate & me getting a go mid afternoon. I’m pretty sure I’d be a more prolific and potentially more fabulous author if Pazuzu picked some other place to sleep.

As well as the chair, my writing process requires a wadge of A4 white ruled legal pads and black Sharpie pens, size: fine. I have become a tad obsessive about those pens. Several years ago at an American convention a prominent Australian author offered me that exact type of pen in my moment of need, swearing that they were the best pens ever. He was not wrong. The house is subsequently littered with them and I won’t write with anything else if I can help it – not even when jotting shopping lists. The fine point on those Sharpies gets worn down pretty quickly, which means I go through them like other people go through Nespresso pods. Which I also go through a fair few of. So sue me.

Cat Sparks is Fiction editor of Cosmos Magazine. She’s halfway through a PhD on YA climate change fiction and almost finished revisions on a novel she seems to have been writing since the dawn of time.

Are you a creative artist? Fancy joining in and letting us know about that special item, object, location or cosmic state of being at the heart of your creative process? There's always room for another lunatic in the asylum: email me and make your most excited Horshack noise. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015


I use to choose the order I post the sketches for Thumbnail Thursday. The fact that today is my father's 71st birthday is not only entirely coincidental, it's also rather bleakly funny.

"Honey, the clown is here!"

Monday, February 23, 2015


In the wake of the Writers Festival, it's apparent that one of the reasons for my ongoing creative despair has been the lack of creation. For a long time, I've not being writing anything new, simply stirring the embers of words already committed, thoughts already created and let loose.

Thankfully, as always, Luscious not only has the answer but is living it.

For a couple of weeks now she's been challenging herself to a different writing exercise a day, not with an expectation of creating a glowing, new, complete work to loose upon the world but simply as a way of rediscovering the habit of writing, the self-given gift of sitting down to write and creating something new.

So, yesterday, with no expectation of anything other than filling a page and remembering how to put one word in front of the other, we sat down on either side of the kitchen table, and performed the following exercise. It's yours to play with, too, should you so desire.

It's simply this: take the last line of a story, and make it the first line of a new story.

The book, randomly chosen from our nearest bookshelf, was The Locus Awards, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Charles. N Brown. The story we chose, by virtue of picking a number between 1 and 18, was The Persistence of Vision by John Varley. And the line: We live in the lovely quiet and dark.

You, of course, may choose whatever book you like :)

With no great expectation, we gave ourselves ten minutes. 450 words later, The Lovely Quiet became a thing.

Another 300 words tonight, and it remains a thing, and a thing I'll be prodding at every night until it's finished. I'm setting no word goals, and no time limits. I'm simply writing for the rediscovery of it, putting one word in front of the other to see what happens. But it's a story, and that's all I care about. 

We live in the lovely quiet and dark. Mother curls around us, keeping us warm, keeping us safe. Soon it will be time to hatch, time to feed, time to crawl up through the ooze and muck and cloying dirt into the light, to chase and catch and bite and feed. But not just yet. Not now. Now we rest, and suckle, and draw fat and warmth into ourselves. Mother surround us, fills our mouths and our stomachs. She is our shelter, our protector, our food. Mother is the world.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


It's no secret to anyone who has me as their Facebook friend, but I've been suffering from a fair bit of darkness and despair recently. My writing has been non-existent. The editorial process for the children's book now known as Magrit has been a bizarre combination of slow-slow-NOW. My day job has somehow managed to increase its level of complexity while my organisation continues to make it clear how little my field of work is valued. My days were packed from beginning to end with obligations rather than pleasures, my health was up the shit, and my general gloominess and blackness of mood was affecting my wife, my kids, and pretty much anything I touched. I'd fired my agent, and couldn't face the long, hard road ahead to try and find someone to represent the Father Muerte novel. When a higher-paying job in my field dropped into my inbox a week ago-- one whose time commitment and travel commitment would have meant the death of my writing career without any shadow of a doubt-- I read through the job criteria and, even though it was beyond me, went ahead with writing the application.

For the first time in over a decade, I faced the idea of ending my writing career and not only accepted it, I didn't give a damn.

