Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bright Ideas

The spike in awareness about global warming that's come in the wake of things like Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth has been particularly noticeable in Australia. Unsurprising, as we are roasting under a massive hole in the ozone layer and suffering such bad water shortages in some areas that drinking treated sewage water is now a serious option.

Still took an Oscar-winning movie to get us all off our arses, though.

One of the inititatives that's being kicked around is the phasing out and eventual banning of regular light bulbs, to be replaced with the energy-efficient flourescent variety. So, getting ahead of the action a little, I've been slowly replacing the bulbs in our house with the new variety - slowly because they're five times as expensive as regular bulbs. Our first electricity bill since my replacement programme started has just come in and the results are impressive.

Now as far as I'm aware, we're not running any electrical equipment any less than usual - if anything the colder, wetter weather has meant that heaters and tumble-driers are being used more. Which makes it all the more amazing that our bill has dropped from $181 to $57.

So there you are - saving the environment and saving money. Can't be bad, can it?

Better be off now. The kids want to watch TV and my wife's flagging on the treadmill.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lest We ... erm ...

Woke up even more befuddled than usual this morning, blundering through the motions of feeding and dressing the little ones.

Made and packed my daughter's lunch, my mind still on other things, and set off on the walk to school. Perhaps it was seeing her struggle with her umbrella (it had stopped raining overnight, but she was determined to take it, just in case. She's so English), or seeing the bread delivery guy topple his stack of trays into the road ('Look, Dad! A toast puddle!'). Whatever I was looking at, it wasn't the obvious thing I should have noticed and the penny didn't drop until we got within sight of the school playing fields.

There were no children.

Come to that, we hadn't passed any on the way in either.

That's right, Amnesia Guy had forgotten that today is ANZAC Day, the public holiday in honour of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand who have fought in past wars. Which means no school.

Skulked back home, grateful that almost everyone in the neighbourhood was still in bed and couldn't see me and my little girl, her school uniform a dead giveaway that Dad's a bit thick.

A few hours later, I'm still squirming at the irony of how a festival dedicated to remembrance could completely slip my mind ...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Hard Tax

Things have got back to something approaching normal now - illnesses banished, machines repaired (or at least semi-functional) and stress levels receded. Thanks to everyone who posted or emailed - meltdown averted!

So it's back to school for the kids and back to work for me, although once again my scripting has been back-burnered for more mundane duties ... this time it's tax.

The good thing about being a freelance writer is that virtually everything you care to name can be claimed back as a tax deduction, provided you keep the receipts. The bad thing is that you have to keep the receipts. Sitting down to process everything for the quarterly statement demanded by the government, I've been faced with enough paper to choke a whale, all of it needing to be sorted and reported.

So my sympathies to those freelance Tyranny readers doing exactly the same thing this week. I feel your pain.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Things Fall Apart

You know those moments in life when everything just comes together for you? For me, the last few days have been exactly the opposite.

Let's start on a relatively minor level - any appliance or gadget I have touched has broken. First the luminous strip that marks 12 on my watch detached, and now rattles freely around the inside of the face. At least until it meets one of the moving parts, when it insinuates itself underneath whichever hand it's encountered and stops the watch completely.

Second, the kettle. Packed it in, just like that.

Third, the brakes on my car. Of all the things that could go wrong, that's a biggie. No brakes, no car, no car, no work for my wife. And suddenly we're haemorrhaging cash too.

One other device has been playing up, too. More on that later.

Running parallel to the technological disasters, we've had all kinds of health issues. My daughter's come down with tonsilitis, my son has had gastro for five days and is starting to look like a shrivelled balloon animal and my wife's been devastated by the death of an aunt. I've not actually been sick, but taking care of the rest of the family has left me tired and irritable from lack of sleep.

Exactly the kind of thing I'd usually cope with by putting the kettle on.

Yesterday, it all boiled over (if you'll pardon the analogy). It was the funeral of my wife's aunt, and I had cleared the decks of work to make sure I could go along for emotional support. Sydney had some work for me, a pair of simple jobs I could do in a couple of hours - I had four hours or more before I even needed to get ready to leave. No problem.

Right on cue, my computer died.

Two hours of swearing, threats and actual violence and I'd connected up all the right bits to my obsolete laptop to finish the job. I could do it, I could finish in time, provided my wife sorted out my clothes so all I had to do was chuck them on and leave.

My suit was missing. Just gone. Wardrobe, empty space therein.

Further cursing and searching wasted the time I needed to finish the stories for Sydney - now there was no suit and no hope of getting over the line.

My wife went on her own.

That should have been enough for one day. Then my son took a downturn and it was off to the children's hospital to get him seen to. Two hours of sitting in A&E and the conclusion was that he's sick - come back later if he's still sick.

Clutching the fact that the doctors guaranteed us he wasn't dehydrating as the sole plus point of the trip, it was off home.

In the car.

With the dodgy brakes.

Still, if we'd crashed, we'd have been close to the hospital. Fortunately nothing happened. And if 'nothing happened' had been all I'd needed to write for today I'd have been much happier about it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

... Then Two Come Along At Once

Just like London buses, I'm suddenly spoilt for reviews of Old Friends. Thanks to both my diligent mum and to David Bishop for - virtually simultaneously - getting me details of the DWM review. The Bish has transcribed the relevant bits into the comments section of the previous post if you want to drop by there for a look.

