Writing is hard and so is typing

Here’s what I meant to do: I meant to celebrate the end of my intense Aurealis reading period, which amounted to somewhere around 50 anthologies and collections in about 11 weeks, with a triumphant return to writing, blogging and sending out newsletters.

Then I had a few weeks of being a bit sick and chasing down medical stuff, but I figured – “Well, a little longer won’t matter too much, so I’ll just give myself a break and get back to it in the last couple of weeks of February. In the meantime I can do some tinkering with a story and practise playing my bass guitar. You know, those things I like to do for relaxation and a quiet sense of accomplishment.”

Then my puppy accidentally (!) took a giant chunk out of the tip of my middle right finger, which just happens to be one of the main ones I use for both typing and plucking bass strings. My typing technique is self-taught and sits at the precise balance-point between touch typing and classic hunt-and-peck. My bass technique is similarly haphazard and undoubtedly offensive to trained instrumentalists)

To briefly sidestep into the mildly grotesque surgical details: a few stitches, no bone or significant nail damage, tendons are fine but jury is still out on possible nerve twinges. The meat will probably take a few more weeks to properly seal over, and I’ll end up with a scar to match the one on my index finger that I have no recollection whatsoever of injuring. I daresay I’ll be able to play bass again, but maybe not for a while.

So I’ve had a more-than-usually dramatic couple of weeks to neatly tie a bow around the 2020 hangover months of January and February. I’m hopeful that will be the end of the near-constant string of distractions, and I can ease back into writing. This has been some good practise – it’s the longest string of uninterrupted typing I’ve done for weeks, and I can hardly feel a tingle in my bandaged finger at all.

Let’s see how it feels once I start using it to type fiction…

(Oh yeah – I have a dog now. More on this important development soon.)

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It’s Aurealis season!

It’s time once again to get your entries in for Australia’s premier speculative fiction awards. The Aurealis Awards celebrate the year’s best in Australian (and Australian-adjacent) science fiction, fantasy and horror writing.

Winner!

And this year – I’m a judge! I’ve volunteered to be on the judging panel for the Anthologies/Collections category, which means I’ll be frantically ploughing through dozens of volumes of collected works before the end of the year. Whether it’s single-author collections or short story anthologies based around some unifying theme (which could be as broad as “in the science fiction genre” or as specific as “stories about dogs fighting ghosts”[1]), if it was published in Australia or by an Australian in 2020, I may well be reading it. (Check out the Aurealis rules for more information on eligibility and how to submit entries).

Best of luck to everyone in the running for this year’s awards!

[1] Needless to say, if anyone has published an anthology about dogs fighting ghosts, I am ethically obliged to disclose my extreme disposition to showering it with All The Awards. Luckily there are several other people on the panel, all of them likely more sensible than me.
(Image source: Image source: https://pixabay.com/photos/trophy-cup-winner-enter-champions-1008963/)

 

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Words in Oz: The 2020 Australian SF Snapshot

The Australian SF Snapshot is a biennial project to take the pulse of the Australian and New Zealand speculative fiction scene.

A snapshot of the 2020 Australian Speculative Fiction Snapshot

Every couple of years, the organisers conduct a series of very short interviews with active Australian and New Zealand authors, as a quick health check on the state of the spec fic writing community, and a permanent record of its growth and wellbeing. What began in 2005 with a few dozen authors has blown up to more than a hundred names.

Ironically, despite this being a very fallow writing year for me, it’s also my first time participating in the snapshot. You can read my entry right here (none of the information is new to anyone reading this, but I do make a couple of book/author recommendations you might like to check out).

While you’re there, do have a browse. Go and check in on the writers you love, or discover someone you never knew about. At the time of writing, the interview count has passed the hundred mark and the project still has about a week to run.

(To get you started, here’s the links to the people in the picture above. By the time you see this, there will already be new ones above these…)

Top Row: Trent JamiesonK H CanobiMarty YoungGillian PolackDonna Hanson
Middle Row: Matthew R DavisAmanda BridgemanGrant Stone Suzanne J WillisNicole Lenoir-Jourdan
Bottom Row: Cary LenehanSarah EpsteinAdam BrowneAmie KaufmanMelanie Harding-Shaw

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Review – The Obituarist 3: Delete Your Account by Patrick O’Duffy

Kendall Barber, the digital-life “obituarist” who cleans up and closes the online accounts of the recently-departed, is a real piece of crap human being, as amply demonstrated in the first two volumes of this series, The Obituarist and The Obituarist II: Dead Men’s Data.