This is usually the sort of point where Luscious sits me down and gives a damn good talking-to. Only, this time, she didn't. What she did do, was tell me three things:

  1. If I really wanted this new job, I had to apply for it for me, not because I felt I had an obligation to provide for my family. I already earn a decent wage. We do all right. What the family want from me is my time, not more money. If I had developed ambitions in arts administration, that was fine, but I needed to pursue this job for my own satisfaction, not theirs.
  2. If I really wanted to give up writing, that was fine, too. As long as I was giving it up because it no longer made me happy. If my unhappiness was coming from my inability to write, then perhaps I needed to examine that.
  3. The Perth Writers Festival was on this weekend, and I'd already booked leave to attend it. Why not do so, and see how I felt. If I still wanted to give it all away, then she'd support me in whatever I wanted to do. But I'd set myself up to attend, I'd highlighted a number of panels I wanted to see, and I had enjoyed last year. Why not go, anyway, and see what happened?

My wife, as you might have surmised, is much wiser than me. She also has better legs.

Suitably reinforced with love and support, I made my way to UWA, home of the world's most expensive toilet paper, for the three days of this year's Perth Writers Festival.

$33 a roll might seem expensive, but keep in mind that each roll
comes with an almost unlimited supply of its own shit.

What I saw ignited my passion to write, but not in the way I had expected. I had hoped for an epiphany, or at the very least, a sign that passion and the creative drive that had once seemed so important to me was a living thing; had hoped to be surrounded by a conglomeration of fiery wordsmiths, consumed by the desire to create dancing words of joy, to preach like tent show revivalists to a tub-thumping, arm-waving crowd of screaming true believers. Or, at least, you know, a sign of fucking life. What I got was an endless procession of carefully-preserved, cautious, prim middle-class white people navigating a series of carefully stage-managed questions about their book and only their books, over and over and over and......

With two exceptions. Maxine Beneba Clarke and Ellen van Neerven are women of colour, and when they spoke at a panel on short stories (a panel I attended with Luscious and Doctor Stephen Dedman, 250+ short stories between us, there to see what we could be taught by... I don't know. That's what a festival does to you. It's that or sit in the heat of the quadrangle drinking $5 bottles of water and listening to fatuous self-congratulation on the ABC radio) they were as well-coached and self-preservation obsessed as anybody else, except, EXCEPT: Maxine talked about culture, and cultural difference, and pointed out that no, the writing family isn't one big, happy wonderful ball of love. Sometimes it's fucking hard, and sometimes it's fucking hard not to fit the facial template. A black woman, saying this, in yet another panel populated by the whitest, primmest people in the world. And after all the talk of legacy, and authorial reputation, and buy my book, make me special, this, from Ellen:

I don't care about my legacy. I just want to make a difference to the here and now.

And if you think I was the only person relieved to hear someone not speaking from carefully cultivated self-interest, explain the round of fucking applause that burst out.

And then there was Omar. Omar Musa. Poet. Rapper. Novelist. Clearly Not From Here. Malaysian-Australian and very aware of what that means, especially in the arts. Omar swears. He reads in rap rhythms. He quotes the line from his novel, "I'm not here to fuck the white girl out of you" while the rest of his panel--- whitey white girls all-- freeze in such sudden "OMGOMG" handwaving panic that it's all I can do not to bark in mad laughter. He's full of fire, full of passion. He sets the tent ablaze, and suddenly it's like I've been poked in the back of the neck, hard. Fuck. This is what it's like. This is what I have, only somewhere along the way I'd forgotten I had it. Who cares about respect? Who cares about money? Who cares about spending an extra ninety minutes a fucking day on the train going to a job I don't even want to do in a town I don't give a shit about? Just like that, the job application dies in my thumb drive. I'd forgotten: I'm not an arts administrator who writes. I'm a writer with a day job. That's not wordplay. It means something.

Jesus. Of all the things to forget. I'm not a panellist. I'm not someone who makes appearances. I'm not interested in your approval. I'm a fucking writer, and I say things that other people can't say because they don't have the words, or the courage, or the torpedoes to damn. By the time Omar, in answer to a typically bland and innocuous question about reaching out to the mainstream demographic, answers with the beautifully atomic bomb-like "Fuck the Average Joe. I'm not here to create art by referendum." I don't know whether to have his babies, get it tattooed on my chest, or just run screaming for the nearest laptop.

Jesus. All that time spent banging on about fucking the demographic, about drowning the washed-out, diluted, pissant shadows of Tolkein down the toilet where they belong. All that chest-beating about vision, and voice, and forcing them to read what I write and not the other way round, and I forgot it all.

And after that, two days of the Festival was like a fucking purgatory I had to wade through to get that message beaten right back to the rear of my eyeballs so I don't damn well forget it ever again, as wave after wave of lily-white AM radio voices paraded before us to beg for our approval.

Day three of the festival was spent at home courtesy of day two of the festival. Writing.

I was lost, and now I'm fucking well back.