Meanwhile Melbourne scribe and gentleman of taste Ian Mond has concluded his overview of last year's Bernice Summerfield books with a look at the novella collection. He too is appreciative of our efforts and you can see what he had to say on his site.

Now if I can somehow parlay all this good word of mouth into more work ...

Anyway, next post will be about something else - no reviews, I promise.

(Well, unless someone else posts another good one, then all bets are off).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dream Team

The line-up for the horror anthology In Bad Dreams - which includes my short story This Train Terminates Here - has just been announced. Here's the full list of those involved - you can find links to their various websites and blogs at the In Bad Dreams site:

Michael Bailey

R.J. Barker

Jennifer Brozek

Stephanie Campisi

Miles Deacon

Mark S. Deniz

Lisa Hayward

Rob Hood

Pete Kempshall

Sharyn Lilley

Amanda Pillar

D.R. Pearce

Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

Kaaron Warren

Mark Deniz and Sharyn Lilley are the editor bods, and at this stage there are plans to launch the book at the Conflux 4 convention in Canberra later this year. More details on that as I hear them.

Meanwhile mutterings have reached me that the latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine has a not-unpleasant review of Old Friends.

Since this issue's unlikely to make it to this side of the world before June, I've not read what they have to say - your best bet's to have a look for yourself ... and then maybe drop me a line to let me know!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Handy Tips for Zookeepers

1. Always make sure the crocodiles really are sedated before sticking your arm through the bars ...

The Taiwanese zookeeper who forgot that sage piece of advice had to have his arm prised out of the 200kg Nile croc's jaws before it could be reattached.
Just saw the pic in the paper this morning and thought I'd share.

'I'm Sorry, Dave, I'm Afraid I Can't Do That'

Payday came early yesterday, so I was finally able to splash out on a new disc drive for my computer, the old one being so ancient it recorded on vinyl.

The trip to the shop, inclusive of choosing the drive and queuing to pay for it, took 35 minutes. Then I got it home.

After half an hour of swearing and attacking my PC with a screwdriver, it became apparent that I'd over-reached myself. I couldn't even get the cover off. I was about to employ the HIWAH technique (Hit It With A Hammer) when my wife popped her head round the door.

'We've still got the instructions for that computer, you know.'

It was the work of moments to find myself muttering darkly into the technicolour spaghetti inside the machine's casing, and another few minutes to install the new drive and close it all up again.

Power on ...

It didn't blow up.

Nor did the drive actually work, though. My wife stepped in in time to prevent me going Basil Fawlty on its silicon arse, and thanks to her cooler temperament I am now able to type this while burning DVDs, should I feel the need.

But I'm keeping the hammer where the computer can see it ... just in case.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Board Stupid

Well, it's Monday and I've survived the Easter binge - which is more than can be said for my bloated, sugar-rushing children.

Writing-wise I've had a couple of emails with news about some things I've written, one already published, one still pending. I don't have all the facts about either piece of news yet, but I'll post something as soon as I do.

Otherwise it's been free time all the way, although the cool weather has meant I've not been able to get the littlies outside much to wear them out. That said, it was pleasantly hot on Good Friday, so we did all get to the beach for a while - and yes, it is still weird doing things like Easter in board shorts ...

Speaking of boards, the kids got a body board each for Christmas, and they got dusted off for the trip. Unfortunately they weren't interested in surfing, just sandcastles. Well, we couldn't cart the gear all the way to the sea and not use it, could we ...? So while the children dug holes, my wife and I rode waves. It's not something I do very often, and so here are some top tips I picked up for next time:
  • Remember to take your hat off first or you'll lose it (duh).
  • Don't take the dog to the beach if you intend to body board. She'll wait in the shallows then swim at you enthusiastically as you rush towards the shore. This hurts.
  • It's impossible to look cool when you've got a big picture of The Little Mermaid on your board.
Don't say you don't learn anything from this blog.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Money for Nothing

After banging yesterday on about how busy I am, today saw me waiting by the phone for work from Sydney ... and nothing coming in.

Since I'm not being paid to write stories, rather to be available to write stories if I'm needed, that meant a day's pay without the day's work. And you've got to love that.

But for everything there's a balance ... I spent the free time working on that comic strip idea I mentioned yesterday, and now that I look at it, I think it might work better as a short story. Thing is, no one I know is buying short stories.


I'll still end up writing it, though.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


It's been back on the case with the gossip mags in Sydney this week, filling in for one of their writers who's scarpered to evade the Easter Bunny. That means I'm not getting out much, being paid to man a desk on the off-chance that a story comes in. It also means I'm fiercely busy, filling any quiet moments at the desk with all the other little jobs that need doing.

Ruby Tuesday emailed me the other day to commend me on my work rate. If she means I zip from one task to the next in a caffeine-fuelled frenzy, she's spot on ... I'm starting to resemble Jason Statham's adrenalised hitman in Crank, one of the DVDs I've had to review over the last couple of days.

There you go - exactly like him.

Alright, he's got more hair.

Somehow I'm shoehorning in an outline for a comic strip, with a view to submitting to 2000AD in the near future (because their teetering slush pile really needs something to stick on top of it). Figured out the ending last night, shortly after figuring out the ending I had to start with was ... well, crap.

And because I've not got enough to do, today's the last day of school before Easter - three weeks of bored kids working on their 'Daddaddaddaddaddaddad' mantra.