The Obituarist 3.0: Delete Your Account

But he’s trying to be better, and in the third and final instalment of Patrick O’Duffy’s humorous modern noir series, Barber’s almost – almost – getting his life together. Well, at least he’s in a sound relationship and he has the grudging respect of one or two acquaintances, even if everyone else he knows hates his guts.

But his adopted home of Port Virtue can’t abide prolonged periods of peace and stability, especially not where Kendall Barber is concerned, and things head south quickly. Before long Barber’s executing a will and investigating a murder, while being threatened, run over, tortured and blown up. And while he sets fire to every human connection with an endless stream of smartarse commentary and reflexive lying, Barber’s wondering if maybe it’s not time to give it all away and skip town for good. But Port Virtue isn’t having that either, and Barber’s many enemies are not planning to let him walk away when they could be kneecapping both legs instead.

First of all, DYA is probably the best entry in the Obituarist series. It’s funny as hell, with a reckless pace, an energetic cast of (mostly egregiously awful) characters, and Barber’s breathlessly hilarious narration all in service of a solid crime story. The action is deeply rooted in Barber’s skeletons coming back to bite him, so this final entry in the series might not be the place to start, but it’s enough to know that he’s an unlikeable garbage fire with a razor wit, computer skills, and an unerring gift for antagonising dangerous people. The history of broken relationships and hospital visits is self-explanatory.

I am a fan of Patrick O’Duffy’s off-kilter, quippy writing and this long-awaited conclusion to the Obituarist series doesn’t disappoint. Its violent mayhem and touching humanity put a very satisfying endcap on what has been a fun series. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I would say that, seeing as the author has named one of the villains after me (offered to the highest bidder in support of a fundraiser for the Victorian fire services during the summer). But take it from me – I would love this book even if it were not dragging my name through the mud.

The Obituarist 3.0: Delete Your Account by Patrick O’Duffy is available now from Amazon, Amazon Australia and Smashwords (and maybe the other usual venues by now). Recommended by me, obviously.

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My ducks require alignment

My father passed away on the 7th of January, a few months shy of his 80th birthday and nearly two decades after his diagnosis for multiple myeloma gave him a prognosis of between three and six months to live.

One of our favourite photos of Dad, even if you can’t see his face!

The last few years were very hard on both my parents, as Dad’s condition deteriorated and it became increasingly difficult for Mum to look after him. My brother and his family worked tirelessly to help them move to where they could access better support services and took care of the endless hospital visits, medical consultations and paperwork, while I couldn’t do much more than watch anxiously from afar. I’m going to miss my father terribly, but I’m grateful that his suffering is now done with and that the lives that revolved around caring from him can now move forward.

This post isn’t really about losing a loved one. At some point I’ll post something in Facebook for the family and friends, but for now I’m talking about myself.

As I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t have a great year in 2019. There’s no doubt that  starting therapy for my anxiety was the best thing I could have done for myself. There’s no doubt the medication I’m on is working. I’m nowhere near my dire emotional state of this time last year. I’m much, much better.

But I’m not cured. I’m not expecting to shed my cares and surge forward into the future with a glad heart bursting with optimism. My therapist descibes me as being “vulnerable to anxiety”, and lord, I’ve never been nailed so accurately in my life. This is how I’ve been forever. I’m so used to feeling like I’m one minor setback away from going over a cliff that I don’t know how to respond to just feeling okay.

I let a lot of stuff slide last year. I got behind in a lot of personal commitments, and I wrote very little. I never stopped tinkering with story ideas. Sometimes I even got a few pages down on paper here and there. It was always just pottering. Nothing was ever finished.

Will I do better in 2020? I want to. I’m ready to, I think. I miss the slightly wobbly amateur magician’s flourish of the weekly flash fictions. I miss engaging with other storytellers and celebrating their victories. So help me Jebus, I even miss getting rejection letters from short story editors.

But first things first. All the other business, that fell by the wayside while I was getting stressed, then getting treatment, then learning to function without whole-body jitters, needs to take priority. If I don’t attend to my tedious grownup responsibilities, they’ll be hanging over me whenever I try to write – and I know from experience that when I try to write without having given myself “permission”, it tends to produce poor results, if any.

My ducks require alignment. So for now, I will focus on the ducks.

(Okay, so those birds Dad is looking at in the photo probably aren’t ducks, but it was too good a line to leave on the table)

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